Dentist by day, football prognosticator by night, our own Dr. Hadi Zogheib is scouting out each group at World Cup 2010 and predicting first round scores and standings. Here’s what the good doctor expects in Group E:
Netherlands: With all the talk about Spain, Brazil, Argentina, and England, it seems the Dutch have been overlooked. As I wrote a few weeks ago, injuries were threatening to derail their tournament aspirations, but most of the players have recovered in time for the big show. Goalkeeping and defence are a little questionable, but with Dirk Kuyt, Robin Van Persie, Rafael Van der Vaart, and the sensational Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben, anything less than a semifinal showing will be considered a big disappointment.
Japan: Perennial Asian powerhouse Japan will feel a little better going into the competition having played England very tough in a 2-1 loss. Speedy and crafty, the Japanese must tighten up in defence if they hope to progress out of the group stage. They’ll need some magic from former Celtic midfielder and free kick wizard Shunsuke Nakamura along the way. The Japanese may also be bolstered by the fact that they have a stellar record in recent years against African countries, going 5-0-1 since 2007.
Cameroon: And the award for tightest uniforms go to… but I digress. The West Africans will be hoping to repeat the success of Italia ’90, and much of the pressure will fall on the captain’s shoulders. Former great Roger Milla stirred up a little controversy recently, criticizing Samuel Eto’o for playing great for club but not country. Perhaps he was looking to light a fire under the Inter superstar: time will tell if it worked. As a big fan of la Liga, I must also mention the play of Espanyol goalkeeper Kameni, who perhaps single handedly helped his club avoid relegation with his sensational play this season.
Denmark: The most underrated team in the World Cup, the Danes beat out Hungary, Sweden, and mighty Portugal to win their qualification group. Meticulously organized and solid (though not spectacular) at every position, this may be the team to pick as the darkhorse to go deep in the tournament. That is, if the maddeningly inconsistent Nicolas Bendtner decides to play consistently for a change.
Netherlands 2-1 Denmark
Cameroon 2-0 Japan
Netherlands 3-1 Japan
Cameroon 1-1 Denmark
Denmark 2-0 Japan
Cameroon 0-2 Netherlands
Netherlands 9 pts
Denmark 4 pts
Cameroon 4 pts
Japan 0 pts
Related: Dr. Z doubts the host’s chances in Group A, expects Greece’s defence-first philsophy will pay off in Group B, predicts an opening-round sweep for England in Group C, and expects a three-way dogfight in Group D.