World Cup Preview: Netherlands - Japan

The Oranje will try to avoid being cut down by the Blue Samurai...
Kick Off: Saturday, June 19, 2010. 13:30 CET
Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria

Confident Of Success

How the Netherlands haven’t previously won a World Cup is one of football’s great mysteries. The innovators of ‘Total Football’ enjoyed great success in the 1970s, reaching the final in 1974 and 1978, but just could not cross the finishing line. Bert van Marwijk is now attempting to lead this latest bunch of hopefuls to the ultimate glory.

The early signs are promising for the Dutch, who are rated as the fourth best side in the world by FIFA, having been as high as second in the rankings only 12 months ago. Denmark proved to be tough nuts to crack in the opening game, but once ahead there was no looking back for the Oranje machine, who moved to a 2-0 success.

Undoubtedly there is more to come from this side. Arjen Robben has been one of the elite stars in the world game over the course of the last six months, carrying Bayern Munich to the Champions League final and a domestic double, yet he wasn’t even involved in the opening match.

“You go to the World Cup to win the title. I think we have a very good group of players and I think we can accomplish something,” a confident Robben told FIFA’s official website.

Whereas the Dutch challenge has previously been undermined by schisms in the camp, this group appears together and focused, heightening expectations that the ultimate prize in the game could finally be heading their way.

Wind Them Up!

If expectations in the Netherlands were high coming into this competition, they could not have been any different in the Japan camp. Coming into the tournament off a series of poor results, the Blue Samurai were expected to be sent back to the Far East with their tails between their legs.

Takeshi Okada's side showed themselves more than mere whipping boys in their encounter against Cameroon. Defensively solid, the Japanese looked a threat on the break and grabbed what proved to be the game’s only goal through midfielder Keisuke Honda, who now plays with CSKA Moscow but previously turned out in the Eredivisie for VVV-Venlo.

Victory has galvanised the committed Asians, who are now looking forward to the test that the Netherlands bring to the table.

“The Dutch themselves think their strength lies in attack so what we need to do is try to wind them up and frustrate them,” Yuki Abe, who did a fine policing job on Samuel Eto’o in Japan’s opening match, is quoted as having said by the PA.

Once again it seems that the defensive abilities and organisation of the Blue Samurai will be put firmly to the test, though the Netherlands represent a significant step up from a Cameroon side who lacked real shape and incision.



WON 2-0 (n) Denmark (World Cup, June 14)

WON 6-1 (h) Hungary (Friendly, June 5)

WON 4-1 (h) Ghana (Friendly, June 1)

WON 2-1 (n) Mexico (Friendly, May 26)

WON 2-1 (h) USA (Friendly, March 3)


WON 1-0 (n) Cameroon (World Cup, June 14)

LOST 2-0 (n) Cote d’Ivoire (Friendly, June 4)

LOST 2-1 (n) England (Friendly, May 30)

LOST 2-0 (h) South Korea (Kirin Cup, May 24)

LOST 3-0 (h) Serbia (Kirin Cup, April 30)



Arjen Robben isn’t expected to feature until the first knockout stage, so Rafael van der Vaart is again expected to take his place on the left side of the midfield.

Back-up goalkeeper Michel Vorm and Ryan Babel both became fathers this week, but neither is expected to start.

Probable Starting XI:
Stekelenburg; Van der Wiel, Heitinga, Mathijsen, Van Bronkhorst; Van Bommel, De Jong; Kuyt, Sneijder, Van der Vaart; Van Persie


Makoto Hasebe was a significant fitness doubt prior to the Cameroon game but came through that fixture seemingly unscathed and should be available to start in the Japanese midfield once again.

After an impressively disciplined performance in their opening game, there shouldn’t be many changes.

Probable Starting XI:
Kawashima; Konno, Nakazawa, Tulio, Nagatomo; Abe, Endo; Honda, Hasebe, Okubo; Okazaki



Wesley Sneijder
will be expected to carry a great deal of the creative mantle in the Dutch side without Arjen Robben around to act as the architect in chief. The Inter player enjoyed a superb season at club level, though he will need all his guile and skill to break down what would appear to be a solid Japanese rearguard.


Yuki Abe
has promised to wind the Dutch up during this game, and the holding midfielder is looking for results similar to those he achieved against Cameroon. Given a holding role between the defensive and midfield banks, the 28-year-old Urawa Red Diamonds man was largely responsible for snuffing out danger before it threatened the defence. Will need to be at the peak of his powers to stop the Netherlands.


There shouldn’t be any problems here for the Dutch, though Japan did show in their previous encounter that they will not roll over easily and that they can form a defensive barrier tough to break down. The Netherlands, however, have already broken down one stern defensive unit, and they should be able to do so again. The Castrol World Cup predictor states that the Europeans have a 64 per cent chance of winning.

Netherlands 3-0 Japan

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