World Cup Day 4 match previews – Italy begin defence of trophy as Netherlands prepare to excite

Day 4 see’s two of the favorites for the World Cup start their quest for glory, while African fans will have another reason to cheer as Cameroon, with Samuel Eto’o in tow, meeting the efficient Japan. The earlier game includes the Netherlands, always a source of entertainment take on Group E rivals Denmark while reigning champions Italy meet Paraguay.

12.30pm – Soccer City, Johannesburg

While their record at World Cups might not be that impressive, you are assured of thrills when watching Netherlands during an international tournament. The flair of their attacking players and their failings at the back provide enthralling encounters at every turn in major competition, and this year could potentially be no different. Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben are amongst those who could light up this year’s tournament, and are in the mould of the sort of player who is steeped in Dutch footballing history. At the back, a similarly nervy defence awaits their first Group E of the summer, Denmark.

Jon Dahl Tomasson is likely to thrive upon any defensive mix-ups from the Netherlands and with help from Dennis Rommedahl, who is still going at 31, and Martin Jorgensen the Danish threat is more than able. However, the Danes’ downfall might be their lack of youthful exuberances. Expect their starting line-up to be amongst the oldest at this year’s finals and could be their undoing.

3pm – Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein

The performances from the African sides in the World Cup have been very impressive thus far and Cameroon will be looking to add to that success with the swift dismissal of Japan. Cameroon can boast a three-time European Cup winner in Samuel Eto’o up-front, and two defenders from Tottenham Hotspur, Sebastien Bassong and Benoit Assou-Ekotto. But, the words of Roger Milla concerning Eto’o’s pedigree on the international stage has done more to hurt the confidence of the Cameroon camp, rather than motivate the Inter striker, contributing to a disruptive build up for Paul Le Guen’s side.

Japan will be looking to capitalise on this lack of confidence, and as they showed in numerous warm-up games, particularly against England, their quick passing and movement can hurt even the strongest of teams. But for all their decent build-up, Japan lack a true goal-scorer, and plenty of responsibility will be at the feet of Shunsuke Nakamura, but like many of the minor nations in this World Cup, how much pressure can their talisman take? Their outing with Cameroon will give us a good idea.

7.30pm – Green Point, Cape Town

While they are certainly contenders, never have the reigning World Cup champions been as poorly perceived as Italy. Whether it is the manner of their performances in their warm-up games or a lack of confidence in Marcelo Lippi to deliver successive World Cups is hard to tell. The injury to Andrea Pirlo might be a source for apprehension however, with the midfielder, known as the ‘metronome’ being ruled out for most if not all of the group phase. While it is massive blow for the Azzurri, it is a chance for Daniele De Rossi to step forward and prove his credentials as a world-class talent in the heart of the Italian midfield.

However big the void is left by Pirlo’s absence, Paraguay may still need some divine intervention to unlock a sturdy Italian defence. The squad is hardly bursting with goals, Roque Santa Cruz for example has scored over a third of the whole squad’s goals put together and Nelson Valdez, who was hotly-tipped to partner the Manchester City striker with some success has failed to live up to his billing. Oscar Cardozo will then be left to help out Santa Cruz, who after a season of warming the bench at Eastlands will be keen to prove a point to Roberto Mancini.


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