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Old June 19, 2010, 12:10 AM
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al-Sagar al-Sagar is offline
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Default JAPAN vs NETHERLAND preview

Blue Samurai seeking upset

After two excellent opening wins, Japan and Netherlands could consider this game the battle for top spot. With the Dutch were always favourites to stroll through Group D, Japan's win over Cameroon came as something of a surprise to the watching public as they had not looked impressive in some of their pre-tournament friendly games.

However, a disciplined display that was not overflowing with creativity proved enough to see off the African side and Netherlands will be wary of pushing too many men forward in case they are caught on the counter attack. The likes of Yasuhito Endo and Keisuke Honda are dangerous on the break, while there is plenty of steel in midfield that provides the platform for their forays up the field.

But of course with a history of attacking football, the Dutch are well versed in the art of attacking football. Most likely, Japan will sit and attempt to break up their attacks with men behind the ball, but Dirk Kuyt, Wesley Sneijder and Eljerio Elia have the vision and skill to unlock any defence.

In their last encounter, the Dutch beat Japan 3-0 in September but did not have it all their own way before three goals in the last 20 minutes put gloss on the result. They will certainly be wary of the Blue Samurai's potential to cause an upset.

Netherlands player to watch: Gregory van der Wiel. The subject of interest from Manchester City, Arsenal and others during the summer, the Ajax right back has been in great form for his club and has made the defensive slot his own for his country now. Quick and agile, Van der Wiel is also as brave as they come and is a solid influence when he is not engaging on one of his trademarks bursts down the flank.

Japan player to watch: Daisuke Matsui.
The man of the match from their opening win over Cameroon, the creative midfielder offered artistry in the attacking third for the Japanese and will the source of their attacking outlets again. He may not have the physical or mental strength of some on the side, but his experience will stand him in good stead and he will fancy his chances against the Dutch defence.

Key battle: Robin van Persie v Yuji Nakazawa. He did not have the impact that many predicted he would in the first game, but Van Persie is keen to prove himself in this Dutch side and will lead the line again. Boasting some of the best control in world football, Van Persie will play with his back to goal and allow his team-mates time and space on the ball, as well as looking to get behind his man. Nakazawa will have to use every minute of his 100-plus caps of experience to shut down his threat, but the defender's speed and acute sense of positioning could get him out of danger.

Trivia: Netherlands have won their three World Cup games against Asian sides, scoring ten goals in the process.

Stats: Six of Japan's last seven goals in the World Cup finals have been netted by midfielders, including Keisuke Honda's in the opening game against Cameroon. Against Denmark, Wesley Sneijder completed 61 of his 65 passes (94%) and created five goal-scoring chances.

Odds: Netherlands (1.44), Japan (9.00) and the draw (4.00) are all on offer at Bet 365, but a Mark van Bommel rocket could get you a goal anytime at 6.50.

Prediction: Japan will be well organised, but the Dutch are masters in breaking sides down and should have enough to take control of the group.
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