Group E

The erratic Dutch top an equally unpredictable group with Cameroon, Denmark and Japan.

    Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o is one of the most feared strikers in the world [GALLO/GETTY]

    African flair and fire from Cameroon, combat and courage from Japan, and the dour north European discipline of Denmark and the Dutch. Hang on a minute...

    Few play with the style of the boys in orange from the Netherlands, and any group containing the best players from Holland's renowned academy of beautiful football is one to watch. This team is not England or Germany...but nor have these silky-skilled geniuses ever taken home a World Cup.

    Group E is one that could go any way. And if the Dutch indulge in their traditional spate of training-ground fallouts, it could mean joy on the streets of Tokyo, Copenhagen or Yaounde.

    Netherlands

    One of the best sides never to win the World Cup, the Dutch are credited with creating the ideology of Total Football – in which players can adapt to play in any position on the pitch.

    Having narrowly lost World Cup Finals in 1974 and 1978, the Netherlands' latest crop of prodigies hope to go one better than legends such as Johan Cruyff and Ruud Gullit by finally lifting the trophy in South Africa.

    Stars like Inter's Wesley Sneijder, Arsenal's Robin van Persie and Bayern Munich's Arjen Robben will be well aware of the team's tendency to disappoint on the big stage as they bid to take their perfect record from qualification into the finals.

    Denmark

    The Danes know how to spring a surprise.

    Having not even qualified for the European Championships in 1992, they were late additions after Yugoslavia's withdrawal and went on to win the tournament.

    Group E fixtures

    Monday June 14

     
    Netherlands v Denmark
     Japan v Cameroon 

    Saturday June 19


     
    Netherlands v Japan 
     Cameroon v Denmark 

    Thursday June 24


     
    Denmark v Japan 
     Cameroon v Netherlands

    The World Cup has been another story. The Danes have reached just four editions, and travel to these finals a lowly 36th in the world despite a fine qualifying campaign.

    Morten Olsen's men topped their qualifying group over Portugal and Sweden, losing just once, and an average-looking team led by the likes of Jon Dahl Tomasson and Nicklas Bendtner will shock the world again if they progress far beyond the group stages.

    Japan

    The Samurai Blue reached their first World Cup finals at France 1998 and have never looked back, with South Africa being their fourth in a row.

    Coach Takeshi Okada has set his sights on the semi-finals – a lofty ambition considering his star player, Shunsuke Nakamura, has returned to J-League side Yokohama Marinos after failing to cut it at Espanyol.

    Currently ranked 45th, Japan reached the second round at home in 2002 but could struggle to turn their fine record in Asian competitions into success at this World Cup.

    Cameroon

    The Indomitable Lions have rather failed to live up to their name after losing to England in extra time in their Italia 1990 quarter-final – winning just one of nine World Cup matches since then.

    Striker Samuel Eto'o, however, is one of the finest frontmen in the world and will be vital if French coach Paul LeGuen is to improve on a tame showing at the Africa Cup of Nations in Angola.

    Eto'o was vital in firing Barcelona to the European Champions League title in 2009, and helped to dump his former employers out to win the final again with his new team, Inter Milan.

    Operating in front of the experience of Pierre Webo and new talents such as Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Sebastien Bassong, Eto'o has the potential to become tournament top-scorer if the Lions can roar again.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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