Dear or dear! Does anyone else think maybe Theo Walcott and Samir Nasri are sitting at home about now, planning massive “THANK YOU!” flower arrangements to be sent round to Fabio Capello and Raymond Domenech? Sure they were upset at not being selected for their respective national sides. But everything happens for a reason, and I suspect that Samir and Theo weren’t selected so they could avoid suffering the embarrassment on display by France and England thus far in World Cup 2010. Samir, Theo…get on the blower to your local florist sharpish. Perhaps you can arrange one of those cheery clown delivery guys as well.
Right. On to more pressing matters and Arsenal’s World Cup Match Day 9. From a tactical perspective, Japan had the solution against the mighty Dutch. Led by our man Robin van Persie, Netherlands were clearly lacking a direct attacker, usually filled by the brilliant Arjen Robben. While the Oranje held over 60% of possession, time and again the Japanese midfielders and defenders collapsed in pairs or threes to thwart the Dutch advantage. It wasn’t the usual Blackburn-esque “parking the bus” we see so often from Arsenal opponents, it was more subtle and better executed than that. Frankly, while Netherlands are my team in this tournament, I admired greatly the defensive strategy employed by Japan. The second half saw the Dutch turn up the heat a few notches and they were able to grab the crucial Group Stage win on a fantastic strike by Wesley Sneijder.
Alex Song’s Indomitable Lions World Cup came crashing to an all too quick end on Match Day 9. There’s still one match to go for Cameroon, of course, but they’ll not make it past the Group Stage after going down 2-1 to Nicklas Bendtner and Denmark. Cameroon took the early lead, but the Danes would not be denied 3 points on the day. Samuel Eto’o gave Cameroon the lead on 10 minutes as Cameroon looked the more composed offensively early on. Denmark were definitely on the back foot following the Eto’o goal, looking more than shaky. The Danish attack was little better in the early going, with some shambolic passing and uninspiring possession. Springing from a seemingly asleep attack though, Denmark grabbed the match by the throat on 33 minutes as Bendtner scored the equalizer. After the tying goal both sides traded punches like Rocky and Apollo Creed until Dennis Rommedahl sealed the deal for Denmark on 61 minutes.
van Persie Assist Puts Netherlands In Control
As I alluded to above, the Japan side really had it right, tactically, to cool the Oranje attack today. RVP led from the front, but without Arjen Robben to provide a direct attacking option, Netherlands looked more and more frustrated as the first half went on. Robin delivered a tasty cross into the box on 5 minutes, but no one was home for the Dutch and it was cleared for a corner kick. As with the flexibility of Arsenal’s attack, Netherlands saw van Persie rotating from central to wide right on occasion and gaining some touches, but nothing too fruitful. Opening the second half, in a precursor to the game winning strike by Sneijder, Robin took possession near the 18 yard mark, controlled nicely and fed Sneijder just outside the box. This first strike was blocked, but it was a near mirror image of what was to come. The Dutch were starting to gain control and Robin even managed to get a header on goal as the attacking tempo increased. Mark van Bommel fed RVP with a beautiful diagonal ball over the top, with van Persie getting a boot to it near the penalty spot. The resulting shot went well wide, but it was the first real break in the Japanese defense on 49 minutes. The 53rd minute saw the game changing moment. A cross into the box was poorly headed by a Japanese defender in van Persie’s direction. Robin controlled the ball and got a chip of a pass to Wesley Sneijder just outside the box with Sneijder ripping a blast that caromed off the Japan keepers outstretched hands and into the goal. 1-0 Netherlands. It was quality work by van Persie to control and get the pass off to Sneijder, and a top notch strike on goal by the Dutchman. With an afternoon’s work done, Robin was substituted on 88 minutes to close out his day.
Bendtner Leads Danish Comeback Win
Passed fit to start the match, Nicklas Bendtner finally made his presence known in this World Cup. Despite going down early to a tough Cameroon side, Big Nick led the comeback for Denmark that will now see them take on Japan for the second qualifying side to go through. Garnering little action in the opening half hour, Bendtner was THE MAN on 33 minutes to bring the match even. A throw in from the Danish end led to a fantastic cross-field pass to wide right of the box. Arsenal man Bendtner came streaking in through the center, was fed brilliantly by Dennis Rommedahl, and Super Nick superbly slotted home the tying goal. Just great play all the way ’round on the goal. With the world having been introduced to the “Nickosphere” on the goal, Bendtner had a relatively quiet second half as Denmark closed out the important win.
Song Starts, But Cameroon Wither Late
Needing a change after their first match loss to Japan, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon made three, with Alex Song finally getting the start. Sporting a new ‘do, reminiscent of the Predator monster dude, Song took up defensive midfield responsibilities in his first World Cup appearance. Controlling the match early, Alex had some opportunities cleaning up the midfield but nothing too challenging. Sparking to life a bit in support of the attack on 30 minutes, Alex made a very clean run from midfield to the box, passing off before possession was lost. But he took the opening given to him well, and it was a promising start to a possession that fizzled at the end. Song made a brilliant save in the box on 43 minutes as the Cameroon keeper was flat on the ground having just pushed the ball off Rommedahl. With Denmark featuring little sustained attack in the second half, there was little “defensive” defensive midfield work to do for Song, and he was rarely involved in the Cameroon attack. We’ll hope to see more of him in the final match up against Netherlands in a few days’ time.
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Andy’s got updated, exclusive video from Paris! Follow all of Andy and Patrick’s travels, see how supporters around the globe are taking in the World Cup and find out what Andy cooks for his gracious hosts. Get yourselves over to Football Nomad and join the fun!
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