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World Cup – Day 14, Group E

Netherlands is in, Cameroon is out, so that game was relatively meaningless.  If the Dutch somehow were to lose, they could have qualified second on goal difference.  The Denmark-Japan game determined the second qualifier, with the two teams level on 3 points. Japan had the goal difference edge, so Denmark needed a win.

Cameroon 1 – Netherlands 2

I haven’t yet watched it, but I will, because it looks like things are falling into place for the Dutch at the right time.  Robben is back, van Persie scored a nice goal, and the only Cameroon goal was a justly given but silly penalty scored by the Cameroon star (and diva) Samuel Eto’o after Rafael van der Vaart blocked a free kick with outstretched arms. So misery is over for Cameroon, and the Dutch are positioned for improvement.

Denmark 1 – Japan 3

This game surprised me, and was fun to watch. I expected more from the Danes. The Japanese could have played for the draw but chose not to, and the soccer gods approved. They scored two deserved goals in the first half, on two free kicks! It appears that they have mastered the screwy Jabulani ball. Both were nicely placed, more reliant on placement than power, and went around rather than over the wall.  Denmark had some chances in the first half, but couldn’t convert.  Japan retrenched in the second half, and Denmark became more aggressive.  The Danes had a couple of wonderful chances, and finally equalized on a (very soft) penalty in the 81st minute. The poorly taken penalty by Tomasson was blocked, but he managed to put in the rebound.  Japan had a few counter-attack opportunities and the third goal came on a gorgeous run by Keisuke Honda down the center.  When the goalie advanced he laid it off to Okazaki, who almost tripped over the ball but managed to slide it into the open goal.

So, the Dutch advance first, Japan advance second, and Cameroon and Denmark get to go home. The Dutch play Slovakia on Monday (28-June) and Japan play Paraguay on Tuesday (29-June). The Dutch are obviously big favorites, but I see the Japan/Paraguay match as a toss up.

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