The Netherlands added to their 100 percent win record, moving smoothly into the knockout stages as Cameroon’s World-Cup campaign ended pointless in Cape Town tonight. Elsewhere in Group E, Japan, aided by two spectacular free kicks, beat Denmark 3-1 to seal the second spot.
Cameroon, whose campaign has been marred by rows between the manager, Paul le Guen, and several of the senior players, including his captain Samuel Eto’o, had already been knocked out following two successive defeats. At times tonight they appeared to be going through the motions but Eto’o dragged his side back into the game and deserved his goal, a 65th minute penalty, which briefly brought the Indomitable Lions level.
The Dutch were boosted by the return of Arjen Robben, who made his first appearance at these finals when coming on as a substitute for the final 20 minutes. The Bayern Munich winger had been sidelined with a groin injury but appeared to be back to full fitness as he skipped past the challenge of Rigobert Song and curled a shot from outside the area against the inside of the post. Klaas Jan Huntelaar pounced on the rebound to make it 2-1 and clinch the three points.
The Netherlands, who will play Slovakia in the Final 16, have been efficient rather than electric so far. But with a forward line that also includes Robin van Persie, Rafael van der Vaart, and Wesley Sniejder, they are likely to be a match for any of the other big teams.
Japan's confidence grows
Japan, who started their campaign with a nervy 1-0 win over Cameroon, appear to have grown in confidence since then. Their performance tonight against Denmark was their best yet, with Keisuke Honda particularly impressive. Honda’s flick, dummy, and pass set up Shinji Okazaki for the third goal in the final minute of the game.
Going into the World Cup few expected the Japanese team to perform well, not least their own fans. Coach Takeshi Okada had set a seemingly bizarre target of a semi-final place despite the fact that Japan have never gone beyond the group stage in a World Cup on foreign soil.
But Japan will now fancy its chances against Paraguay in the second round. And, while Okada’s target may still seem fanciful, a quarter-final spot would beat their best ever World Cup performance, achieved when they were co-hosts with South Korea in 2002.
Want to read more about Japan? Check out: Why won't Asians cheer for Japan?
World Cup 101: