Tag Archives: Cameroon

Group Matches (P)review (Cont.)


Following on from yesterdays round up of the first four groups, here is groups E-H.

Group E

The Dutch are known to be chokers on the biggest level, but in this correspondent’s opinion, they have the strength in depth this time round to challenge favourites Brazil and Spain for the little gold statue. With key players like Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder coming off the back of excellent seasons for their clubs and teammates like Robin van Persie, Nigel de Jong and Dirk Kuyt in support, they are yours truly’s tip to make the semis. That said, their first showing against a resilient Denmark side was uninteresting and overhyped, and we were not treated to the fireworks a team of this calibre can produce. Robben did not play due to injury, but is supposedly going to be fit for their next encounter against Japan. The team certainly warranted the victory, and they were rarely troubled by the Danes. Nigel de Jong was his solid industrious self as always in the centre of the park, and young Hamburg winger Eljero Elia produced a fantastic 25 minute cameo, which will go a long way to raising his profile in world football. Unfortunately for big clubs looking for a new winger, he’s only one year into his 5-year contract and will cost a small fortune to lure away. Denmark looked weak in attack with Nicklas Bendtner in particular wasteful in front of goal. They will need to really step up against Cameroon if they are to progress out of the group, and with Japan already on 3 points their task is a difficult one.

Cameroon carried some expectancy with them as another team with African hopes behind them, but an unconvincing performance from both teams led to another mostly tedious match.  French Cameroonian coach Paul le Guen played a large role in the loss, opting to leave out Arsenal midfielder Alex Song and playing star striker Samuel Eto’o in a wide right position – the same as he did last season at Inter, but lacking the support he received in that side. He was largely anonymous, and when he found himself in good positions with the ball, he failed to make an impression and seemed slightly disinterested. Left-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto also failed to reproduce his good club-form in this match, with much of the attacking efforts centred on his runs up the wing. His crossing left much to be desired however. Japan were very defensive, often getting their whole team behind the ball, and were fairly lucky to score considering they had only 2 or 3 chances the entire match. Expect them to perform in a similar fashion against the Oranje looking to reach first gear tomorrow night.

Predictions: Netherlands 2-0 Japan

Cameroon 1-1 Denmark

Group F

Ageing Italy’s progress from this group was supposed to be easy, but Paraguay put up strong resistance and held them to another drab 1-1 draw. The first half saw the greaseballs passing nice and fluidly but without much to show for it and conceding from a free-kick. Diving bastard Daniele de Rossi equalised in a more entertaining second half after some poor keeping from an Italy corner. New Zealand are next up for Italy and you can expect them to challenge right to the death, just as they did in their opener. Antonio di Natale might find himself with a starting berth, and perhaps Bulldog Gattuso will get a chance to nip some heels. Fabio Cannavaro showed his age with a less than convincing performance at the back, but the consistent Zambrotta showed his worth to the Italian cause. Paraguay left star men Roque Santa Cruz and Oscar Cardozo on the bench, and although both made appearances, they failed to make an impact. Hopefully either or both of them will play from the start against Slovakia. Paraguay will be delighted with a point against the world champions, but without the error from keeper Villar they could have taken all 3.

Slovakia looked to get their tournament off to a winning start that would have put them in a strong position to progress, but world cup super-underdogs New Zealand put that idea to bed with a rousing finale. Leading 1-0 from early in the second half, Slovakia couldn’t manage to put the result beyond doubt. Then in injury time up popped up centre-back Winston Reid to win the All White’s first ever finals point. Slovakia’s main creativity stemmed from Vladimir Weiss (son of coach Vladimir Weiss, and grandson of former Czechoslovakian footballer Vladimir Weiss) and team freak Marek Hamsek, while Martin Skrtel in the heart of the defense was rarely troubled. They created plenty of chances to further the lead but just couldn’t put it away, worrying signs for the next match, a probable qualification decider against Paraguay.  New Zealands 3-4-3 formation paid dividends as they defended well in numbers and got forward well, though they failed to have much of threat up front despite boasting A-League top score Shane Smeltz and Middlesbrough man Chris Killen. FFTD head writer passthesugar was delighted to see West Brom man Chris Wood take to the field in the closing stages. New Zealand will fancy their chances of pulling off a shock result against the pizza boys on Sunday night, especially with highly rated goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon missing the match through injury.

