By AVI CREDITOR
If Keisuke Honda wasn't a household name among soccer fans around the world before the World Cup, he most certainly is now.
Honda, who plays for CSKA Moscow, buried a marvelous free kick to spearhead Japan's decisive victory over Denmark that cemented Japan's place among the final 16 teams. Japan got out of the group stage for just the second time, and the first time on foreign soil, matching the feat accomplished by 2002 World Cup co-host South Korea.
The Samurai Blue finished three points behind the Netherlands, which finished off Cameroon to run through Group E unscathed. The Dutch are sitting pretty, with a Round-of-16 matchup with upstart Slovakia next on its agenda. Japan will meet Group F winner Paraguay, whose run is quite the story in its own right. The South Americans won their group despite playing without star striker Salvador Cabanas, who is still miraculously recovering from a gunshot wound to the head.
Here are brief recaps from Thursday's Group E games along with the group's Best XI:
NETHERLANDS 2, CAMEROON 1
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar finished into an empty net after an Arjen Robben shot rebounded to him off the post in the 83rd minute, and the Dutch finished their perfect run through the group stage by taming the Indomitable Lions.
Robin Van Persie had given the Oranje the lead after a beautiful 1-2 passing sequence with Rafael Van der Vaart put him in on goal. He tucked his shot through Cameroon keeper Souleymanou Hamidou's legs for a 1-0 lead in the 36th minute.
Van der Vaart was called for a handball on a Cameroon free kick in the second half, leading to a Samuel Eto'o penalty kick that tied the game in the 65th minute.
Robben, who was coming off a hamstring injury, made his first appearance of the World Cup when he entered as a 73rd-minute substitute. He made his presence known almost immediately, by turning and curling his shot on frame that beat Hamidou but not the post. Huntelaar pounced on the free ball and guided it into the back of the net for the winner.
For Cameroon, the highest ranked African team in the World Cup field, the loss finished off a dismal tournament, as the team lost all three of its matches.
JAPAN 3, DENMARK 1
After withstanding some early pressure from Denmark, Japan capitalized on two free kicks and stunned the favored Europeans into submission by halftime.
Honda stepped up in the 17th minute and hit as precise a free kick as there has been during this World Cup from about 30 yards out. Denmark keeper Thomas Sorensen took a wrong first step and Honda made him pay, tucking his left-footed shot into the left upper-hand corner of the goal.
Just 13 minutes later the Japanese struck again. Yasuhito Endo blindsided everyone on the pitch by taking a straightaway free kick while Honda stood over the ball appearing getting ready to strike. Endo curled a right-footed, 25-yard blast around the wall and into the goal to double the lead.
Denmark, which needed a win to advance, sliced the deficit in half after Daniel Agger was gifted a penalty after hardly being shoved in the box. Jon Dahl Tomasson stepped to the spot and had his kick saved by Eiji Kawashima, but he tapped the rebound in to get the Danes on the board in the 81st minute.
The Japanese defense held up after that, and Honda worked his magic again with a dazzling run to create for substitute Shinji Okazaki in the 87th minute. Okazaki finished off the sitter and dealt the final blow to Denmark's hopes.
GROUP E FINAL TABLE
1. Netherlands…..9 points, +4 Goal Differential
2. Japan……………..6 points, +2 GD
3. Denmark………..3 points, -3 GD
4. Cameroon……..0 points, -3 GD
SBI'S GROUP E BEST XI
—-Endo——–Sneijder——-Van der Vaart—-
How far do you think the Dutch can go? Impressed by Honda? Think Japan can topple Paraguay? Shocked that Cameroon couldn't muster a single point?
Share your thoughts below.
yeah, honda’s transfer fee to cska moscow was enough to build VVV Venlo a new stadium!
Honda is the kind of player Japan needs and has been waiting for for a long time.
Agreed. I don’t get all the bull. We have been using it in MLS for several months now, and I never heard complaints. Not even in SLC or Denver, which are at high altitude like S.A. matter of fact there have been some high scoring games in MLS this season. I believe a few weeks ago, there were like 28 goals (not sure how many) scored in one weekend! And yet the ball is supposedly why the goals have been low?!
Yeah, I know, it’s a true bummer that Honduras couldn’t show the world how dangerous they are. I am truly nervous every time the US plays them. They are really good when they are at their best. CONCACAF could have really sent a loud message.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the ball. Just ask Keisuke Honda and Yasuhito Endo
South Korea will not beat Uruguay. As far as Japans goal keeper situation. Kawashima has been very solid for japan and i think the decision to replace the Nagoya Grampus keeper was much needed. Kawashima is way more vocal, which is exactly what japan needed in the back, and eager to make his mark on the game. He’s solid and learns from every match. he made sure the goal he gave away againt the netherlands wasn’t repeated when he parryed away denmarks shots in the direction away from goal, instead of just shoving forward
Okazaki hasn’t done S**t
didn’t seem to matter against the dutch now did it? irrelevant fact. Japan played the best football they’ve played this year, in this game against another lackluster euro team. With their country expecting them to crash and burn, they showed everyone in the world they actually belong to here and that okada isn’t as crazy as his statements make him seem. They played absolutely brilliant today. The midfield was spectacular. As was teh defense. I would argue Nagamoto deserves a spot in the all XI over Van Bronkhorst.
