Day 4 Recap

June 14, 2010 - Cape Town, South Africa - epa02202275 Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (L) walks past as Paraguayan players celebrate after Antolin Alcaraz headed a goal on a free kick during the FIFA World Cup 2010 group F preliminary round match between Italy and Paraguay at the Green Point stadium in Cape Town, South Africa, 14 June 2010.

Netherlands 2 – Denmark 0 (Group E)

Even without superstar Arjen Robben, the Dutch were able to hold off Denmark. Using a formation similar to Germany’s 4-2-3-1 (the key difference being midfielder Wesley Sneijder playing deeper than his German counterpart Mesut Ozil), the Dutch grabbed control from the first minute. However, Netherlands did need a Danish own goal to get on the board. Shortly after the restart, striker Robin van Persie drifted wide to create space for a cross and Simon Poulsen’s clearance ricocheted off his teammate’s back and into the net.

Denmark, for the most part, defended with gusto, and the Dutch needed second half substitute Eljero Elia to spark their attack. In the 85th, midfield maestro Sneijder found the winger as he streaked into the box, and though Elia’s shot was pushed into the post, Dirk Kuyt outhustled a defender for an easy rebound.

Japan 1 – Cameroon 0 (Group E)

Playing what no one would call an entertaining first half, Cameroon’s 4-3-3 and Japan’s 4-5-1 canceled each other out, leaving almost no room for either side to maintain possession. Japan, however, still managed to find a goal. Six minutes before the break, they pushed forward in a rare foray into Cameroon’s half and Kesuike Honda latched onto an inswinging cross. The striker oh so coolly gathered himself before giving Japan a lead it would not concede.

During the second period Cameroon did a much better job breaking down their opponent’s defense, generating numerous chances in the last 15 minutes. Second half substitutes Geremi and Emana, old hands of Cameroonian soccer, brought needed ideas to the attack, with the former sending right-sided crosses screaming into the box and the latter scything through the middle of Japan’s defense. But it was right back Stephen Mbia who came the closest to garnering a much needed point when his twenty-five yard rocket clattered off the top post.

Cameroon need a result in their next match (Denmark) and they’ll hope Netherlands beat Japan, leaving the Dutch with little to play for in the two sides’ end-of-group encounter.

Japan’s first World Cup victory outside their native land gives them confidence going into their game with the Dutch, but the quality of the Oranje means Japan’s encounter with the Danes could determine the group’s 2nd place finisher.

Italy 1 – Paraguay 1 (Group F)

South America’s 3rd place qualifiers almost scored the tournament’s first major upset. Defending champions Italy were the aggressors for the entire match but went behind when center back Antolin Alcaraz surged over Italian captain Fabio Cannavaro and powered home a free kick. His 39th minute header had Paraguay on the way to 3 points until spotty goalkeeping once more gave up a goal. Goalkeeper Justo Villar appeared to have a corner kick delivery well in hand but whiffed his clearance and Daniele de Rossi fought off a defender to equalize. The Italians continued to apply pressure yet could not put another strike past Villar, as the keeper recovered from his mistake and made a number of fine saves, even holding onto a delivery quite similar to the earlier corner.

While Italian fans will be disheartened by the result, the squads should top the group, as the other two teams, New Zealand and Slovakia, are lightly regarded.

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