Group E looks to be a fun group for the viewing public. We Dutch in this group who are guaranteed to play beautiful football. Now, while the rest of the teams might not play that standard of football, there could be a battle for second, as Japan, Denmark and Cameroon seem to be playing roughly on the same level and it should make for an interesting group, once the Netherlands demolish them all with a brand of football that puts them amongst the favorites to lift the trophy.
Cameroon: Cast your mind back 20 years ago to Italia ’90. What do you remember? Is it Paul Gascoigne’s tears after being booked? Perhaps it’s simply West Germany lifting the trophy? What about Rene Higuita’s attempted heroics that cost Columbia? Well, for a lot of people it’s “plucky” Cameroon’s performance with the evergreen Roger Milla leading their charge to the last 8, where they were so unlucky to not make the semi-finals. Now, instead of being led by a man hardly anyone has heard of, Cameroon are lead by one of the top strikers in the world in the shape of Samuel Eto’o. Now, on paper, it’s not the greatest Cameroon team ever assembled, but it’s still strong. They’ve had a topsy-turvy pre-tournament build-up, but their qualification in which they only lost one game was still impressive. Add to the fact that this is more or less on home soil and Cameroon have to be respected. The conditions will suit their team more than anyone else in the group, which might be the deciding factor when it comes to the push for second place.
Denmark: 1992 European Champions in fortuitous circumstances, the Danes have never came close to reliving the glory of ’92. The Laudrup brothers, their once talismanic partnership have long gone and have yet to really be replaced by anyone of that caliber. However, they have players dotted around the best leagues in the world and their qualification was a bit of a surprise to everywhere. Denmark topped an unbelievably tricky group including Portugal and Sweden to make it through to the World Cup automatically, losing once in the process (to Hungary). However, their build-up to the tournament is the one thing putting me off. They’ve only won one pre-tournament friendly and that was against Senegal. They’ve lost to Austria, Australia and South Africa, who aren’t exactly setting the world alight. It might simply be the climate that’s stopping them and once they’re acclimatised, it might be a different story. Don’t write Denmark out just yet, but there’s enough there to put you off simply in the build-up they’ve had to the tournament.
Japan: Oh, Japan. Where to begin? They made the last 16 when they co-hosted the tournament in 2002, but they’ve never won a World Cup match that wasn’t held in Japan. That poses a slight problem. Add to that the fact Japan haven’t won in the last 5 matches and you can see that although their coach is optimistic, everyone else isn’t. Their coach claims they’re on for a semi-final place and no amount of hype can get me to believe that. However, it’s not like their team isn’t short of a quality player of two. Keisuke Honda can strike a fantastic free-kick and is playing well with CSKA Moscow at the moment to suggest he could pose a threat to the rest of his group. They looked handy in defeat to the might of England and were actually very unlucky to lose. In fact, it it wasn’t for two own goals, Japan would be coming into the tournament with a win over one of the tournament favorites in the books. But they didn’t win and it might have just cost them mentally.
Netherlands: A team in form? Oh, yes. A team with class all over the pitch? Oh, yes. A team that’s capable of winning this tournament? Oh, yes. A team that has a propensity for bottling it on the big stage when it could be their time to end the World Cup drought? Oh, yes. The Dutch can lay claim to being the most infuriating team in the competition for people that have backed them to win it. They always promise so much, then don’t deliver when it comes to the crunch. However, will this year be different? I don’t want to say. However, they come into the tournament in great form, having won all their group games in qualification and conceded 2 goals on their way and scoring 17. Quite impressive, indeed. They’ve won all 4 of their build-up games, beating the USA, Mexico, Ghana and Hungary, scoring 14 and conceding 4. They score goals for fun and with the likes of Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, and Rafael van der Vaart in the team, it’s easy to see how they manage it. This is a team that should do well and could be worth a shot in the outright market. They will sail through this group, as they’ve proved they can handle the conditions and also playing different styles of football.
Around 8/13 for the Dutch to win their group is, to me, exceptionally generous, considering the ease they came through their qualification campaign, but we won’t get rich backing prices like that. However, what sticks out to me is how much the bookies seem to favor Denmark over Cameroon. I think both teams have had average to poor build-ups and it’s only Denmark’s qualifying campaign that has them favored over Cameroon. The fact Cameroon are on somewhat home soil and also the Samuel Eto’o factor, I have to think they’ll qualify over the Danes. Cameroon are a dominant, physical team and I really like their chances of making it through to the last 16.
Cameroon to qualify from Group E: 21/20 @ Stan James (for non-US bettors and you’ll get your first bet matched up to £25). For American bettors, the best price is 1/1 and that’s at Bovada (where you’ll get a $10 free bet) or at Superbook (where you’ll get a $20 free bet if you sign up to be a mobile bettor).
Remember that those are not the only free bets on offer during the World Cup. Check out our Free Bets Guide to the World Cup and take advantage of all the free money that’s on offer.