[GRPOUP E] Other top seeds have stumbled or failed to impress in the early stages, yet the Netherlands – without playing all that well -- edged Japan,
1-0, to notch a victory that was enough to clinch a spot in the round of 16 when Denmark eliminated Cameroon with a 2-1 victory. Here's what we liked and didn't like about Saturday’s Group E
What we liked ...
-- An incredibly exciting, fluid game in which Denmark and Cameroon contrived to score only three goals, when a 3-3 or 4-4 tie wouldn't have surprised anyone. There were some good tackles and majestic clearances and timely interceptions, yet the chances kept coming simply because both teams insisted on pushing the ball upfield more often than not. Cameroon took 23 shots to the Danes’ 13, and as the numbers suggest, was far more wasteful.
-- A few of the Danes are playing in their last World Cup most probably. One of them, Dennis Rommedahl, 31, confounded opponents 10 years younger and pundits of all ages by running around, through, behind, and between opponents repeatedly. He set up the equalizer by gliding behind left back Benoit Assou-Ekotto to chase down a long ball and centering it first-time for Nicklas Bendtner to bang into the net, and struck the winner by veering inside Jean Makoun to shoot low just inside the far post.
-- Wesley Sneijder’s searing shot broke open a goalless game and gave the Dutch its second tepid win. Burdened with Robin Van Persie’s dull finishing touch and lacking an injured Arjen Robben, the Dutch attack was laboring until Sneijder took it upon himself to drill a shot from outside the penalty area that nearly tore off the gloves of Japanese keeper Eiji Kawashima on its way into the net.
-- Denmark and Japan meet on the final day of Group E play Thursday (2:30 p.m., ESPN) to decide head-to-head which of them advances along with the Dutch. Both teams have three points; Japan’s superior goal difference (even) means it will advance ahead of Denmark (minus-1) if the teams tie, so the Danes must win. Cameroon (zero points) cannot advance, because Denmark and Japan play each other and one of them, at least, will finish with more points even if Cameroon beats the Netherlands.
What we didn't like ...
-- The courageous, skillful play of Samuel Eto’o fell short of keeping his team in the competition. After scoring in the 10th minute with a crisp low shot following a Danish giveaway, he conjured up chances for himself and several teammates that should have been enough at least for a tie and one more meaningful game to play. Instead, Achille Emana and Pierre Webo and Vincent Aboubakar squandered opportunities, and Eto’o hit the post. His outspokenness has roiled the national team at times, but on the field in this match he battled all the way.
-- Kawashima added his name to the list of goalkeepers victimized, either by the Jabulani ball or their own ineptitude, at this World Cup. Sneijder’s blistering shot should have been parried, yet it simply overpowered Kawashima while veering only slightly. Robert Green (England), Faouzi Chaouchi (Algeria), Iker Casillas (Spain) and Vincent Enyeama (Nigeria) have been guilty of costly errors; Sneijder really smoked is shot, yet Kawashima covered his face after he watched the ball fly into the net off his glove.