What We Learned From Group E Eliminators

Japan 3 – 1 Denmark

Quite why we should have been so scathing about Japan’s inadequate set piece play is a mystery. Their free kicks were outstanding, the first being a stunning long range missile from Honda, the second a great slip it in the corner by Endo. After that the Danes had no chance. The Japanese had one of the most exhausting build ups to the World Cup, apparently rolling around Asia, Europe and Africa in their tourbus playing every shitty venue that had goalposts. They gave Engerland a great game and would have utterly wiped the floor with them if it hadn’t been for their very genial habit of gifting their hosts a couple of own goals just to avoid causing offence. And all their work has paid off. They have a defence that seems utterly familiar with one another, ultra-organised and very capable of dealing with all kinds of attacks, in Tuilio Tanaka, they have an excellent central defender. They also pass the ball really well, moving it about the pitch and proving a real handful for any defence, especially one as laborious and slothful as the Danes’. They don’t look like the lightweights everyone imagined them to be and will be a real handful for Paraguay, who they play in the next Round.

As for the Danes, they are a disaster. Bendtner joins a long list of Arsenal players who have woefully underperformed at the World Cup. He looks like a striker with no confidence and no mental strength to adapt his game. Still he wasn’t helped by having the utterly useless Jon Dahl Tomasson as the team’s main striker, a forward who hasn’t scored internationally for two and a half years. But you think that, given their only meaningful attacks in their previous match against Cameroon came down the right via Rommerdahl, they would have attempted to exploit his pace down the wing. And to be fair, the one time they tried that, deep in the second half they created a useful goal-scoring chance, which Tomasson conspired to fail to even hit, let alone hit on target. Instead the Danes seemed content to waft the ball straight up the middle into the loving embrace of Tuilio Tanaka, who would then (in typical sneaky Japanese style) set up another graceful 22 or so pass attack for the Japanese. Even when they had a very soft penalty, the Danes could barely take advantage. Once again the thoroughly useless Tomasson was at the heart of the action, tamely slapping the ball at the goalkeeper and then attempting to do his best to knock the rebound wide. Being Tomasson, naturally, he failed even to do that and scored. I don’t see Denmark playing much of a part in any upcoming tournaments.

Holland 2 – 1 Cameroon

Cameroon are playing the useless African card. Inextricably bound up in the super-ego that is Samuel Eto’o they have become a team that is wholly subsumed by one individual in complete opposition to everything this tournament has taught us – namely that the team is everything. More than Messi or Rooney, Eto’o dominates the team to the point where he is the de facto manager, a situation which cannot be any good. Sure Eto’o is a great player, you can’t argue that he was the catalyst behind Barcelona’s defeat of Arsenal in the Champions League final, nor that his unselfish work on the wing for Inter helped them to this year’s Champions League, but he seems to require a firm managerial hand to really achieve and that’s obviously not what’s going on with Cameroon. Played 3, lost 3 is a woeful record in a Group that, the Dutch aside, is fairly well balanced.

The Dutch, meanwhile, are still playing that powder dry thing. They didn’t need to win this and, you know what, I don’t think they really tried. They’re still playing that stupid game where they start with both Snejder and Van Der Vaat, which you know makes no sense other than to pander to the super-ego that the latter obviously has. You know that the Dutch are so much more effective when they have both the clever passing of Snejder and the fast-paced wingplay of Elia, Robben and others. However, the Dutch haven’t remotely needed to play their strongest cards in this Group where they have comfortably won all three games.

So Bye-Bye Cameroon And Denmark

Frankly, this was one of the easiest Groups to finish second in. Economy class please.

44 Down 20 To Go 18 Teams Remaining

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