Group E Preview: Holland Brings Flash in Squad and Women
All eyes are on Holland in Group E, not necessarily because they’re the seeded team in the group, but because they’re an attacking, offensive team who always seem to present entertaining soccer. Another thing that makes them entertaining to watch, as it seems to be every year, is their questionable back four. Their style and poor defense makes for some high-scoring games. Denmark advanced to the World Cup through a qualification group that included both Portugal, who eventually qualified through a playoff, and Sweden. Unfortunately those of us going to South Africa will not be able to enjoy the hot Swedish tail roaming around, so we’ll have to settle for the Dutch and Danish pieces. Back to the football itself. Denmark showed a terrific defensive record in qualifying in keeping seven clean sheets in 10 matches. Their historically conservative style is at the other end of the spectrum from the Dutch.
Cameroon, which has played more World Cup games than any other African nation, has gone through some turmoil just to make it this far. Striker Samuel Eto’o is as good as any in the world and has left us wondering what Barcelona was thinking when they sent him with cash to Inter Milan for the inferior Zlatan Ibrahimovic before last season. On paper, they have more talent than Denmark, but could lack the organizational skills to defeat a well-trained Danish team. Japan finishes off the foursome and they’re led by Keisuke Honda, a dynamic midfield player who’s been honing his craft in the Russian league. Japan gave England fits in their friendly a couple weeks ago and would’ve come away with the win had it not been for a touch of poor luck in giving away two own goals.
Holland‘s firepower has allowed them to rise to the #3 FIFA ranking in the world. While the novices may think the exclusion of fading star Ruud van Nistelrooy is a big deal, the truth is that this is a younger Dutch team with plenty of budding talent. Arjen Robben makes Nick Johnson look like Cal Ripken. The poor bastard always seems to be nicked up and on the sidelines. When he’s fit, he causes the other team major headaches despite the fact that everyone knows he can only go left. Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder, and Rafael Van de Vaart are fine attackers in their own rights and could produce even without Robben on the field. While Paraguay or Slovakia might not present much of a threat in the round of 16, Brazil awaits in the quarterfinals. Brazil’s new conservative side will likely contain Holland and the Dutch will be hurt on Brazil’s counter-attack. It’s a shame the draw couldn’t have worked out better for them because they’re probably the most fun team to watch these day.
A team can be successful in the World Cup if they do one thing exceedingly well and are well disciplined. The Danish squad may struggle to find offense, but their ability to take the air out of a game will frustrate favorites Holland and Cameroon in this group. Denmark will not be phased facing Holland, a known rival they’ve seen plenty in their history. There might be a lot of pressure of Nicklas Bendtner to provide a majority of the scoring for Denmark, but given the low-scoring nature of their games, it’ll likely only take a one goal, from either luck or a flash of brilliance, to get Denmark the points.
Player to Watch
Samuel Eto’o. While there are some that favor Fernando Torres or Didier Drogba, I can fairly state that I believe Eto’o is as good as any striker on the planet. While he may not have scored as many goals for Inter this year as he did for Barcelona in years past, that can be blamed on the Inter offensive system and not necessarily his physical ability. He realizes he has to carry a lot of the offensive burden for his country, but he’s never been one to back down from pressure. Playing on his own confidence should give Eto’o any extra energy necessary to give Cameroon their best chance to win.
Because the battle for the second spot in this Group is expected to be so tight, I suggest staying away from betting a lot in this group. That being said, here are some suggestions if you feel like risking it:
Holland -166 to make quarterfinals
Holland +210 to be eliminated in the quarterfinals
Japan +225 to be best Asian team in the tournament