Despite coming off win, Dutch need to show more oomph at World Cup

Friday, June 18, 2010

Dutch need more offensive energy

JOHANNESBURG — There’s some blue mixed with the Oranje at the World Cup.

The Netherlands lacked spark and creativity in its opener, despite beating Denmark 2-0. Long considered underachievers in international soccer, the Dutch came to South Africa with a high-profile team featuring loads of attackers.

But one of the two goals they got was put into the Danish net by a Dane, and the other came during a scramble late in the match.

The Dutch know that won’t do as they continue on, starting with Saturday’s game against Japan (7:30 a.m. at Durban).

“We just have to deliver this World Cup,” midfielder Nigel de Jong said. “We have got enough quality to do it.”

They sure do, even with winger Arjen Robben doubtful with a hamstring injury. Dirk Kuyt, who scored the second goal against Denmark, Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie, Mark van Bommel, Rafael van der Vaart and Klaas Jan Huntelaar all are capable offensive forces.

“There are a lot of big teams at the World Cup with a lot of quality,” Robben told “But we have a very good group of players and we can accomplish something at this World Cup.”

Japan already has achieved more than ever before, getting its first World Cup victory outside its borders, a 1-0 win over Cameroon. A victory Saturday and a draw between Cameroon and Denmark (2:30 p.m. at Pretoria) would push the Japanese into the second round from Group E.

They made it that far in 2002 when they co-hosted the event.

“Our players did very well despite the extra pressure they faced in our first game at the tournament,” coach Takeshi Okada said. “We’ll do whatever we think necessary to boost the team’s chances of winning.”

Okada benched Shunsuke Nakamura against Cameroon, but that gamble paid off when his replacement, Keisuke Honda, scored the game’s only goal.

Cameroon’s early showing was mediocre at best, and it needs to establish some rhythm against the Danes. Despite an offense led by Inter Milan striker Samuel Eto’o, Cameroon never really challenged Japan and struggled with possession.

“We are not satisfied with our performance,” defender Nicolas Nkoulou said. “We made mistakes, but not everything was negative. We will build on the positives to achieve a good result in the next match.”

To build on anything, the Africans need Eto’o to play more of a role. Achille Emana, a second-half substitute against Japan, dismissed rumors that team morale was hurt by a rift between Eto’o and some other players.

“I have no problem with Samuel Eto’o,” he said, but admitted that “misunderstandings” had caused some problems in the group. “We met, we discussed and these problems have been resolved.”

Denmark has injury problems, with strikers Nicklas Bendtner (groin) and Jon Dahl Tomasson (hamstring) struggling to be ready.

“We have a lot of possibilities tactically,” Denmark coach Morten Olsen said. “Cameroon have many good players, but they don’t have the same qualities as the Dutch team.”

The other match Saturday has Ghana against Australia (10 a.m. at Rustenburg) in Group D.

Ghana has prospered despite the absence of star midfielder Michael Essien and beat Serbia 1-0. And after the worst defensive performance of the tournament, the Aussies need to clamp down and help beleaguered keeper Mark Schwarzer. Not helping the Socceroos’ cause, they will miss two veteran midfielders: Vince Grella (knee) and Tim Cahill, who is suspended for getting a red card against Germany.

“Australia must know we are going to attack and attack them,” Ghana midfielder Ibrahim Ayew said. “We are going to go all out. We will dominate them. We know they have some weak sides, and we will take advantage. We are young and we are really going to use our pace.”

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