The Netherlands needed Denmark to win or draw against Cameroon to secure a spot in the knockout round of the World Cup finals. The Danes did their part, and the World Cup has its first team in the round of 16.
Winning games - the only sure ticket to the knockout round
The only thing the Netherlands needed to secure their spot in the knockout round of the World Cup was a strong performance by Denmark to at least hold Cameroon to a draw in the last match of Saturday night. The Danes did their part and beat Cameroon 2-1, giving the World Cup its first team in the Round of 16.
The Netherlands' advance from the group stage comes at the expense of Cameroon, who are now eliminated from playing in the next round.
Not everyone can go home from the World Cup happy
Denmark's victory was far from assured as a defensive mistake gave Cameroon the lead early on. Danish defender Christian Poulsen was a bit too casual with a pass on his own side of the field and was intercepted by Achille Emana. Emana found Samuel Eto'o near the penalty spot and crossed for an easy goal in the 10th minute.
Denmark equalized in the 35th minute on a brilliant long ball from the back by Simon Kjaer that found Dennis Rommedahl breaking down the right side. His cross was right on the money for Nicklas Bendtner, whose sliding shot had no chance of being stopped by Cameroon's keeper, Hamidou Souleymanou.
A 1-1 draw would have been enough to send the Netherlands through to the next round and would have also kept Cameroon in the tournament. But Denmark wasn't finished and added the final goal of the game in style. In the 61st minute, Rommedahl faced off with Cameroon defender Jean Makoun in the area. Rommedahl's fancy footwork left Makoun in the dust, freeing the Dane up for a curling shot past Souleymanou.
The last game of this Group E takes place on Thursday. Japan and Denmark are playing for a slot in the next round, while Cameroon simply has its pride at stake against the Netherlands.
Germany's group up for grabs
Ghana's 1-1 draw against Australia in Group D earlier in the day put the African country on top of the group. All four teams in the group, which also includes Germany and Serbia, still have a shot at advancing to the knockout round of the World Cup.
Both of Ghana's World Cup goals have come from penalties taken by Gyan
However, the Socceroos' chances would have benefitted greatly from a win against Ghana, and three points seemed like a possibility for the Australians as they got the game off on the right foot by taking the lead early on.
Midfielder Mark Bresciano took a free kick from about 30 meters in the 11th minute, sending a curling shot over the wall that gave Ghana's keeper Richard Kingson some serious trouble. The ball bounced just in front of Kingson and then hit him in the chest. He missed the catch and fumbled the ball back into play, where Australia's Brett Holman was there to blast in the rebound.
Australia's lead was erased a bit later in the first half after a tough call from Italian referee Roberto Rosetti. Ghana took a corner that found Asamoah Gyan in the middle of the box, who lined up for a goal-bound strike that seemed destined to go in. However, right in the path of the ball was Australian striker Harry Kewell, who attempted to use his chest to block the shot. Rather than striking him on the chest, however, the ball hit Kewell's right arm, and Rosetti immediately whistled the play dead. He showed Kewell a red card and awarded Ghana a penalty. Gyan took the kick and tied the game at 1-1. It was his second goal of the World Cup. The first was also a penalty against Serbia.
Uphill climb for Australia
Despite playing with 10 men, the Australians were able to keep Ghana at bay for most of the rest of the game and even had a few chances to regain the lead in the second half.
German coach Loew in the stands at the Ghana match
In the 72nd minute, Luke Wilkshire was fed the ball cleanly through the middle but his shot was directly at Kingson, who deflected the ball with his knee. It landed in front of Australia's Josh Kennedy, who only managed a chip shot off the ground that sailed high into the air, giving Kingson enough time to get up and catch it before it became a threat.
Ghana was not entirely without goal chances, however, and their best came just a minute before Wilkshire and Kennedy's double miss. Gyan only had Australian keeper Mark Schwarzer to beat after a promising through-ball by Kevin-Prince Boateng, but curved his shot wide of the goal.
Although mathematically still alive in the group, Australia face the toughest challenge in advancing to the round of 16. They take on Serbia Wednesday in the group's final match. A win for Australia, combined with a loss for Germany against Ghana, is the only way Australia can still advance.
Germany is more or less in a must-win situation against Ghana as well. A win would guarantee the Germans a spot in the round of 16, but a draw could leave the door open for Serbia, who would advance instead of Germany with a win over Australia. In the event of a German loss, a draw would suffice to advance the Serbs.
Netherlands bound for KO round
Of course, the easiest path to the knockout round is to win every group match, avoiding nail-biting situations that come down to goal differentials and the outcome of games between other teams. So far, only two teams have taken this path of least resistance in South Africa. Argentina won their second game on Thursday, and the Netherlands beat Japan 1-0 in Saturday's first match, before the decisive game between Denmark and Cameroon.
It was a timid game in the first half, with the Dutch pressing but unable to accomplish more than a passing clinic on the Japanese side of the field.
Wesley Sneijder had the best scoring opportunity for the Netherlands in the first half, launching a free kick over the goal.
Japan rallied toward the end of the first half, taking control but failing to create scoring chances, and the teams went into the locker rooms at half time tied 0-0.
Japanese keeper Eiji Kawashima could only manage a deflection of Sneijder's powerful shot
The Dutch came out fired up for the second half, however, and retook control of the game. In the 53rd minute, the Oranje dialed up the pressure on the Japanese defense. A free ball made its way to the edge of the area, where a waiting Wesley Sneijder pulled back and fired a blast that Japanese keeper Eiji Kawashima could only deflect into the net.
Another change for the Netherlands came with just two minutes left in regulation, when Ibrahim Afellay directly challenged Kawashima, who managed to hold the Dutch substitute's shot.
Japan very nearly evened things up in the closing moments of the game, but a last-second press by Shinji Okazaki was just over the crossbar.
Author: Matt Zuvela (AFP/sid)
Editor: Sonia Phalnikar