Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Just Draw: Denmark vs Japan Preview

Denmark forward Nicklas Bendtner still hasn't fully recovered from a groin injury but has started the two previous games and looks set to play again. Defender Simon Kjaer is suspended, so Per Kroldrup is favourite to step in.
Japan coach Takeshi Okada is expected to name the same starting line-up for the third consecutive match.
Suspended: Kjaer (Denmark). One booking from suspension: Sorensen (Denmark); Abe (Japan).


When Arsene Wenger took Japan coach Takeshi Okada for dinner in London earlier this year, the Arsenal boss had few words of comfort for the 53-year-old. "I said to Okada 'if you get out of this group, they will have to build a statue of you in the middle of Tokyo'. He would deserve it."
Despite the gloomy prediction, Japan are on the verge of etching their name in the history books. A draw against Denmark at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Thursday's group E decider would be enough to see the Blue Samurai reach the last 16 of the World Cup for the first time on foreign soil. A win for Denmark, however, and Morten Olsen's side will join the Netherlands in the second round.
Progress for Japan would be a remarkable achievement. Okada's side came into the tournament on their worst run of form for 12 years, but stunned Cameroon in their opening match and were impressive in defeat against the Netherlands. The side is built on a solid defence, with centre-backs Yuji Nakazawa and Marcus Tulio Tanaka in commanding form. CSKA Moscow's Keisuke Honda is their key man and a talismanic presence - Japan have won all five matches in which he has scored, keeping a clean sheet in all of them.
Denmark have been unimpressive so far, and were on the brink of being eliminated from the tournament in the match against Cameroon, going a goal down before Nicklas Bendtner and Dennis Rommedahl hit back. The Danes have never failed to reached the second round in four previous attempts and will be aiming high against Thursday's opponents - 14 of Denmark's squad stand at over 6ft tall, compared to only six of Japan's 23.



- The only previous encounter between these sides was a 3-2 win for Denmark in 1971.
- The Danes' current coach Morten Olsen played in that match, earning his 71st cap.


- The win against Cameroon marked the first time that Denmark had come from behind to win a match at the World Cup.
- Jon Dahl Tomasson needs one goal to join Poul Nielsen as Denmark's all-time top scorer.
- Denmark have never missed a penalty at the World Cup, scoring all four of their spot-kicks.
- Only two of Denmark's 15 previous World Cup games have ended in draws.
- If Denmark beat Japan they will reach the second round of the tournament for the fourth time in four World Cup appearances.


- Japan have lost five of their last six matches.
- They have only won one of their six meetings with European sides at the World Cup finals (Belgum).
- Japan have scored only nine goals in 12 World Cup games.
- Japan have never won a World Cup finals game in which their opponents have scored.
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