With a 2-1 win over Cameroon this saturday, Denmark and Japan will fight it out in the last group match over the second spot behind the Netherlands. The game was full of speed and excitement, but also many unforced errors by both teams.
The first one came after ten minutes, when Christian Poulsen made a bad blunder in the Danish defence, and Samuel Eto´o getting the opening goal. This was very frustrating, as a personal mistake also gave way to the first goal agains the Netherlands, and the Danish team did not look organized or secure on the ball.
However, just 20 minutes later, a good move from Dennis Rommedhal set up Nicklas Bendtner who scored our first goal in this years World Cup.
Dennis Rommedhal also scored the winning goal after just over an hours play, consolidating himself as man of the match. Overall, the game was highly entertaining with many chances in both ends, but lacking the structure that makes a truly great game. The result however was a relief for the Danish fans and one that keeps us hoping for a long run in South Africa.
There is a couple of thing to note after this match, which, by the way, was a real fans-game with many highs and lows and open chances, very enjoyable I thought!
First, the result and where that leaves us. The Netherlands are sure to be number one in the group, having allready beaten the two other teams that can still get six points (us and Japan), Cameroon is out of the World Cup, and that makes the clash with Japan this thursday a group final of sorts, at least for the second spot, and a chance to face the winner of group F (very likely Paraguay) in the second round.
I have before the Cup started said that Japan did not look good in their warm-up matches, loosing all four. This did not prevent them from beating Cameroon, but all in all I still think they look a bit disorganized, relieing to heavily on the likes of Honda and Hasebe (Nakamura seems not to be fit). In other words, I think we can beat them, and we have to, since a draw will give Japan that second spot in the group, because they only lost 0-1 to the Netherlands whereas we lost 0-2.
The second thing to note has to be Dennis Rommedhal. The reason to single him out is not only the fact that he played well agains the Netherlands and both scored and had an assist in the match agains Cameroon, but because he has been the subject of criticism for many, many years now. With a performance like his this saturday, some of this criticism is bound to stop, and should. As many others I also thought he looked very poor in some of the qualification matches, in fact he hasn´t scored a goal for the national side since 17th October 2007!
This goal tally, along with poor performances in general, indicates that at least some of the criticism has been in order, but with Rommedhal enjoying a good season in Ajax under new manager Martin Jol, and with the last games stellar performance, he certainly deserves a second chance.
The third thing I would like to add, is the problems the Danish squad still has, despite a good win and renewed optimism. The overdependence on Bendtner with Jon Dahl Tomasson almost invisble in the match is bound to be a problem, especially if our only other target man, Søren Larsen, indeed is not yet fully fit.
Another problem that was not only evident but also acted on by coach Morten Olsen, is our playmaker position. In the Danish system, something like a 4-2-3-1, Martin Jørgensen started the game next to Christian Poulsen as a centre midfielder. With Poulsen not having his best day at the office, the frailty of Jørgensen was showing, and he had to be replaced by half time with Daniel Jensen. However, Jensen did not convice me either, and it is now very much in the air who will start next to Poulsen agains Japan. I would personally like to se Thomas Kahlenberg, but Morten Olsen seems to prefer playing him in a more attacking position. Another option could be William Kvist, who is more of a holding midfielder which could provide some more cover for our defence. More likely, Olsen will give Martin Jørgensen a second chance, with the Japanese not being as physical a team as Cameroon.
One player that will not be in the starting line-up agains Japan is Simon Kjær. The young centreback picked up his second yellow card in the tournament, and is suspended for the next game. This could be a problem, but Per Krøldrup has filled in many times before, and should do the job.