Some favourites suffered early setbacks in the 2010 World Cup but have and will recover. Today, one tournament favourite paid dearly for their mistakes and will be watching the rest of the tournament on TV. Heading into the day, the Netherlands clinched a spot in the round of 16 and Cameroon had already been eliminated leaving Denmark and Japan teams battling for the final spot in Group E. In Group F play, all four teams could end the day moving on or going home.
Denmark 1 vs. Japan 3 – This one had a pretty simple premise. The winner goes on, the loser goes home. A draw wouldn’t do Denmark any good as Japan would go through on goal differential. However, it was the Japanese that were on the attack. In the 17th minute, Keisuke Honda opened the scoring with a 30-yard free kick which found its way straight to the back of the net. Yasuhito Endo showed the Samurai’s killer instinct with a 25-yard free kick for a goal only 13 minutes later. With nine minutes to go, the Danes finally found the mark. Jon Dahl Tomasson was denied on a penalty kick but scored on the rebound. A Shinji Okazaki with a minute remaining in regular time sealed the deal for Japan who qualified for the knockout stage.
Cameroon 1 vs. Netherlands 2 – It was essentially a meaningless game for the two sides involved. The Netherlands needed to completely fall apart or Japan to blowout Denmark to fall out of first place. The Oranje are a side not to be messed with however. Despite not needing to go on the attack, the Dutch played some creative football before their first goal which came off the boot of Robin van Persie in the 36th minute. Cameroon got a goal in the 65th minute from a Samuel Eto’o penalty which was the first goal the Oranje conceded this tournament. However, they preserved their perfect record in the World Cup on Klaas Jan Huntelaar’s 83rd minute strike. The win means the Netherlands will face the runner-up of Group F in the round of 16.
Slovakia 3 vs. Italy 2 – Equal parts of lackadaisical play and bad luck have punted the defending World Cup champions out of the tournament. They waited until late in this game to get anything going and it bit them in the arse. Robert Vittek scored in the 25th and the 73rd minute to give Slovakia a 2-0 lead before Italy showed up. The Azzuri’s Antonio Di Natale took advantage of the napping Slovakians as they thought the game was out of reach. Kamil Kopunek restored the two goal lead in the 89th minute before Fabio Quagliarella potted one in the 92nd minute to make for a dramatic finish. For the defending champions, though, the effort in the final ten minutes was too little, too late. Amazingly, this is the first time in the history of the World Cup that both members of the previous tournament’s finalists failed to advance beyond the first stage.
Paraguay 0 vs. New Zealand 0 – A tight race in Group F meant that anyone could advance. However, when you don’t have to win to advance, it leads to a fairly lax game. Enter Paraguay and New Zealand. All Paraguay needed to do was avoid losing to the underdog Kiwis. The All White didn’t need to win to advance but it would help. However, when you’re outclassed offensively, you sit back and defend to avoid getting lit up. And so this game saw chances few and far between. Both teams were content to let the action play out while Italy and Slovakia sorted out the group amongst themselves. It worked out well for Paraguay but not so well for New Zealand.
Man of the Day: Robert Vittek (Slovakia) – 2 goals
Group E Standings
1. Netherlands 3-0-0, 9 Pts.
2. Japan 2-0-1, 6 Pts.
3. Denmark 1-0-2, 3 Pts.
4. Cameroon 0-0-3, 0 Pts.
Group F Standings
1. Paraguay 1-2-0, 5 Pts.
2. Slovakia 1-1-1, 4 Pts.
3. New Zealand 0-3-0, 3 Pts.
4. Italy 0-2-1, 2 Pts.
Group G: Portugal (1-1-0) vs. Brazil (2-0-0)
Group G: North Korea (0-0-2) vs. Ivory Coast (0-1-1)
Group H: Chile (2-0-0) vs. Spain (1-0-1)
Group H: Switzerland (1-0-1) vs. Honduras (0-0-2)
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