Predictions: Italy 2-0 New Zealand

Paraguay 1-1 Slovakia

Group G

The Group of Death! Finally! The chance to witness some real hard-fought football with four teams going all out in their efforts to just scrape through against some seriously tough opposition. So Portugal v Ivory Coast was bound to be the screamer of a match it turned out to be. Oh wait a second…it was actually the single worst game of the tournament so far. I can’t believe I tried so hard not to find out the score for this game while I was at uni the whole day doing exams, to come home and watch this rubbish. With the only moment of note being a superb Ronaldo effort that smashed the upright from 35 yards. The two sides actually looked content to remain scoreless. Ronaldo looked disinterested and still hasn’t scored for Portugal in 16 months or something. Deco may as well have not played. Danny – the new Portugal no. 10, was equally anonymous.  The Ivorians looked more interested, but couldn’t get used to the infamous ‘Jabulani’. Didier Drogba made a much-hyped yet uneventful cameo towards the end, and the Toure brothers each put in reliable shifts but there was nothing to write home about. Both sides will need to improve dramatically to get anything out of their next games, even against group underdogs North Korea.

Speaking of North Korea, sorry, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, they put up a pretty damn good fight against the highly favoured but ultimately disappointing Brazilians! NK-an Rooney showed how proud he is to be representing his nation with his waterworks display during the anthem, and he put in a solid shift on the pitch for their Fearless Leader. They showed excellent organisation and discipline in a defensive showing that certainly raised their stature in the eyes of the public. However, bare in mind that Brazil are not at all what they used to be. Nowadays they play in a similar fashion to how their coach and ex-captain used to play – strong, defensive, and unflashy – in stark contrast to what we are used to from the once-stylish South Americans, players like Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Denilson et al. With Kaka still struggling to find the form that made him the best player in the world a few years ago, and the rest of the team not really finding their groove. Robinho surprised with a decent performance, and his through ball to set up Elano was delectable. I’ve decided Maicon’s definitely goal wasn’t intentional, so don’t bother trying to argue it. Hopefully Brazil will bring the style back for the next match against the Ivory Coast on Sunday night.

Predictions: Portugal 2-1 DPRK

Brazil 2-0 Ivory Coast

Group H

Well here’s a pretty straightforward group, right? Spain are unbeaten in the last year or so and they’re coming up against a Switzerland side missing both their top scorer of all time and an important winger. Wait, what? Spain lost? Are you sure? Blimey! The supposed best team in the world were outclassed by a stellar defensive performance, surely the best in recent years not masterminded by Jose Mourinho. New Barca boy David Villa was guilty of complacency when he decided to go for the entertaining to score rather than the simple, golden boy Torres looked ordinary when he came on towards the end of the match, Casillas certainly could have played better, and Xabi Alonso’s 30-yard pile-driver that smashed off the woodwork showed that it was just not Spain’s day. To give an example of how defensive Switzerland were, Gerard Pique spent most of the match playing as a striker rather than centre-back. For the Swiss, Stephan Lichtsteiner put in a rock-solid display in defense even after losing Philippe Senderos to injury, and Gelson Fernandes put away a brave goal to put them in the lead in what is undoubtedly the upset of the tournament thus far. Spain will need to regroup and show their class in what they expect will be an easy win against Honduras, whilst Switzerland face the daunting task of playing a threatening Chile.

Chile played some of the best attacking football so far against a lackluster Honduras. 21-year-old Alexis Sanchez shone the brightest with a fantastic display down the right wing, and they really should have won by more. Chile’s crossing was fantastic throughout the match, Mauricio Isla also playing a big role when coming forward from right back. Honduras were outclassed all over the pitch, and hulking centre-midfield Wilson Palacios was less influential than he is generally for Tottenham. He should have been sent off in the second half, too. The Central Americans clearly missed their highly rated striker David Suazo, and they will hope he returns to full fitness soon. Unfortunately we were not able to witness any more Palacios’ on the field, though Wilson had two brothers warming the bench. Hopefully they will all play together before the tournament is out. Wigan man Maynor Figueroa was disappointing at the back. Chile will need to find their scoring boots if they are to succeed against the Swiss steamroller, whilst the Hondurans will probably be playing for pride against the Spanish.

