Group E contains Netherlands, Denmark, Japan and Cameroon. Netherlands are my tip to win the World Cup, and it would be unthinkable for them to not progress from this Group. Although second place should be tight, I forecast maximum points for the Oranje.
The Dutch have star quality all over the field, and an array of midfield and attacking talent which should more than make up for their defence, which doesn’t have such solidity about it. They qualified for the Finals with a perfect eight wins out of eight, going through as Europe’s first representative. The team have not lost a game since being beaten by Australia in a friendly in 2008 - an impressive 17 game run.
The Dutch squad screams goals at you. Sneijder, van der Vaart, Kuyt, Babel, Huntelaar, van Persie and Robben are all a threat. There are also some of the wisest heads in world football holding it together in Mark van Bommel and Giovanni van Bronckhorst, and it really does provide a balance which few sides will be able to cope with.
The second place in Group H should be one of the most fiercely contested, with all sides confident of beating the others. One win should be enough to get through.
Cameroon, on paper, look to have a strong starting line up, and in Samuel Eto’o have one of the world’s best strikers. He was, however sent of in the friendly defeat against Portugal this week, and his commitment to the Cameroon cause has been called into question by 1990 legend Roger Milla. In Stephane Mbia and Jean Makoun in midfield, however, they have two of Liga 1’s form players, and goalkeeper Carlos Kameni has been on the shopping list of many of Europe’s top clubs.
If Cameroon can hold team spirit together, keep Eto’o focused and create chances, then they have a realistic chance of progression. Eto’o will be deciding in the next few days if he is going to compete, however, and if he walks away, Cameroon’s chances probably will too.
Japan are an interesting proposition. They narrowly lost to England in their last friendly, conceding a couple of late own goals to give England an undeserved victory. They are ranked 45th in the World Rankings, but one thing you are guaranteed with the Japanese is industry, endeavour and technique. They will struggle to score goals, though, and all the industry in the world won't help without a top class finisher. Takayuki Morimoto, the Catania striker now needs to live up to his early career billing, or Japan will be going home early. On a more positive front, Shunsuke Nakamura, the ex-Celtic midfielder, has been passed fit and travels to South Africa, along with 't-shirt', as Arsenal fans have nicknamed Junichi Inamoto.
The Japanese thus have a smattering of European experience, but not enough, I doubt, to warrant their coach's proclamation that they are targeting a place in the last four! If this happens, manager Takeshi Okada will be the name on every chairman’s lips come the end of the Finals.
Denmark make up the Group, and despite looking unconvincing at times, did very well to top a tough qualification group which also contained Sweden and Portugal. They look solid, rather than spectacular, but will look to a couple of older heads to provide flair. Dennis Rommedahl and Jesper Gronkjaer provide the ammunition for Jon Dahl Tomasson, but if they produce anything like their Premier League form, then Denmark will be on the first plane back to Copenhagen.
They will be strong at the back, though, and with Daniel Agger and the much vaunted Simon Kjaer leading the defence in front of Stoke City stopper Thomas Sorenson, I see them nicking second place. Denmark's strength, solidity and organisation will be too much for Cameroon and Japan, and should see them book themselves a place in the last 16 behind the Dutch.