Pride and Precipice: Contrasting matches in Group E

June 23rd, 2010 - 6:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Arsenal Cape Town, June 23 (DPA) The last two games in Group E at the World Cup football Thursday could not be any more different in character.
Cameroon are out and play the already-qualified Netherlands with only pride at stake - both for themselves, and the whole of Africa, which has watched its teams flounder in the first World Cup on the continent.

Japan and Denmark, however, are both clinging to the edge of the cliff and each will be attempting to prise off the other’s fingers in Rustenburg’s Royal Bafokeng stadium.

Both teams garnered three points from the disappointing African outfit, but the Japanese have the superior goal difference by virtue of conceding one less goal against the Netherlands than Denmark.

The Danes will once again look to Ajax Amsterdam forward Dennis Rommedahl, instrumental in their 2-1 victory over Cameroon, to unlock Japan’s defence.

But coach Morten Olsen knows his team must also cut out the errors that littered their match against Cameroon, who would undoubtedly have triumphed had they been more clinical in front of goal.

“We had far too many elementary mistakes,” Olsen said. “I can’t allow that from our players, we must correct that.”

Worryingly for Denmark, they may have to do without Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner, a scorer against Cameroon, who is struggling with a groin injury.

“Bendtner is still doubtful for the Japan game, and will continue to be regardless of how far we go in the tournament,” Olsen said.

The Arsenal man wants to play, however, and believes Denmark can use their height advantage over the diminutive Japanese to secure the victory they so desperately need.

Japan coach Takeshi Okada has admitted that he is concerned about the height difference, which works out to about eight centimetres per man.

“How to deal with their height in set plays and their long balls will be our main issues,” he said. “We have to be sure about how to maintain a solid defence against them.”

Advancing years won’t play a part, however, as the two teams have the exact same age average - at 27.7 years they sit equal in the pensioner table with the seventh-oldest squads.

In Group E’s other game in Cape Town’s Green Point stadium, the Netherlands are looking for a point to ensure they top the group, but may rest key players.

They could also give star winger Arjen Robben, just back in training after a recovering from a hamstring injury, a gentle introduction to the tournament.

Finishing top may not even be ideal for the Netherlands, as this would mean they play the runners-up from Group F in the round of 16.

At the moment, that looks like it could be Italy - who have huffed and puffed in their group but are about to welcome back playmaker Andrea Pirlo, which would suddenly add a lot more bite to their attack.

Cameroon will be looking for a victory to ensure they do not exit the tournament with a whimper and also reduce the size of the angry mob that may be waiting for them when they go back home.

“I want to finish with dignity in the last game,” the West African’s star striker Samuel Eto’o said. “We need to go out with some pride, above all for the people back home, though it won’t be easy.”

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