Teams: NETHERLANDS (4), CAMEROOM (19), DENMARK (35), JAPAN (45)
The Netherlands are the clear favourites too win Group E. Denmark and Cameroon are expected to fight for second place, while Japan are the potential chopping blocks.
Previous World Cups: 1934 – R1, 1938 – R1, 1974 – Runners’ up, 1978 – Runners’ up, 1990 – PQF, 1994 – QF, 1998 – SF (4th), 2006 – PQF.
2010 – qualified on Jun-06, 2009; 5th team to qualify.
Head Coach: Bert VAN MARWIJK (NED – age 58)
01. Maarten STEKELENBURG (G – age 27) Ajax Amsterdam (NED) (06)
02. Gregory VAN DER WIEL (D – age 22) Ajax Amsterdam (NED)
05. Giovanni VAN BRONCKHORST (D – age 35) Feyenoord (NED) (C) (98) (06)
13. Andre OOIJER (D – age 35) PSV Eindhoven (NED) (98) (06)
14. Demy DE ZEEUW (M – age 27) Ajax Amsterdam (NED)
19. Ryan BABEL(F – age 23) Liverpool (ENG) (06)
The Netherlands were the first European team to qualify for these finals. They were absolutely splendid in qualification, and their current form make them a probable contender for the title.
In the absence of Edwin van der Saar of Manchester United, the experienced Maarten Stekelenburg of Ajax will be their keeper in South Africa. His deputies shall be the largely untried Michel Vorm of Utrecht and Sander Boschker of Twente.
The defence looks solid and experienced, with captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst of Feyenoord the kingpin. Alongside him are players like Khalied Boulahrouz of Stuttgart, Andre Ooijer of PSV, John Heitinga of Everton and Joris Mathijsen of Hamburg, making the Dutch defence potentially one of the best in the finals.
The midfield is as formidable as the defence, led by the in-form Wesley Sneijder of Inter and Mark van Bommel of Bayern. Nigel de Jong of Manchester City plays the central holding role, while Rafael van der Vaart of Real Madrid can weave magical passes to all corners of the field. Young talents like Ibrahim Afellay of PSV, Stijn Schaars of Alkmaar and Demy de Zeeuw of Ajax are also waiting to ply their wares.
The attack has wide players like Arjen Robben of Bayern, Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel of Liverpool to provide service for classy strikers like Robin van Persie of Arsenal and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar of Milan. Eljero Elia of Hamburg is also a talented striker.
All in all, the Duch team seems to possess a truly talented bunch of footballers quite capable of reproducing their golden form of the 70s.
6th World Cup Finals (1st as SERBIA).
Previous World Cups: 1982 – R1, 1990 – QF, 1994 – R1, 1998 – R1, 2002 – R1.
2010 – qualified on Nov-14, 2009; 25th team to qualify.
Head Coach: Paul LE GUEN (FRA – age 46)
02. Benoit ASSOU-EKOTTO (D – age 26) Tottenham Hotspur (ENG)
04. Rigobert SONG (D – age 33) Trabzonspor (TUR) (94) (98) (02)
05. Sebastien BASSONG (D – age 23) Tottenham Hotspur (ENG)
09. Samuel ETO’O (F – age 29) Inter Milan (ITA) (C) (98) (02)
23. Vincent ABOUBAKAR (F – age 18) Cotonsport Garoua (CMR)
Cameroon will be playing in their 6th World Cup and will be hoping to repeat, if not better, their best performance of reaching the quarter finals in 1990 in this first finals in Africa. They have several world class players, it is now only a question of peaking in tandem and playing as a team.
Cameroon have always had great goalkeepers, and this time Idriss Carlos Kameni of Espanyol will try to exhibit his sublime skills to the world. His deputy Souleymanou Hamidou of Kayserispor is also a splendid keeper.
