Perennial big tournament underachievers, blessed with some of the greatest players ever to grace the game, have never won the World Cup, but it seems that the Oranje are expected to come good sooner rather than later. The Dutch side captained by former Arsenal and Barcelona defender; Giovanni van Bronckhorst, swept through the qualifying campaign unbeaten, the only team, along with European Champions Spain, to do so. More impressively, Holland’s qualifying campaign record was played 8, won 8, lost 0 while scoring 17 goals and conceding just 2 goals in the process. If Holland carry this form into the World Cup they could go all the way.
Manager: Bert van Marwijk
The Dutchman made his name managing Feyenoord for 4 years, and a spell briefly managing in Germany with Borussia Dortmund, before heading back to Holland in 2007, again with Feyenoord. Then in 2008, he took charge of the national side, and has currently guided them to number four in the World rankings.
Key Player: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
The AC Milan striker has struggled to make an impact on the big stage since leaving the comforts of Ajax in 2009. However the World Cup can be the perfect stage for the 26 year old to put himself in the shop window and his tally of 15 international goals. Huntelaar helped himself to 3 goals in the qualifying campaign, and was Holland’s top scorer.
Best Finish: Runners Up 1974 and 1978
Prediction: Group winners/ Semi final
A team boasting the likes of Arjen Robben, Wesley Sniejder, Dirk Kuyt, Robin Van Persie and many more gifted players can indeed go all the way, but like many other nations with massive potential may somewhat place too much pressure on the Dutch side and hinder their chances.
The Danish side, captained by Jon Dahl Tomasson, won their qualifying campaign with 21 points, and 6 wins, 3 draws and 1 defeat from 10 games. They finished ahead of the likes of neighbours Sweden, an impressive Hungary side and most impressively ahead of runners up; Portugal.
Manager: Morten Olsson
The 60 year old, is a former Danish international and has been in charge of Denmark for 10 years, and guided the Danes to the 2002 World Cup, Euro 2004 and the World Cup four years ago. His ties with other teams in the group are that he is a former Ajax manager.
Key Player: Thomas Sorensen
The 33 year old Stoke player was sensation in the qualifying campaign and is clearly Denmark’s most important player, as he saved his side numerous times in the campaign. He suffered a dislocated elbow in his club sides 6-0 defeat to Chelsea, but didn’t require surgery and is expected to fly to South Africa. Known for his penalty saving ability, he has 86 caps for his country, and a good performance at the World Cup could see one of the big teams watching over him in Europe, finally make a move.
Best Finish: Quarter Finals 1998
Prediction: Quarter Finals
I believe the Danish side will complete well with the other teams in the group, and may even cause a stir by winning the group. The gifted but unpredictable Nicklas Bendtner will lead the line with captain Tomasson, with solid central midfielder partners Christian Poulsen and Thomas Khalenberg, speedy and experienced wingers Dennis Rommedahl and Jesper Gronkjaer will provide the assists with consistent, technically gifted centre backs Daniel Agger and Simon Kjaer will other some resistance to the opposition. I expect Denmark to be dark horses and have a commendable World Cup.
The Asian side were the first nation to qualify for the World Cup through qualification, with Australia also. They are currently ranked number 45 in the World Rankings and are captained by 32 year old Yuji Nakazawa, who plays for Yokohama F. Marinos, and has 102 international caps. Some of the players within this squad who are known in Europe include midfielders Junichi Inamoto (former Arsenal), Shunsuke Nakamura (former Celtic) and striking prodigy Takayuki Morimoto (now playing for Catania).
Manager: Takeshi Okada
He has been in charge of Japan since 2007, and managed them at the 1998 World Cup finals.
Key Player: Keisuke Honda
Japan’s new poster boy is one of the most exciting Asian players in Europe. He currently plays for CSKA Moscow in Russia after making a €6 million move from VVV-Venlo in 2009. He played and scored in his Champions League debut against Sevilla. He has 12 caps for Japan with 4 goals. Expect him to the highlight of the Japanese campaign.
Best Finish: Second round 2002
Prediction: Group Stage
I think the Japan side will finish bottom of the group, with their clash with Holland being the most intriguing clash of the group stage.
The Lions of Africa return to the World Cup after missing out on the 2006 campaign. Cameroon has an interesting history in the tournament, and was famed for the 42 year old Roger Milla and his infamous dance in the 1994 campaign. This time round, the African side are expecting to cause an upset and with the likes of Alex Song of Arsenal, Benoit Assou-Ekotto of Tottenham, Idriss Kameni of Espanyol and Eyong Enoh of Ajax are some of the players who will be driving on the Lions, while experienced defender Rigobert Song and Geremi will indeed need to use that experience, in order to show leadership both on and off the pitch in order to guide the team through the group stage.
Manager: Paul Le Guen
Frenchmen Paul Le Guen made his football career playing in France, most noticeably with Paris Saint-Germain. He is the former coach of Rennes, Paris Saint-Germain, Rangers and most successfully at Lyon. The 46 year old is known for developing footballers and is a technically sound coach.
Key Player: Samuel Eto’o
The national team captain and still regarded as one of the top strikers in the World, has played for both Real Madrid and Barcelona, and now playing for Inter Milan, is probably Cameroon’s greatest ever player. The 29 year old has played 92 times for his country and is their all time top goal scored with 43 goals. If anyone can penetrate the best defences in the World, it’s Eto’o.
Best Finish: Quarter Finals 1990
Prediction: Group Stage/Second round
Could they cause an upset? Stranger things have happened. I think they will definitely compete for second place, as they have an array of players with potential, who could star on the World stage.
Next Up: Group F
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