Denmark, Japan to meet in WCup group decider
South Africa: Japan and Denmark will meet in a decider Thursday to determine the final team from Group E to advance to the next round of the World Cup.
Japan needs at least a draw, while Denmark must win in order to reach the round of 16. Both teams have three points from two matches, but Japan has a better goal difference.
The Netherlands has already advanced and has six points, while Cameroon was eliminated from the tournament Saturday after Denmark beat the African team 2-1.
Denmark coach Morten Olsen views the match against Japan at Royal Bafokeng Stadium as a "final" and said the team is confident.
”It`s a decisive game and hopefully the first final for us," he said. "We know what to do."
But Olsen admits it will be tough to beat Japan, which defended well in its first two matches. Japan beat Cameroon 1-0 in its first game with a goal by midfielder Keisuke Honda, making it the team`s first World Cup victory on foreign soil.
Japan then lost 1-0 to the Netherlands in the second match.
"It is difficult to score goals nowadays when you play defensive teams," Olsen said.
Denmark was on the brink of being eliminated from the World Cup in the match against Cameroon, going a goal down before coming behind to score two, with goals from Nicklas Bendtner and Dennis Rommedahl. Denmark lost its opening match to the Netherlands 2-0.
Japan did reach the round of 16 as co-hosts at the 2002 World Cup.
"The coach has told us that in life you only get a few opportunities to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup and told us to give it our all," captain Makoto Hasebe said.
positive frame of mind."
Denmark could be without Bendtner with Olsen saying the forward, who started in the team`s first two group games, hasn`t fully recovered from a groin injury.
"There are always players who have small problems," Olsen said.
"Bendtner is still doubtful for the Japan game, and will continue to be regardless of how far we go in the tournament."
Bendtner himself, however, seems intent on playing. The tall Arsenal forward said Denmark will try to use its height advantage to break down the Japan defense.
"It could well be more difficult than against Cameroon," Bendtner said.
“We have to win, so they can play very tactically. But we have a few advantages we can use, including our height."
Olsen added that he was "incredibly optimistic" that his team can beat the Japanese after rallying to overcome Cameroon.
"We`ve shown indications of playing well, and our defense has worked really well," Olsen said. "There are some players who haven`t found their form yet, but I have great faith that they can find it."