I think replacing dropping Nakamura in the lineup is the best thing they could of done. He’s been an icon for japan so long, but he just been shot of all his confidence since his bad spell as espanyol. There really was no room in the midfield for both nakamura and endo. Their team reminds me of Everton when they’ve played with 6 midfielders, with Keisuke Honda acting as the Cahill hold up man of sorts.
Japan really needed a shake up in the midfield and at the striker position and moving honda up top, dropping nakamura and placing hasebe of Wolfsberg as captain (Nakazawa is not the sort of captain they needed.) were the two best decisions ever made by Okada.
anyone who’s watched japan play these last few years knows that the j-league based strikers aren’t good enough to stand on their own and japan’s strength doesn’t lie in a 4-4-2, but with five midfielders and solid solid from the whole team.
I think Abe deserves a place on the list as well. We was absolutely terrific in disrupting play in the middle and doubling up on the wingers.
yeah but if spain beats chile then chile might get squeezed out by switzerland beating honduras.
Let us not forget Honduras was missing two key players, “Rambo” de Leon and Carlos Costly, plus David Suazo was at 50% due to injury!
Hard to tell what coulda been?
Good to see another science person on the site (I am a grad student in chemistry)
People are complaining about the ball, a lack of goals, overly defensive tactics etc., but I am finding this tournament exciting. I think this WC is the rise of the “little” continents.
CONCACAF’s Mexico and USA are lookin good and representin. Yeah, I know, Honduras has let me down, but 2 out of 3 aint bad.
ASIA looks awesome, with S. Korea, and Japan advancing, Australia putting in a good effort, and N. Korea’s valiant effort against Brazil, even though they choked against Portugal.
OCEANA’s New Zealand went undefeated and shocked a lot of people, myself included.
To top it off, some of the big Euro powers are either playing disgracefully (France, Italy) or not playing up to expectations (Spain’s first game, England’s first two).
What is shocking to me though is how bad the African nations are faring on their home turf. They seem to be playing well though, just not getting the results.
If Spain beats Chile tomorrow, then they will top Group H. My money is on España.
South Korea over Uruguay would be quite the upset. il root for it tho!
Chile is more likely to top the Group and leave Brazil/Spain
agree! he has been an absolute ace so far. he looked good at moscow this past season, but not this good.
With the US winning Group C, Mexico going through, Subotic gone, the cheating Frenchies ousted in disarray, and the flopping Italians finishing bottom of their group, this has already been the best World Cup ever.
Looking ahead to marquee Round-of-16 matchups, we already have:
* Germany vs. England
* Argentina vs. Mexico
And, if form holds tomorrow, we could possibly have:
* Brazil vs. Chile
* Spain vs. Portugal
Those matchups have some serious history. Should be some amazing battles to survive and advance. Meanwhile, the US side of the bracket looks relatively manageable. Excitement is high…!
Keisuke Honda is the revealation of this tournament.
There is nothing he cant do and that free kick that swerved in then out was out of this world. This guy has the most calm head I’ve ever seen and his touches, vision and awareness is unmatchable. I cant name any striker above him at the moment and consider the fact that it’s just one of three spots he can play. Mouth watering indeed.
Endo hit a beauty and played excellent all game long. That can be said of the whole team. Matsui was making lots of runs and passes as usual and Nakazawa and Tanaka at the back, as solid as ever. Great credit to coach too. That penalty given against them was, lets just say, ehl oh ehl. My only concern has been and still is Kawashima. He doesn’t command the ball and lets it slip or fly too much. Also, I thought they sat back and defended a little too much at the start of 2nd half but they did get the ball out of danger zone immediately unlike the South Koreans who were horrendous at the back, often making unnecessary and risky passes at the back that created so much headaches for them. With this performance Japan has moved to the top of Asian football, ahead of Sout Koreans easily.
I can see them beating Paraguay with little trouble just like South Korea will beat Uruguay. Good luck and keep winning!
Should have used the title “Okazaki helps Japan replicate their success from 2002”. Would have avoided the Honda jokes everyone is using and you would have been one of the only people out there using a DNA replication joke……though not as many people would get it.
Stekelenburg as the best goalkeeper in the group. Who’d have thunk it after all the criticism he received before the World Cup?
Somewhere in the world, Roger Milla is chuckling.
There is a real good chance that CONMEBOL could go 5 for 5 with their teams winning their groups. That is pretty amazing.
Looking at how the bracket is setup the US have an amazing opportunity compared to what they could have faced. We are now the 8th highest ranked team left in the tournament and we wouldn’t have to face any of the team’s ranked above us until the final four.
Holland on the other hand is ranked 4th in the World their second game in the knockout stages has a good chance of being against the 1st,2nd or 3rd ranked team in the World.
The Dutch CAN finally go all the way, I believe. On a side note, Honda used to play in Holland voor VVV Venlo.