Predictions: Spain 3-0 Honduras

Chile 0-0 Switzerland

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World Cup Preview – Group E – Cameroon/Japan/Holland/Denmark


So, as the mad scramble before the World Cup starts (we’re in single figures – holy shit) I’ve drastically underestimated time. To that end, a few of the previews will be grouped as one. The writer’s discretion will be used to still endeavour to include lengthy and more thorough write ups for sides likely to make some noise over the next month or so…

THE BASICS

• Nicknames: The Indomitable Lions – Cameroon, Blue Samurai – Japan, Oranje – The Dutch, Olsen’s Elleve (Olsen’s Eleven, in honor of popular coach Morten Olsen) – Denmark
• World Cup Pedigree: This group is full of experience with Cameroon featuring at 5 World Cups (’82, ’90, ’94, ’98, ’02), only reached knockout phase once (quarterfinals in ’90), Japan being regular attendees of late, 8 World Cups (’34, ’38, ’74, ’78, ’90, ’94, ’98, ’06), runners-up twice, fourth place once for the heavyweights, Netherlands, and Denmark who have 3 World Cups (’86, ’98, ’02), progressed past group stage every time, quarter-finalist in ’98 to add to their record.

THE PLOT

This is one of the best pools in the World Cup: Two dark horses from Europe, and top sides from Asia and Africa. It’s been mocked as the Group of Pain (rather than death) and will throw up some thrilling contests. The Dutch are perennial underachievers, and the Danes are one of Europe’s hottest and most improved footballing nations. Japan doesn’t look to be at the same level of ’02 or even ’06, but are always a challenge and Cameroon are the veritable grandfathers of African soccer. If you’re looking for an upset in the group stages, then this group should throw one up… the Dutch look beatable as they struggle with injury and Denmark looks red hot with guns blazing.

THE DIRECTORS

Paul Le Guen – Cameroon

The Frenchman has had stints at Rangers and Lyon and seems to have the goods. He reinvigorated their failing qualifying campaign and immediately slapped the captaincy on Samuel Eto’o. His biggest worry will be around the tiff between Eto’o and Cameroon great Milla. Hopefully he’ll shelve some of the rash decisions he’s sometimes renowned for.

Takeshi Okada – Japan

Okada was at the helm at their first attempt in ’98 and it was 3 and out that time – hopefully he’ll fare better this time.

Bert van Marwijk – Netherlands

This guy is largely an unknown enigma, but has avoided any significant chastising through scrupulous media attention after qualifying with ridiculous each. But this will be a whole different story and there remains question marks over his credentials.

Morten Olsen – Denmark

Olsen’s shadow has dominated over football in Denmark for as long as you’d care to remember. He played more than 100 times for his country and is now the longest continually serving manager at South Africa. They failed in qualification in ’06, but Olsen remained, they didn’t qualifying for Euro ’08, but Olsen remained. Olsen is backwards in some of his football tactics and refuses to budge from attack. He’s labelled his brand as “Holland-lite”. Hopefully he wakes up and realises he doesn’t have the squad to play such a system.

LEADING MEN

Samuel Eto’o – Cameroon

Eto’o still doesn’t seem to have the same “ooh and ahh” factor about him as someone like Ronaldo or Messi does, but the Cameroon superstar deserves every bit of respect he is given. With Inter he became the first player to win a treble in consecutive season. Speed, check, creativity, check, finishing, check, lethal, check.

Christian Poulsen – Denmark

Poulsen is an archetypal box to box midfielder. He has the ability to supply the incisive pass or make the crucial defensive play. He has an archetypal European football hair style and the Juventus man employs the archetypal short temper that many Scandinavian players seem to possess.

Shunsuke Nakamura – Japan

Can’t believe this guy is still around – he’s now at Yokohama after a February transfer. Haven’t seen any action of him of late, but he used to be fast, creative and a free kick specialist. He is the Ryan Giggs of Japan, but unfortunately isn’t of the class of the Ryan Gigss for Man United.

Arjen Robben – Holland

The Bayern Munich talent has been in sublime form of late and will be at the fulcrum of the oranje attack. The squad is full of “leading men” in their own rights, but Robben is the most important of the lot. He can score from long range, regularly gets his name on the scoring sheet, will beat a defender one on one and delivers match winning passes/assists on a regular basis. He also looks like your grandpa.

SUPPORTING CAST

Alexandre Song (midfielder, Arsenal) is a North London favourite and will be crucial for the Africans in the middle of the pitch. It’s also strange that he’s playing in front of his uncle. Cameroon also have an impressive keeper in Carlos Kameni (goalkeeeper, Espanyol) who has been their starting shot stopper for 6 years now.

