Match Day 4- Sleep deprivation 2 Ryan 0.
Actually I got plenty of sleep last night, because I couldn't force myself awake to watch the Germany v. Australia game. I missed a hell of a drubbing with Germany looking like they normally do around World Cup time. I know yesterday I wrote that I thought that Australia would make round 2. I'm not going to go back on that until I see the results of the second game, but Ghana looked really sharp against Serbia regardless of a lack of Michael Essien. Germany was just a machine. It just reinforced the importance of the US team winning group C to avoid that kind of a match up until later in the tournament.
Onto the previews!
Game 1: Netherlands v. Denmark:
I'm really looking forward to this one. It is an offensive powerhouse against a rock solid defense. Netherlands may or may not have their midfield superstar Arjen Robben, but it doesn't stop the Dutch from packing plenty of firepower. I love the concept of total football originated by the Dutch teams of the 70's despite the lack of results in the World Cup. Currently ranked 4th in the world, the Netherland's worst enemy may very well be themselves. I don't know think this is the World Cup for them to take it all, but it should be pretty entertaining.
Denmark comes in as a great spoiler. They finished second in their qualifying group behind Portugal and feature a defensive line that has plied their trade in the trenches of the Italian Serie A (Italy's highest level of pro ball) where defense is viewed as the most beautiful part of the beautiful game.
Players to watch-
Netherlands: Robin Van Persie, Wesley Sneijder.
The Dutch are loaded with great players but these two are worth a little bit of hype and spotlight. Van Persie plays his professional ball at English Premier League side Arsenal. He is a terror to defensive lines with his impeccable ball skill and pinpoint accurate shots. Sneijder is not as flashy, but is one of the best midfielders in the tournament. He has a pretty good familiarity with the Danish back line as he plays for the 2010 Italian and European champions Inter Milan.
Denmark: The entire Danish back line. Containing the Dutch attack is a yeoman's task and they will be under siege. Also, Nicklas Bendtner will be on the offensive side of the ball will prove tricky for the Dutch defenders to contain.
Best guess: Netherlands 2- 1 Denmark.
Game 2: Japan v. Cameroon
In a nutshell: Japan is under fire from the Japanese press, and is starting to get a chip on their shoulders. That should actually be a good thing. I think the Japanese players feel the pressure of watching South Korea take the mantle of Asia's best team. They want that crown and they want to make an impact in a World Cup. Cameroon is filled with a lot of good, solid players but it lives and dies with Captain Samuel Eto'o. Eto'o is one of the best strikers in the world and should torch the Japanese defense.
Player to watch:
Cameroon- Samuel Eto'o. The somewhat mercurial forward is one of the best players in the world and should be a joy to watch.
Japan- Shunsuke Nakamura. Japan's best player and captain will be the one to rally them mentally and drive them to the Cameroonian net. Like I said, a chip on the shoulder is a good thing here.
Best guess: Cameroon 2-0 Japan (I'd love to see this be a slugfest though.)
Game 3: Italy v. Paraguay.
In a nutshell, the two teams expected to advance get it on tonight for what should be 1st place in the group. The question mark on Italy is age. Are they too old to repeat the success of 2006's World Cup championship team. The answer is a firm maybe. First off, they really aren't that old and let's be clear, this is Italy. They are going to be incredibly difficult to break and feature some of the toughest players in the world. Defense is always the key with Italy. Paraguay has their work cut out for them in picking that lock.
Players to watch:
Italy- Daniele De Rossi. Italy's heir apparent to current captain Fabio Cannavaro will begin to take more of the midfield generalship this tournament. He should be the guiding force for Italy come 2014.
Paraguay- Roque Santa Cruz and Lucas Barrios. These two will most likely be Paraguay's engine of destruction. Santa Cruz earns his paycheck from English Premier League side Manchester City while Barrios gets his Euro on in the German Bundesliga for Borussia Dortmund. Both have proven to be dangerous strikers throughout warm-ups and qualifiers. They should test Gianluigi Buffon's cat-like goalkeeping prowess.
Best guess: Italy 1-0 Paraguay. Italy shuts down the Paraguayans but not without some dramatic saves to keep them off the score sheet.