Perhaps the most meaningful of all the finales among the opening round will take place in Group E when Denmark takes on Japan. Heading into this vital fixture, both sides are deadlocked on 3 points, with Japan possessing a one-goal edge when comparing their differentials. This game represents a must-win clash in every sense of the word, as these two proud football programs will do battle to see who advances onto the next round. Both Japan and Denmark entered South Africa with realistic expectations of qualifying for the round of 16, and only 90 minutes separates these sides from turning their hopes, into reality.
The Danes enter their final group fixture amid an aura of confidence. Fresh off disposing of a putrid Cameroon squad, they’ll hope to secure the second position in Group E. Although Denmark commenced their World Cup campaign with a heartbreaking defeat to the Netherlands, they’ve rebounded nicely and enter the match versus Japan as the odds-on favorites. The Danes remain in an intriguing position however. Due to their plight in the goal-differential column, a draw simply will not be good enough for Denmark, and coach Morten Olsen will be forced to play attacking football throughout the match.
The upstart Japanese team will perform under the watchful eye of head coach Takeshi Okada. Although he began the tournament under great scrutiny, the promising position he has placed his team in has already won over the supporters of the squad. Japan looked strong in their opening defeat of a lifeless Cameroon squad, but struggled in their last fixture against Netherlands. Offense is usually a key issue for the Blue Samurai, however in a match where a draw will suffice, they may not even need to score.
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Denmark vs Japan Odds:
Keys to the Game:
Takeshi Okada will have his Japanese side very well-organized and prepared for Denmark. As is custom of most of Japan’s teams, they are fast, gritty, and play suffocating defense. In their two games so far in South Africa, they’ve only conceded one goal against two potent offenses in the Netherlands and Cameroon. One of the keys for the Japanese defense will be halting the likes of Danish attackers Dennis Rommedahl and Nicklas Bendtner. Both were superb in Denmark’s previous tilt versus Cameroon, and if these flashy players are allowed time and space, Japan may not be able to shut them down. Japan thrives on familiarity and consistency, so look for Okada to stick with the exact same system and lineup which have them in this position.
Denmark will expect more of the same in their critical matchup against Japan. Olsen’s 11 must attack from the outset, and pray that they do enough to secure three points. Luckily, Denmark has the resources for offensive outbursts. Their attack will be spearheaded by the aforementioned Bendtner and Rommedahl, but will also be supported by the always dangerous Jon Dahl Tomasson. Despite their prowess up front, they may be vulnerable at the back. The anchor along the Danish defense, Simon Kjaer, is suspended and therefore unavailable to take on Japan. They’ll need to be much tighter as a unit, and improve on their iffy performance against Cameroon. Key pieces will be a vital component to such a highly contested match, and the Danish back-line will need to be a wall in keeping out the likes of prolific striker, Keisuke Honda.
What to Expect:
Simply put, this fixture will be fierce. Two proud soccer programs, battling for a prestigious opportunity to vault into the round of 16. Japan thrives on their methodical tactics, and although it isn’t appealing to the spectators, it has been effective. Denmark will not get caught up in a defensive game however. Loaded with offensive talents, expect the Danes to push the attack throughout the full 90 minutes, and should overwhelm the Japanese. If Okada employs his players in an ultra-defensive format, devoid of an offensive attack, the Danes will make him look foolish. Look for the potent Danish strikers to carry them through to the second round. Another omen working in favor of the Danes is that all four times the nation has qualified for the World Cup, they’ve advanced to the second round. Expect this streak to continue.
Denamark vs Japan Prediction: Denmark 1 – Japan 0
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