The former captain Rigobert Song of Trabzonspor will be playing in his 4th Cup and will lead the defence. Alongside him are the Tottenham pair of Sebastien Bassong and Benoit Assou-Ekotto and the experienced Geremi Njitap of Ankaragucu. Stephane Mbia of Marseilles is another solid defender.
Young Alexandre Song of Arsenal is expected to be the midfield general, alongside such talents like Jean Makoum of Lyon and Landry N’Guemo of Celtic. Eyong Enoh of Ajax is another talented young midfielder.
The attack is led by the captain Samuel Eto’o of Inter, arguably the best striker in Africa today. Supporting him shall be Achille Emana of Real Betis and Pierre Webo of Mallorca. Mohammadou Idrissou of Freiburg is another striker in form for his club.
Previous World Cups: 1986 – PQF, 1998 – QF, 2002 – PQF.
2010 – qualified on Oct-10, 2009; 15th team to qualify.
Head Coach: Morten OLSEN (DEN – age 60)
01. Thomas SORENSEN (G – age 34) Stoke City (ENG) (02)
02. Christian POULSEN (M – age 30) Juventus (ITA) (02)
03. Simon KJAER (D – age 21) Palermo (ITA)
04. Daniel AGGER (D – age 25) Liverpool (ENG)
05. William KVIST (D – age 25) Copenhagen (DEN)
06. Lars JACOBSEN (D – age 30) Blackburn Rovers (ENG)
07. Daniel JENSEN (M – age 31) Werder Bremen (GER)
08. Jesper GRONKJAER (M – age 32) Copenhagen (DEN) (02)
09. Jon Dahl TOMASSON (F – age 33) Feyenoord (NED) (C) (02)
10. Martin JORGENSEN (M – age 34) Aarhus (DEN) (98) (02)
11. Nicklas BENDTNER (F – age 22) Arsenal (ENG)
12. Thomas KAHLENBERG (M – age 27) Wolfsburg (GER)
13. Peter KROLDRUP (D – age 30) Fiorentina (ITA)
14. Jakob POULSEN (M – age 26) Aarhus (DEN)
15. Simon POULSEN (D – age 25) Alkmaar Z (NED)
16. Stefan ANDERSEN (G – age 28) Brondby (DEN)
17. Mikkel BECKMANN (M – age 26) Randers (DEN)
18. Soren LARSEN (F – age 28) Duisburg (GER)
19. Dennis ROMMEDAHL (M – age 31) Ajax Amsterdam (NED) (02)
20. Thomas ENEVOLDSEN (M – age 22) Groningen (NED)
21. Christian ERIKSEN (M – age 18) Ajax Amsterdam (NED)
22. Jesper CHRISTIANSEN (G – age 32) Copenhagen (DEN)
23. Patrick MTILIGA (D – age 29) Malaga (ESP)
Denmark were the surprise team of the European qualifying zone in the ease with which they eventually qualified from a tough group. They have competent footballers in all departments and are likely to provide stiff opposition to any team they play.
Stoke City’s Thomas Sorensen is a wonderful goalkeeper who on his day can be as good as anyone. He has capable deputies in Jesper Christiansen of Copenhagen and Stefan Andersen of Brondby.
Daniel Agger of Liverpool plays a central role in the Danish defence, alongside such splendid defenders like Lars Jacobsen of Blackburn, Per Kroldrup of Fiorentina and Simon Kjaer of Palermo. Defensive midfielder Christian Poulsen of Juventus also helps in the solidity of the defense.
Martin Jorgensen of Aarhus, Daniel Jensen of Bremen and Thomas Kahlenberg of Wolfsburg form the backbone of the Danish midfield. The highly experienced Dennis Rommedahl of Ajax and Jesper Gronkjaer of Copenhagen provide the width with their adept wing-play.
The attack contains the experienced captain Jon Dahl Tomasson, one of the best Danish strikers in years. Young Nicklas Bendtner of Arsenal has also developed into a superb striker. But the most influential striker for Denmark in South Africa could well be Soren Larsen of Duisberg, who has been in lethal form recently.
