The fourth day of the World Cup saw two of the real contenders open their tournaments. The Netherlands and Italy were both in action for the first time this World Cup against glorified warm-up opponents. The other match of the day saw Japan and Cameroon battle for an early advantage in the race for second place in Group E.
Netherlands 2 vs. Denmark 0 – A little bit of luck and a little bit of skill helped the Oranje to the victory in their first game of the World Cup. The first half was quiet though the Dutch were clearly the more dedicated of the two squads to the attack. It wasn’t until the second half the Netherlands were able to find the scoreboard but it wasn’t without a little help. A cross by Robin van Persie was headed by Denmark’s Simon Poulsen into the back of Daniel Agger and into the Danish goal for an own goal. The Dutch poured on the pressure looking for an insurance marker and got it when Dirk Kuyt tapped home a rebound off the post. It was a well deserved win for the Oranje but they still have some room for improvement before the knockout stages.
Japan 1 vs. Cameroon 0 – Did you know that, before today’s game, Japan has never won a World Cup game outside of Japan? Well, they changed things today. An uninspired Cameroonian attack meant that one goal was all that the Samurai Blue needed for the win. The goal came in the 39th minute when Daisuke Matsui played a beautiful cross into box which was tapped home by Keisuke Honda. Cameroon was able to pick up the attack in the second half but were unable to put together anything terribly troubling apart from a Samuel Eto’o run through three Japanese defenders that came up empty.
Italy 1 vs. Paraguay 1 – When the United States tied England, the Yankee supporters treated it like a win. Just imagine how big of a win it was for supporters of La Albirroja to see their boys tie the defending World Cup champions. Six minutes from the half, Aureliano Torres played a free kick into the box where Antolin Alcaraz rose above everyone and headed home the opening goal of the game. Things went downhill quickly for the Azzuri as keeper Gianluigi Buffon had to be subbed out at the half due to an as yet undisclosed injury. Fortunately for the defending champs, Daniele De Rossi tapped home a corner kick that was misplayed by keeper Justo Villar. Both teams had several quality chances during the game and both could easily have picked up three points.
Man of the Day: Antolin Alcaraz (Paraguay) – 1 goal
Group E Standings:
1. Netherlands 1-0-0, 3 Pts.
2. Japan 1-0-0, 3 Pts.
3. Cameroon 0-0-1, 0 Pts.
4. Denmark 0-0-1, 0 Pts.
Group F Standings:
1. Paraguay 0-1-0, 1 Pts.
2. Italy 0-1-0, 1 Pts.
3. New Zealand 0-0-0, 0 Pts.
4. Slovakia 0-0-0, 0 Pts.
Group F: New Zealand vs. Slovakia
Group G: Ivory Coast vs. Portugal
Group G: Brazil vs. North Korea