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Dave Hanratty’s Winners & Losers – Day 13

Winners

Holland

Three wins from three games and they’ve yet to really hit third gear. This Holland team seem to like 100% records having also won all their games in qualifying for the tournament. An awful lot is expected of them as a result and they will need to raise their game when they line out against giaint-killers Slovakia on Monday afternoon. The return of Arjen Robben is a major boost and should Holland find their feet there may be no catching them this time.

Robin Van Persie

Following a torrid injury-related season, the Arsenal striker will be delighted to open his World Cup account. Threatening throughout, it is paramount that Van Persie remain fit for the duration of Holland’s campaign.

Japan

A comprehensive victory over a poor Danish side was capped off by the scoring of not one, but two free kicks.

Keisuke Honda

Lived up to all the “hilarious” engine-related humour by running the game for his country. The midfielder has impressed thus far with goals, assists and workrate. Japan will be relying on him to keep, ahem, driving them forward against Paraguay.

The Jabulani ball

Turns out you can score free kicks with it.

Paraguay

Unfancied but in the end unbeaten. The South Americans have shown grit and determination and set up a match against Japan that could surprise many.

Slovakia

Nobody expected them to get this far, especially at the expense of the Italians. Similarly, nobody expects them to give Holland problems on Monday but as the Eastern Europeans have proven, surprises can happen.

Marek Hamsik

By not scoring against Italy, his employers Napoli will probably just hold back on issuing his P45.

New Zealand

Touted as whipping boys, the Kiwis brought pride to their nation by not only finishing their campaign unbeaten, but placing higher in the group than Italy.

Losers

Slovakia

Slightly took the gloss off a famous victory by play-acting and time-wasting at the death. They won’t care though.

Italy

Farewell to the 2006 champions. Then again this Italy was barely the same one that took the crown on penalties in Germany four years ago. While some names remained, the spirit did not. Fabio Cannavaro and Marcello Lippi will wonder just why their country has crashed out of their first World Cup at the group stage in 36 years, but the writing was on the wall even through their qualification.

While they may have topped their group, it was a far from convincing. In truth, Ireland should have taken at least four points off them instead of two. Their frailties were exposed in most of the games they played, frailties

Fabio Quagliarella

The Napoli striker will never win an Oscar with acting that melodramatic. Trust an Italian to go from the ridiculous to the sublime though, netting one of the goals of the tournament shortly after his “I’ve been shot in the face” antics.

Cameroon

Three games, three losses and no points brings a hugely disappointing campaign to an end and leaves only one African team in the last sixteen.

Denmark

Can have no complaints. Not good enough.

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Netherlands crawl to win over Japan

Netherlands 1-0 Japan

Holland maintained their winning start to the World Cup and kept another clean sheet but this was another disappointing display from the Oranje. The traditional image most football fans have of Dutch football is clean and quick passing with plenty of goalscoring opportunities. This image does not yet apply to the Oranje class of 2010. Bert van Marwijk’s side created very little opportunities in front of goal and for the second successive game benefited from a moment of fortune to take the lead.

 

The first half did little for the imagination. Holland did control possession for long spells and put numerous passes together but the majority of these were uninventive passes across the midfield. The notoriously defensive Takeshi Okada had his side set out to stifle the Dutch as his side successfully managed against Cameroon last week. It is difficult to quantify whether it was the lack of incision from Holland or Okada’s tactics which gave rise to the drab first period.

Nevertheless, there was a surprisingly physical edge to the first half. Yuichi Komano suffering an injury to his jaw after he was caught by the boot of Robin van Persie as the Arsenal striker tumbled to the ground. This instance was just one of a variety of clumsy challenges, with Giovanni van Bronckhorst on the receiving end of a particularly painful looking tackle.

 

There were no clear chances to report, although strangely Samurai Blue looked the more likely to score before the break. Yoshito Okubo shooting on sight from outside the penalty area, none of his efforts were legitimately threatening however.

It was a frustrating first half for Holland who still seemed to be suffering without the creative intuition of Arjen Robben. The Van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder axis had once again failed to impress and was very much a case of failing to amount to the some of two very talented components.

Holland benefited from a bizarre own-goal to take the lead against Denmark and were similarly fortuitous to take the lead against Japan. A poor defensive header from Tulio fell to the feet of the hitherto terrible Robin van Persie. The Arsenal striker rolled a bobbling pass back to Wesley Sneijder who fired a forceful effort towards the right of Eiji Kawashima’s goal. The Japanese goalkeeper flew across goal to attempt a diving save but unfortunately for the Kawasaki Frontale ‘keeper the by now infamous Jabulani football appeared to veer onto his wrists from where it rebounded into the opposite side of the net. Takeshi Okada was visibly irked in the technical area.

Holland failed to threaten to add to their advantage, while Japan’s best hope seemed to be set pieces. Asian footballer of the year Yasuhito Endo fired successive corners into the Dutch penalty area but these crosses were dealt with emphatically by Mathijsen, Heitinga and Van der Wiel.

Okada appeared to recognise that a good delivery could bring Samurai Blue back into contention and sent noted dead-ball specialist Shunsuke Nakamura on as a substitute in search of improved deliveries.

Holland improved marginally in the final ten minutes as substitute Ibrahim Afellay may feel unlucky not to have converted at least one of his two late chances.

With the game approaching stoppage time Japan’s best chance arrived. A looping, high pass was flicked forward to Okazaki who, with only Maarten Stekelenburg to beat, cleared the crossbar with his effort.

The Dutch hung on to secure a second victory in the group stage and move closer to advancement to the Round of 16. Understandably, questions will be levelled at Bert van Marwijk as to why his side have been unable to replicate their scintillating form in the run up to the tournament in South Africa. For many Arjen Robben is paramount. His vitality, inventiveness and dependability should go some way towards improving what has been an insipid tournament from the Oranje so far.