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Netherlands: Eight games, eight wins was the tally achieved by Bert van Marwijk’s troops in Group 9 of the European Zone, the former Feyenoord coach having yet to drop a point in a competitive match. Difficult to break down at the back and blessed with enviable attacking talents, the Dutch have made no secret of ther intention to return home with the Trophy. “We have a mission: to be champions of the world,” assistant coach Frank de Boer told FIFA.com, and the team are unlikely to be haunted by their failed campaign in 2006 or the disappointment of their UEFA EURO 2008 bid. The core of the line-up has changed and so have the methods behind the scenes, but the philosophy remains familiar.
Cameroon: The Indomitable Lions have played more games and notched up more points than any other African side at a FIFA World Cup finals. Le Guen looks to have all the right tools to do that proud tradition justice, with deadly marksman Eto'o the focal point of a team also featuring the likes of Jean II Makoun, Achille Emana and Alexandre Song. Their strong finish in qualifying served as a timely reminder that Cameroon remain a powerhouse of the African continent.
Denmark: With the wily Olsen at the helm, Denmark have worked their way back to world football’s top table. Absent in 2006 before missing out on UEFA EURO 2008 as well, they sewed up their fourth finals participation with surprising ease, finishing first in a section that also contained Portugal and Sweden. Jon Dahl Tomasson and his colleagues have been reaping the benefits of stability, not to mention the experience gained by key players in some of Europe’s leading leagues.
Japan: Back in the Japan dugout after leading the side at France 1998, Takeshi Okada had to rebuild the side and bring through a new generation of players. Through to the main event for the fourth time, the Samurai Blue travel as winners of three of the last five editions of the AFC Asian Cup, and they proved in qualifying that they can harbour serious hopes of progression to the Round of 16. Eliminated after the group stage in 2006, Japan will look to two players tasting success in Europe to improve on that showing in South Africa: Shunsuke Nakamura and youngster Keisuke Honda.
The players to watch
Arjen Robben (NED), Dirk Kuyt (NED), Nicklas Bendtner (DEN), Jon Dahl Tomasson (DEN), Shunsuke Nakamura (JPN), Keisuke Honda (JPN), Samuel Eto'o (CMR), Jean II Makoun (CMR), Alexandre Song (CMR)
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