Group E, E for easy to predict? No way.
This group is as hard as group D, made even harder by the fact that it is impossible to dislike any of these teams. I want them all to win!
How could anyone not like Cameroon. They have qualified for the World Cup finals more than any other African team. My first memories of them are from Italia ’90 when they defeated World Champions Argentina in the opening game led by Roger Milla, they finished top of their group and finally lost to England in the quarter-finals (maybe because Mark Wright and Chris Waddle were carrying birds of prey on their heads). In 2004 they had sleeveless jerseys for God’s sake! This time around their outstanding footballer is striker and captain Samuel Eto’o, I think he’s great but that’s because I’m not a Real Madrid fan. They didn’t qualify for the last World Cup and had a poor African Cup of Nations this year. They are managed by the former Lyon, Rangers and PSG manager Paul Le Guen and finished top of their qualifying group after a bad start.
How could anyone not like Denmark. They beat Germany to win Euro ’92 and gave the world Michael Laudrup, Preben Elkjær and Jan Molby. They have a team built on a solid defence and midfield and their main attacking threat will come from skilful midfielders like Christian Eriksen and Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner. They also qualified top of their group, finishing above Portugal and Sweden.
How could anyone not like Japan. Unless you’re Chinese. They qualified second behind Australia and are managed by a Japanese man for the first time since 1998, when the current coach Takeshi Okada resigned after a poor performance at the World Cup that year. Ex-Celtic player Shunsuke Nakamura is deadly from freekicks, CSKA Moscow’s Keisuke Honda is quick and direct and 6ft Takayuki Morimoto could surprise a lot of people. Most of the Japanese players are based in Japan and the step-up in quality to a World Cup maybe too big this time around.
How could anyone not like the Netherlands. Home of some of the best players in world football, and Dirk Kuyt. Anyone who remembers Johan Cruyff doing this before it had a name, Marco van Basten doing this or Dennis Bergkamp doing this will always look forward to watching the Dutch. This season Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben made the difference for their respective teams, taking them to the Champions League Final. Definitely one of the favourites to win the tournament outright and Robin van Persie has to be a good bet for the Golden Boot. They finished top of their qualifying group, winning every game, scoring 17 and conceding only twice. In a group of uncertainty, the Dutch are going through.
So it’s a difficult decision but I reckon the Netherlands and Denmark to go through but I would be really pleased if it was Cameroon and Japan.