Dutch beat Cameroon, take Group E
Netherlands' Joris Mathijsen (L) fights for the ball with Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o. (REUTERS/Michael Kooren)
Cape Town - Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored in the 83rd minute, and the Netherlands defeated Cameroon 2-1 on Thursday at Green Point Stadium to clinch first place in Group E at the FIFA World Cup.
Robin Van Persie also scored for the Dutch, who finished the group stage with three wins. The Netherlands will play Slovakia in the round of 16 on Monday.
"Winning three times in a row at a World Cup obviously looks good at first sight, but I'm not really satisfied with our performance today," Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk said. "It was good enough in the first half, but we started very poorly after halftime. We spent too much time on the back foot and gave Cameroon far too much space. We were more in control in the other group games, but we could easily have lost today."
Cameroon, which got its lone goal from Samuel Eto'o, leaves South Africa without a point from three matches and as the last-place team in Group E. Japan finished second with a 3-1 win over Denmark, and plays Paraguay on Tuesday in the round of 16.
Cameroon's Aurelien Chedjou, a late replacement for Alexandre Song, opened the game with an early shot that didn't trouble Dutch goalie Maarten Stekelenburg.
Rafael Van der Vaart wasted the Dutch's first chance when he fired wide left, then Jean Makoun flicked a header well off target
Cameroon's Jean Makoun flicked a header off target in the 11th for Cameroon to wrap up the early chances.
The Netherlands settled into a rhythm midway through the opening half, and Van der Vaart tested Souleymanou Hamidou off a one-hop free kick, but the Cameroon goalie scooped up the effort in the 26th minute.
Wesley Sneijder set up Dirk Kuyt for the Dutch's next chance, but Kuyt was off target with a shot back across the box to the left post.
The Netherlands broke through in the 36th minute when Van der Vaart threaded a pass through traffic that Kuyt dummied to spring Van Persie, who finished well from the right side to the left corner.
Eto'o chested down a pass in space in the box in the 41st, but his first touch got away from him and Stekelenburg covered the loose ball to prevent a shot.
Van Persie was put through in the 51st but shot right at Hamidou, and then the Dutch gave the lead away less than 15 minutes later.
Van der Vaart deflected a free kick from Cameroon's Geremi Njitap with his arm and Eto'o calmly buried the penalty kick for his second goal in South Africa.
Arjen Robben came off the bench to make his debut in the 2010 World Cup in the 73rd minute and he made his presence felt in limited time.
Robben created space in the 83rd and launched a shot off the left post, and it deflected to a wide-open Huntelaar on the right side of the box and he slotted home for the game-winner.
Cameroon failed to create an equalizer in the closing minutes, as its winless run stretched to 10 games.
"It's not like we waited until the second half this evening to start playing decent football," Cameroon coach Paul Le Guen said. "I think we played some good football in our previous matches too but we weren't able to come up with enough to beat the Netherlands today. They're stronger than us."