Here’s the thing about the Dutch: They will always play, as they have, a “pretty” style of soccer. By “pretty” I mean they have speed, they pass well, they attack and have quality and talented players in every section. Here’s another thing about them: They always, as they have, fall short. They have the Spain Syndrome, storming out of qualification and group phase, only to falter in the elimination phase. So close and yet, it seems, always so far. Could this be the year they break out? Reach the semis? Return to their former glory? The talent sure is there. In the attack, Van Persie could have a breakout performance, with Robben and Babel as supporting cast, their midfield is solid with Sneijder leading the way and their defense has experience. So what could go wrong? At least in group phase, nothing. They will cruise to first.
Japan has seen better days and so has their squad. Their 23-man roster is full of familiar and safe picks; they have a certain amount of talent and experience (Hasebe, Morimoto, Nakamura, Endo) but some say that the best is behind them and I tend to agree. Their qualifying performance was ok, falling behind Australia, and they haven’t had impressive results lately. They’re in a tough group and far from home, so I see a very difficult road ahead for them, with a last place finish very likely. (Sorry about the pic)
One word sums up the Danish: Solid. They are not great. They won’t win the World Cup. They won’t reach the final rounds. But they are a good, sound team. They have talent, just not enough. And worse, they have been battling injuries (Kalhenberg, Tomasson, Sorensen, Kjaer, Bendtner). If they were 100% healthy I might have given them the edge to take second place, but we’ll have to wait and see. Their match against Cameroon will be huge to dictate how this group will finish (behind the Netherlands).
Cameroon will live or die by Eto’o. He knows it. Coach Paul Le Guen knows it. Their squad know it. Their entire nation knows it. But it seems he’s having a bit of a “Manny” moment and that is certainly not good timing. He’s still their captain though and he’s not by himself, if you look at their roster and are a fan of European soccer, you’ll recognize many names with talent. With Drogba out for Ivory Coast, they just might be Africa’s best shot at going deep into the competition. It’ll depend on how they bring it all together as a team and how good their defense will be.