By Kevin Koczwara
I am writing Group E as one blog post because the Dutch are a tough bunch of players to understand. They don’t live up to their potential or make life easy for themselves–the internal fighting and temper-tantrums never help there chemistry and chances.
This group also poses some other interesting questions: who will overlook the Danish squad and forget that they are one of the most formidable teams in the tournament–they play like the stingy Italians? Can Cameroon repeat their run into the Quarterfinals with their athletic and underrated squad? Is Japan going to surprise everyone and come in second in the group and move on, or will they be the chopping boys of the group?
Netherlands– The Dutch have the fluid passing and attacking game that Brazilians are envious of (but they shouldn’t be and I will get to that tomorrow). The Dutch midfield can only be matched in attacking power by Spain. The major problem for the Dutch will be who plays up top of their shape and who will be healthy come The World Cup Finals. Here are the questions I have about the Dutch Squad that could keep them from the finals:
How will their defense hold up on the big stage? They are weak along the back line, so their attack needs to live up to its potential as, maybe, the best squad going forward in all the tournament.
Will Edwin Van de Sar be healthy and ready to go for The World Cup and will his heart be in it? He stayed out of qualifying but has stated that we would be willing to play in the finals, and the Dutch could use his experience and skill in the net, if it is all there come June.
Injuries, injuries, injuries. Will Robin Van Persie and everyone else in the first team be healthy come June? The Dutch players happen to get hurt often when playing for the National team and when the season is on the line.
Will their top-players all be in form? Will a player like Ryan Babel be in good form and ready to go come June? Will Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Rafael Van der Vaart, Huntelaar and Van Nistelroy all be in good form or will they all still be struggling to find a home and be healthy? (Sniejder, and Robben have fit in at their clubs but the rest of the former Real Madrid players have had a hard time staying on the field).
How well will Nigel De Jong play? Will he be the player we recently saw when Manchester City beat Chelsea a few weeks ago? or will he be the guy who we watch week in and out not perform to the standards he has set?
Oh and here is a huge if: will Mark van Bommel finally grow up because his father-in-law is the coach, or will be still be a selfish player only concerned with himself?
Can the Dutch find a leader, someone to grab onto in the closing minutes of a match to put the nail in the coffin, stop a blistering shot from a striker on a set piece, and tie up the game with a wunder-strike as the game closes out.
What I do see them doing well is playing fast, fun, and loose, this will be one of my favorite teams to keep an eye on during the tournament. I see this squad moving along pretty far in the tournament because they play the beautiful Total Football and their squad and they have so much attacking power that many squads won’t be able to stop them.
Denmark – The Danish play a tough brand of football with a skill set that wasn’t expected. They have a strong defense with grit and strength, and a fluid passing game that can give them the majority of possession and control the play on the field. They finished above Portugal and Sweden in qualifying and have had a strong showing in friendly matches. If Daniel Agger can stay healthy come the World Cup and the rest of Denmark’s key players can keep contributing at their clubs and stay healthy, then look out because players like Christian Paulson, Daniel Jensen, Michael Silberbauer, and Lars Jacobsen can all make a difference at any moment in a match. And for some reason Nicklas Bendtner plays great for the national team–he is improving immensely under Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. I can’t count this team out because they grind out results and get the points they need to move on.
Japan – The Japanese have a tough task at their hands. After breezing through qualifying, they got stuck with playing three tough sides that attack, defend and play three unique brands of football. Will Japan be able to slow down the Dutch’s total football attack, Denmark’s discipline, and Cameroon’s athleticism. Japan will bow out in this group stage and should be a stepping stone for each team in this group. A player to watch for them is Shunsuke Nakamura. Nakamura plays for Celtic and scored 3 goals in qualifying. He is an elder statesman on the squad at 31 years old, and he can hold his own on any pitch in the world, it will depend on how his lesser known and skilled teammates hold up around him. But don’t expect these guys to move through.
Cameroon – Samuel Eto’o leads the Cameroonians into the World Cup Finals with a lot of potential and experience. The Lions are lead by Captain Rigobert Song into the finals as a dark horse squad that could make a little unexpected noise and get a few unexpected results. Song will have to lead a young and talented squad to South Africa. With players like Sebastien Bassong and Alexandre Song Billong waiting in the wings to take over for the elder statesmen of the Lions, look for a changing of the guard at the World Cup and a deep bench that will help them use their athleticism to make a run at moving on. They should finish third in this group, but could surprise people and make it a close contest.
Don’t miss the other 5 parts to this Group by Group breakdown of the World Cup : Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6
Kevin Koczwara can be reached at email@example.com. Follow The Soccer Guys on Twitter @TheSoccerGuys.