Netherlands best bet to win Group E
By QMI Agency
World Cup history: Ninth appearance, 16 wins, 10 draws, 10 losses, 59 GF, 38 GA.
Best finish: Second place in 1974, 1978.
The oddsmakers say: 12/1.
Players to watch: M Nigel De Jong; M Wesley Sneijder; F Arjen Robben
The skinny: The Netherlands has become the new Spain, a team that's always among the favourites to win a World Cup but never manage to hold the trophy. This team has the same trademarks of every other big Oranje, plenty of eye-catching offensive talent and just maybe, this time around, enough defensive ability to make this interesting. When on his game, Wesley Sneijder has the ability to dominate. He can create chances and score. There is no question that going into the World Cup, he is in form. He'll need to work with forwards Arjen Robben, Eljero Elia and Robin Van Persie. The wildcard in all this is midfielder Nigel De Jong who is a midfield ball-winner focusing on the defensive side of the ball. It's just what the Dutch need.
Outlook: If the Oranje can get over their personal bickering and stifle their egos in the dressing room, something that has plagued them in the past, they should emerge group winners ensuring the massive orange following will fill the streets in South Africa. Denmark will be a key game for them.
World Cup history: Sixth appearance, 4 wins, 7 draws, 6 losses, 15 GF, 29 GA
Best finish: Quarter-finals 1990
The oddsmakers say: 80/1
Players to watch: F Samuel Eto'o, M Alexandre Song, G Carlos Kameni
The skinny: Always entertaining to watch but, despite their inventive and open style of football, they don't have a lot of positive results to show for it in the World Cup. But it's a team that's interesting. With Inter Milan striker Samuel Eto'o running up front, any team that runs into the Indomitable Lions has to worry about him. But will he get service? The Lions' midfield is young. Coach Paul Le Guen, who has revitalized this team, has selected a number of players who have no international experience. His formation that usually has three strikers, is conducive to attacking football. It's a young team everywhere except where they will be hurt . . . on the backline. Geremi and Rigobert Song have 242 caps between them. Song holds the dubious distinction of being one of only two players to have earned two red cards in the World Cup. The other is French legend Zinedine Zidane. The Lions major concern will be keeping quick forwards from running by their aging defence. Good thing they have Carlos Kameni, one of the best keepers in Africa in net.
Outlook: Like most African teams, it's a case of not knowing what you get until you get it. If Cameroon is able to defend adequately, they will make some trouble in the group. They are better than Japan and probably more talented than Denmark. It will be the game against Denmark that will prove decisive in who will advance to the next round. Cameroon will have that extra burst of energy since they are playing on home soil.
World Cup history: Fourth appearance, 7 wins, 2 draws, 4 losses, 24 GF, 18 GA.
Best finish: Quarter-finals in 1998.
The oddsmakers say: 125/1.
Players to watch: D Daniel Agger; M Jakob Poulsen; F Nicklas Bendtner
The skinny: The Danes don't have a great deal of World Cup experience but it would be foolish to overlook them. They don't have a lot of depth but they like their team. The Danes won their qualifying group, a group that included Portugal. The Danes strength is their experienced midfield and backline anchored by Liverpool's Daniel Agger and Blackburn's Lars Jacobsen. Jakob Poulsen is their main man in the middle. A holding midfielder who controls the flow of play, Poulsen can also pot the occasional goal. He might need to do just that in this World Cup since the Danes biggest problem is scoring goals. That's difficult to believe when you look at their history with the likes of the Laudrup brothers, Brian and Michael. The Danes rely on young striker Nicklas Bendtner who plies his trade with Arsenal. If he gets hurt, it will mean trouble for the Danes.
Outlook: This is a tough little team. They may not be the most talented but they will give everything they have. The Danes are fortunate the strongest part of their team, midfield and backline, has a chance to negate the strong attacking bent of Cameroon, Japan and the Netherlands. If they can get a positive result against Cameroon, they will advance.
World Cup history: Fourth appearance, 2 wins, 2 draws, 6 losses, 8 GF, 14 GA.
Best finish: Second round in 2002.
The oddsmakers say: 250/1.
Players to watch: D Yuji Nakazawa; M Keisuke Honda; F Shunsuke Nakamura
The skinny: This is a team that will run, run, run. Their problem is usually they do a lot of running and have nothing to show for it. Shunsuke Nakamura is their best forward and has plenty of experience with teams outside of Japan. Unfortunately, he doesn't have much support when it comes to putting the ball in the net. He's hoping that Serie A youngster Takayuki Morimoto can offer him some of that support. The Japanese strength is their midfield. Asian player of the year Yasuhito Endo is in good form and the Japanese are hoping young midfielder Keisuke Honda is ready to take over from Endo. He is a player to watch. Defensively, the Japanese are adequate with fullback Atsuto Uchida getting a look from a number of European sides.
Outlook: A real outsider that made some noise in 2002 only because they played at home. They don't score enough goals and will have trouble if the game turns into a physical, defensive battle. As a team, they are not physically strong enough. They'll be going home early.