Sportsball (World Cup 2010), Matchday Nine

Netherlands 1-0 Japan

Netherlands remain one of my favorites to go far, but it’s another performance where they just ground out a result. The Dutch’s lack of wingers was a problem against a resolute Japanese defence.

But, as is the big problem with the defensive route, once you concede you have nothing you can do. It was a lucky enough goal, though the Dutch had been pressing the whole time. It’s another goaltending error. A weird one: the Japanese goalie moved too early and went ahead of the ball, a rare occurence.

After that, the Japanese tactics went crazy. They appeared to be operating a 1-2-7 formation on occasion and they were lucky that the Dutch weren’t able to catch them on the counter.

The Netherlands has the result it needed but more work is required before the knock-out stages. As for Japan, they’re in a dodgy position. They’ll need a result on the last day against Denmark. More on that in a mo.

Australia 1-1 Ghana

Poor Aussies. Played really great today, despite going a man down. 11 on 11, they would have won this game. A big improvement on the Germany game. I think maybe conceding those 2 goals against the Germans so early made the Socceroos panic and fall apart.

Ghana, despite the man advantage, were very pedestrian. A lot of wayward efforts at goal, though they did manage to engineer a few chances. None taken though and both of their goals at this tournament were from penalties. Not a good sign, especially for their last game against Germany.

Australia were the much better team throughout and looked more likely to score in the second half. But, like Ghana, they lack the cutting edge. Their goal was a clumsy fluke. This draw and the Germany defeat leaves Australia in a pretty poor position. They’ll need to beat Serbia to have any hope, a difficult prospect.

I think Ghana’s luck will come undone against a full strength German team. Australia/Serbia is more difficult to call so I’ll predict a draw. Germany to top the group, Serbia to squeeze through on goal difference.

Denmark 2-1 Cameroon

Our first elimination and first qualifier confirmed. Nice comeback from Denmark, who refused to let Eto’o’s goal destroy their morale. They roared back and got a great equalizer, going to dominate most of the remainder of the game. Excellent goal to level it up, and a great winner.

Cameroon lacked invention up front, and suffered a lot from the airiness of the new match ball. Eto’o got lucky with his first half strike and couldn’t replicate it in the second. Cameroon were poor, a far cry from the Milla days.

The results mean the Netherlands are the first team to be confirmed qualified while Cameroon become the first confirmed eliminated. We still have a second qualifier to sort out and it’s winner take all between Japan and Denmark on Thursday. On the basis of todays performances I’m leaning towards Denmark to get second spot behind the Dutch.

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