BfB Goes To The World Cup 2010 (Without leaving the front room)

The Japanese 1-0 win over Cameroon was the unsung result of the first set of games with the men form the far east beating the far more power African side with a combination of organisation and a maximisation of the one strength they could boast over the opposition: speed.

Which is not to say that the Cameroon side was not quick but they lacked a nimbleness which Takeshi Okada has demanded from his side. Japan were early to pressure, early to pass, early to everything and they got a victory as a result of that.

The Netherlands were my favourite coming into the competition but the opening 2-0 win over Denmark was more laboured than the blast through qualifying suggested it would be but – never the less – the win no matter how laboured was something which France, Spain, Italy, Germany and England would have appreciated.

The Dutch start the game well with Dirk Kuyt putting an athletic overhead kick towards a tidy cross but Japan counter with a low drive from left back Yuto Nagatomo which fizzes wide. The Dutch have settled well but the Japanese are disciplined in their defending and pick up men well with the impressive Marcus Tulio Tanaka clearing out a dangerous free kick from the Dutch right.

Yoshito ?kubo did a Cruyff turn. Nice.

Attempts to play through the Japanese by The Dutch seem to be easily frustrated and the Asians look to pick off the European side on the counter attack. The Dutch reaction to this is a cautious one with a rigidity to the attacking which seems out of keeping with the style of the Orange play. Kuyt, Robin van Persie, Rafael van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder are cut off from the deep laying midfield and face two banks of white shirts.

Japan break not with fast passing but with probing runs – again Nagatomo is the man breaking forward – but without committing men forward they attack more in hope than expectation. One of these attacks is broken up by Gregory van der Wiel who is yellow carded for leaving a heap of Daisuke Matsui. Tulio Tanaka heads the free kick wide. For all the Dutch possession there are few chances and the Japanese will certainly feel they have been good value for the point which would mean that both sides would keep progress in their own hands.

If Yuji Nakazawa put in the performance of the first round Tulio Tanaka seemed set to do the game in the second clearing and cleaning everything out until his defensive header falls to van Persie who plays the ball back into the path of Sneijder who rockets the ball at Eiji Kawashima with excess power that seems to knock the keeper into the back of the net with the ball.

Sneijder charges away in celebration while Kawashima reflects on the fact he should have done better and watching ?kubo it a shot – albeit a weaker one – which Maarten Stekelenburg takes well he will reflect on what could have been had he got body behind the ball. Again ?kubo fires at goal his shot going over as the Japanese go in search of an equaliser.

It is surprising how easily – as they become more expansive – the Japanese are able to take control of the game. The Dutch are quickly on the back foot defending against sorties of players coming in to try get on the end of low crosses and end up taking off van der Vaart for Eljero Elia to inject a little more life into the side which is too easily fallen into being dictated to, or at least been prepared to surrender the majority of possession in the game.

Such talk proves harsh on a Dutch team which adapt to the new stability of holding onto the one goal lead. Bert van Marwijk – a man who played almost 400 games in the Eredivisie and coached a good number too – knows the expanses of his players and when he brings on Ibrahim Afellay and twice winger gets a chance to double the lead running into an extended Japan defence but Kawashima redeems himself with a couple of brave dive at feet saves.

The chance comes to equalise in the final minutes when sub Shinji Okazaki is played in with a fine cross headed into his path but to the distress of a nation he takes the shot well but fires over with his left foot. Nigel De Jong – who should have been sent off in the first game – should have given away a penalty as seconds ticked out but the Referee Hector Baldassi is kind after his push on Yuto Nagatomo.

Japan play Denmark next and have done enough to suggest the can win that game. The Dutch have won without playing especially well in two games and the supporters of France, Spain, Italy, Germany and England will appreciate the merits of that.

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