All this week, DMV Sports will be previewing the World Cup two groups at a time with a post on the elimination rounds on Friday. Today we look at Group E and F.
On to the preview!
Could this be the year the Dutch break through and win their first World Cup? Could be hard after Arjen Robben went down with a hamstring injury, bringing questions about the impact the striker will have in the tournament of nations. This is a different team from the failed teams of WC 2006 and Euro 2008 and the goal is the cup. “We have a mission: to be champions of the world,” assistant coach Frank de Boer told FIFA.com. The team is loaded with talent from English and German top-tier teams.
No African team is better when it comes to World Cup finals history than Cameroon. Eto’o will be the highlight to watch on this team, but the midfield of Jean Makoun, Stephane Mbia and Alexandre Song will need to be effective to allow Eto’o to break free. The team boasts a quality mixture of young and experienced players and should put a lot of pressure on opponents in the group stage and beyond.
Denmark is on the rebound, returning to the finals for the first time since 2002, after missing the 2006 WC as well as Euro 2008. They played well in qualifying, finishing top of their group and offing Portugal and Sweden, winning nine of ten. The question is whether they will be able to play up to the level of the Netherlands and Cameroon, two very strong teams. I do not see them advancing though.
The Land of the Rising Sun moved through qualifying well, but were not thoroughly impressive to warrant any special notes. This is Japan’s fourth finals appearance, but first without midfielder Hidetoshi Nakata. A tough group for the bottom two.
The defending World Cup Champions were blessed with a relatively easy group but that does not take away from what is an incredibly talented team. Custodian Gianluigi Buffon is an incredibly gifted play-maker between the posts for the Azzurri. The old man in front of him, Fabio Cannavaro (36) captains the squad and will hold strong at the back as long as he does not get caught in a rundown. Oh, and there’s this guy named Gennaro Gattuso. He’ll introduce himself to you soon enough.
The Paraguayans are a squad that does well in qualifying, get out of the group staging and get knocked out by teams that end up advancing far. They get lost in the rubble of defeat that is the World Cup, but boast a consistent squad. Their 1-0 defeat of Argentina that clinched their bid in the World Cup prompted the President to declare a national holiday to celebrate the occassion. Yes, the Paraguayans have high hopes for South Africa.
I’m just going to come out and say it: the names on the squad list make no sense to me. They just look like jumbled up letter to me, pulled out a hat and slapped together. It’s kind of like Scrabble without the words actually having to be words.
No big names for New Zealand, which claims nine players that play professionally within the country. Captain Ryan Nelson is the best known name on the squad, playing middle back for Blackburn. The Kiwis have only been to the finals one time in their history, 1982.