Jon Dahl Tomasson (forward, Feyenoord) leads the line and the team and his goals could be crucial for qualification.Simon Kjaer (defender, Palermo) is a name that has popped up on transfer rumour sites of late, and the 6’3” defender will be looking to increase his credentials.

Wesley Sneijder (midfielder, Inter Milan) and Rafael Van der Vaart (midfielder, Real Madrid) have been two of the form players in Europe and take the Dutch midfield to extraordinary heights. There are still question marks about their form in the crucial, key games. Robin Van Persie (forward, Arsenal) is one of PTS’ favourite strikers in world football and when he is fit is an awesome force. He could be a roughie for the golden boot if the Netherlands have a good run.

Keisuke Honda (midfielder/left back, CSKA Moscow) is known for his goal-scoring and his free-kick ability, making him the 24-year-old heir apparent to Nakamura; Yuji Nakazawa (defender, Yokohama F. Marinos) is the team’s captain is nicknamed “The Bomber”.

GET YOURSELF LABELLED AS “THE HOTTEST PROPERTY”

Eljero Elia Unfortunately, Holland probably won’t experiment too much (and that’s how it should be), but if he gets a go, then the Hamburg winger is one of a strong breed of young Dutchmen who look the goods. Ibrahim Afellay (midfielder, PSV Eindhoven) and Gregory Van Der Wiel (fullback, Ajax) are two of their other future prospects.

Nicklas Bendtner seems to be built in a similar mould to a German striker, namely he fares better for country than club. Personally, I think Bendtner was treated a little harshly by many at the Gunners, and that his prolific Danish form will continue.

THE LIKELY VILLAIN

The standout candidate amongst this group is Poulsen. We previously mentioned his temper and over the years has been in trouble for spiting, stamping and punching. Punching a Swedish player in 2007 led to a riot.

THE FORMATIONS

Cameroon will employ a 4-3-3 that favours their speed. Olsen and Denmark also favour a 4-3-3 with plenty of overlapping and space creation (Holland-lite) could be interesting against the Dutch themselves. The Dutch will play a 4-2-3-1 with Van Persie, Sneijder and Robben forming a good looking line behind Huntelaar. Japan: 4-5-1 with the ball being played to feet almost exclusively.

THE STRIPS

IT’S SORTA LIKE…
JAPAN: The Next Karate Kid

Some things are the same (Pat Morita, Okada), but the new things (Hilary Swank, a group with the Netherlands, Cameroon AND Denmark) aren’t an improvement.

HOLLAND: Kill Bill

Slick. Fast-paced. Lots of style. Interesting subplots. And, at every step of the way, there’s some kind of revenge dream for the Dutch to play out (whether it’s showing Brazil they do it better in the quarterfinals, England who’s boss in the semis and, gasp, possibly the Germans in the finals).

FINAL VERDICT

For Cameroon, it’ll be a little too much to ask, despite being on home continent soil. The rift between Milla and Eto’o is a distraction that the squad definitely doesn’t need. The government is now involved and it looks more like a circus than successful football side. The Japanese will be only making up the numbers and should occupy bottom place just as in ’06. While Nakamura and Honda are taking the dead balls, they’re always a threat.

The Dutch are arguably the greatest side to not win a World Cup. When you think of the Cruyff era and the Riijkard era (which included van Basten amongst others) you’d think they’re long overdue. But in 2010, they’re on the wrong side of the draw and will have to beat Brazil in the quarter finals just to taste semis and a match up with the Spanish. Their forward line is simply world class, but injuries to key men such as Robben will be key. If Robben is out, it’ll be a big blow, similar to Germany’s situation. Fatigue will be a factor as they play an up tempo style that is difficult to maintain in such an intense tournament.

Denmark are no easy beats and are genuine dark horses at the World Cup. A fortune of talent, and a proud history, Denmark will shake up a few sides. Don’t be surprised if they finish top of the group after an opening draw with an underdone Holland. Denmark is PTS’ smokey to make the semis.

THE FAIRYTALE SCRIPT

Cameroon surely deserve a decent cup run: picture Eto’o scoring in the quarter finals against Brazil or Spain. For Japan a match up with the Italians in the 2nd round will be dreamland enough. South Africa has a long history with the Duthc, and expect to see the country awash with the bright orange trademark. They’ll be hoping for a final against the Germans, who have long been the main enemy, and will hope that Van Persie fires a cup winning hat trick. For Denmark, facing regional rivals in the opening game is already somewhat of a fairytale – victory will give them a happy ending.


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