Japan-Denmark Preview

Jun 22, 2010 - 8:12 PM By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN STATS Senior Writer=

Japan and Denmark are playing in the only group finale in which one spot in the knockout round is directly up for grabs.

The Japanese and Danes meet in Rustenberg on Thursday night when the final qualifying spot from Group E will be decided.

Japan and Denmark each have three points to trail the Netherlands, the group leader with six. The Dutch play pointless Cameroon in Cape Town simultaneously.

While the Netherlands needs a point to clinch the group, that match has no bearing on which team will advance from this meeting. Denmark needs to defeat Japan, which only needs a draw to get through.

"We need to beat Japan to qualify, but if we were able to defeat a good team like Cameroon, I don't see why we won't be able to beat the Japanese, even if we know it'll be difficult," striker Nicklas Bendtner said.

The Danes eliminated Cameroon by rallying for a 2-1 victory Saturday. Denmark had never come from behind for a World Cup win and is trying to advance from its group for the fourth time in as many appearances.

"We're now in the position we'd hoped to be in, with our destiny in our own hands," Bendtner said.

The Japanese are concerned about their attack after a 1-0 loss to the Dutch on Saturday. Their lone goal came from Keisuke Honda in a 1-0 win over Cameroon.

Honda, a star for Russian club CSKA Moscow, wasn't pleased about his last performance.

"I don't think I played well (against the Netherlands) and I couldn't enjoy the game so much," he said. "I felt I need to improve my game more."

Coach Takeshi Okada used Shunsuke Nakamura off the bench against the Dutch after the former Celtic FC star did not play in the opener. Nakamura could be added to the lineup to provide some punch.

"We are lacking that quick forward, but we never count on a single player. We score as a team," Okada said. "Goal scorers can be enabled in various ways. We have to stay strong in defense and midfield, and we have to connect the passes better in midfield."

At the same time, the Japanese have defended well in this tournament and know that holding the Danes scoreless will be enough to progress.

"We are stable in defense and we should continue doing that," midfielder Kengo Nakamura said.

The Danes will have to replace the suspended Simon Kjaer after the defender picked up yellow cards in each of the first two matches. Coach Morten Olsen has Per Billeskov Kroldrup and Patrick Mtiliga to choose from.

Olsen already inserted Jon Dahl Tomasson as a third striker alongside Bendtner and Dennis Rommedahl in the last match.

"We had far too many elementary mistakes and we can't allow that," Olsen said. "We must correct that ... if we are to progress in this tournament."

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