Previous World Cups: 1998 – R1, 2002 (hosts) – PQF, 2006 – R1.
2010 – qualified on Jun-06, 2009 –2nd team to qualify.
Head Coach: Takeshi OKADA (JPN – age 53)
01. Seigo NARAZAKI (G – age 34) Nagoya Grampus (JPN) (98) (02) (06)
02. Yuki ABE (M – age 28) Urawa Red Diamonds (JPN)
03. Yuichi KOMANO (D – age 28) Jubilo Iwata (JPN) (06)
04. Marcus Tulio TANAKA (D – age 29) Nagoya Grampus (JPN)
05. Yuto NAGATOMO (D – age 23) Tokyo (JPN)
06. Atsuto UCHIDA (D – age 22) Kashima Antlers (JPN)
07. Yasuhito ENDO (M – age 30) Gamba Osaka (JPN) (06)
08. Daisuke MATSUI (M – age 29) Grenoble (FRA)
09. Shinji OKAZAKI(F – age 24) Shimizu S-Pulse (JPN)
10. Shunsuke NAKAMURA (M – age 32) Yokohama Marinos (JPN) (06)
11. Keiji TAMADA (F – age 30) Nagoya Grampus (JPN) (06)
12. Kisho YANO (F – age 26) Albirex Niigata (JPN)
13. Daiki IWAMASA (D – age 28) Kashima Antlers (JPN)
14. Kengo NAKAMURA (M – age 29) Kawasaki Frontale (JPN)
15. Yasuyuki KONNO (D – age 27) Tokyo (JPN)
16. Yoshito OKUBO (F – age 28) Vissel Kobe (JPN)
17. Makoto HASEBE (M – age 26) Wolfsburg (GER) (C)
18. Keisuke HONDA (M – age 24) CSKA Moscow (RUS)
19. Takayuki MORIMOTO (F – age 22) Catania (ITA)
20. Junichi INAMOTO (M – age 30) Kawasaki Frontale (JPN) (02) (06)
21. Eiji KAWASHIMA (G – age 27) Kawasaki Frontale (JPN)
22. Yuji NAKAZAWA (D – age 32) Yokohama Marinos (JPN) (06)
23. Yoshikatsu KAWAGUCHI(G – age 34) Jubilo Iwata (JPN) (98) (02) (06)
Even their strongest supporters aren’t expecting Japan to progress beyond the group stage. However, they do possess some fine footballers to cause problems for any team, as they have demonstrated in their warm-up matches.
In Seigo Narazaki of Nagoya and Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi of Iwata, Japan have two experienced goalkeepers who have both appeared in their three previous Cup finals. Kawaguchi played in all Japan’s matches in 1998 and 2006, while Narazaki played in all four matches in 2002, and is also expected to be the first choice this time.
The Japanese defence is fast, fit and well organised. With players like Yuichi Komano of Iwata, Marcus Tulio Tanaka of Nagoya and the veteran Yuji Nakazawa of Yokohama, they also have the experience to combat most attacks.
The midfield is Japan’s strength, with the experienced and skilled Shunsuke Nakamura of Yokohama very much the kingpin, along with Junichi Inamoto and Kengo Nakamura of Kawasaki. Yashuhito Endo of Osaka and the young captain Makoto Hasebe of Wolfsburg are other men to watch. Another young midfielder Keisuke Honda of CSKA Moscow is also highly rated. Yuki Abe of Urawa is also in the running for a place in the team.
In attack lies Japan’s weakness, perhaps. They lack a super striker who can really trouble opposition defence regularly. Yet, players like the experienced Keiji Tamada of Nagoya, Yoshito Okubo of Kobe and the young Shinji Okazaki of Shimizu will try and rise to the occasion. The young and talented Catania striker Takayuki Morimoto may also be a revelation.