Monday, June 28, 2010

Group E final group games

Japan 3-1 Denmark

Japan went into the game knowing a draw would be enough for them to qualify. Denmark knew they needed a win. The equation was fairly simple.

Denmark and Japan both traded early opportunities which both were unlucky to convert but fairly early in the first half it was Japan who took the lead. Given a free kick on the right hand side from 35 yards out Honda hit it with blistering pace and swerve and the ball nestled in the top left hand corner of the net. Sorensen moved the wrong way initially before diving full stretch, missing his outstretched fingers by a whisker. You have to feel a little sympathy for Sorensen - the flight of the ball was deceiving and one wonders how much influence the Jabulani ball had on the swerve. Nevertheless it was a wonderful free-kick in a tournament devoid of quality free-kick goals.

The Netherlands didn't learn their lesson and conceded another free-kick - this time more central and closer to the box. Endo stepped up and curled it beautifully round the wall, Sorensen had no chance. From 2-0 down it was a long way back given that Denmark now needed 3 goals. Endo had another free-kick from a massive distance in the second half and he almost did a 2002 World Cup quarter-final Brazil v England Ronaldinho special. Sorensen was Seaman on this occasion and he would have been delighted to get just enough hand to the floating ball to guide it onto the crossbar. Very close and very nervy though.

Tomasson had opportunities to pull the score back, one in particular saw him in a great position only to scuff his shot. But overall Denmark did not show enough in attack. Their supposedly creative team with a strong defence that had aided them so well through qualification was lacking. Larsen managed a fantastic volley against the bar and with ten minutes remaining Denmark had a life-line as they were awarded a penalty. Tomasson did his best to miss as Kawashima saved, only for Tomasson to bundle home the rebound and equal a Danish goalscoring record. 

Honda completed the job however, setting up Okazaki after taking it past one and slipping the ball across to him. It was sumptuous from Honda, only emphasising a masterful display from him. Japan eased into the second round, taking 2nd spot.

Netherlands 2-1 Cameroon

The Netherlands knew they only needed a draw to guarantee top spot and Cameroon knew they were only playing for pride having already been eliminated. Cameroon therefore took the opportunity to blood some youngsters, and a number of them impressed. The Netherlands played well, demonstrating neat and clever interplay that created a good number of chances. This finally paid off in the 36th minute after a sublime one-two between van Persie and van der Waart ended in a crisp finish for van Persie.

Cameroon played some quality football which resulted in a number of opportunities that the Netherlands did well to thwart. When the equaliser finally came it was from the spot. Eto'o converted clinically after a hand ball.

When the Netherlands winner came it was quite special. Sneijder set up the attack with a quality through ball, Robben's poor touch looked to have taken the ball away but he created space for himself, hit a fantastic shot against the post and Huntelaar slotted into an open goal - from a tight angle.

The Netherlands have nine points from nine and don't appear to have hit their straps. Cameroon were very weak in their opening game but probably deserved to register at least one point at the World Cup.

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