Robin van Persie is one of the most important players for the Oranje (Getty)


Manager: Bert van Marwijk

Training base: Hilton Sandton Hotel, Gauteng

June 14 – Denmark, Johannesburg’s Soccer City, 1.30pm
June 19 – Japan, Durban, 1.30pm
June 24 – Cameroon, Cape Town, 8.30pm

World Cup record: Missed out on winning football’s biggest prize in 1974 and 1978 and came fourth at France ’98. This is their ninth appearance at the finals

State of play: The Oranje sometimes flatter to deceive in the pressure-cooker environment of a big tournament. But on paper they are blessed with quality running through the team and pose a real threat in South Africa. Their class was much in evidence in World Cup qualifying when they chalked up eight victories from eight games. Van Marwijk, the former Feyenoord coach, may not be the most charismatic of managers on the touchline through the tournament but he’s one of the most astute. Convincing warm-up victories over Ghana and Mexico underlined the team’s firepower up front and sent a warning to their group rivals that they are a force to be reckoned with this time around.

Key men: A wealth of talent. This golden generation of Dutch players is peaking just in time for the World Cup. Wesley Sneijder has been in sparkling form for Inter Milan, his creative abilities on view in the latter stages of his club’s Champions League campaign. With the Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League titles to his name, he’s now hungry for success on the biggest stage of all. Bayern Munich midfielder Mark van Bommel provides a measure of control in midfield, while Arjen Robben has rediscovered his form on the wing. Robin van Persie’s pace, craft and thumping left peg should net the Oranje a few goals. Liverpool marksman Dirk Kuyt can be expected to use his physical prowess in the box to good effect against weak defences.

They say: “If you don’t believe that you can achieve something great you can be sure nothing will happen,” said Van Marwijk.

We say: “The Dutch should cruise the group. Blessed as they are with so many talented players in the form of their lives, the Oranje have a great chance to get their hands on the Jules Rimet trophy. But they will be wary of going full pelt in the opening matches after what happened in their Euro 2008 campaign. In Austria-Switzerland, Marco van Basten’s side thrashed Italy 3-0 and France 4-1 before sweeping past Romania and slumping to a 3-1 defeat against Guus Hiddink’s Russia in the quarter-finals.”

Odds: 10-1

Goalkeepers: Sander Boschker (FC Twente), Maarten Stekelenburg (Ajax), Michel Vorm (FC Utrecht)
Defenders: Khalid Boulahrouz (Stuttgart), Edson Braafheid (Celtic), John Heitinga (Everton), Joris Mathijsen (Hamburg), Andre Ooijer (PSV Eindhoven), Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord), Gregory van der Wiel (Ajax)

Midfielders: Ibrahim Afellay (PSV Eindhoven), Nigel de Jong (Manchester City), Demy de Zeeuw (Ajax), Stijn Schaars (AZ Alkmaar), Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan), Mark van Bommel (Bayern Munich), Rafael van der Vaart (Real

Morten Olsen has spent a decade as Denmark’s head coach (Getty)


Forwards: Ryan Babel (Liverpool), Eljero Elia (Hamburg), Klaas Jan Huntelaar (AC Milan), Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool), Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich), Robin van Persie (Arsenal)


Manager: Morten Olsen

Training base: Simola Hotel Country Club, Western Cape

June 14 – the Netherlands, Johannesburg’s Soccer City, 1.30pm
June 19 – Cameroon, Tshwane/Pretoria , 8.30pm
June 24 – Japan, Rustenburg, 8.30pm

World Cup record: South Africa is Denmark’s fourth World Cup. Fared well in previous outings, reaching the quarter-finals at France ’98 and the round of 16 twice. Currently ranked 26th in the world.

State of play: Having failed to reach Germany 2006 and Euro 2008, the Danes finished top of their group in qualifying ahead of Portugal, Sweden and Hungary and are in buoyant mood coming into the tournament. Olsen, who has been head coach for a decade – longer than any other manager at the World Cup – has built a team that is tough to beat. In recent warm-ups they’ve notched a win against Senegal and a loss to Australia. Their class will come under scrutiny in a friendly against South Africa on June 5.

Key men: Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner, Denmark’s most outstanding player since the Laudrup brothers, is a major worry for Olsen. Struggling with a groin injury, he’s barely participated in recent friendlies and is only in light training. The 22-year-old shoulders a huge responsibility to inspire the Danes, despite his youthfulness, following Bendtner’s stunning performances for the Gunners this season, most notably his hat-trick in their win over Porto in the UEFA Champions League. Injuries to Wolfsburg midfielder Thomas Kahlenberg and Feyenoord’s Jon Dahl Tomasson, who should lead the front line, are also concerns. Liverpool’s Daniel Agger is the defensive stalwart.

They say: “It’s always good to be in South Africa. I have been here plenty of times and I have always had a good time. The most important thing for us is to adapt to the altitude and prepare for the tournament. I think this will be a challenge for all the European teams because some of them will not be used to the altitude,” said Olsen.

We say: “Mounting injuries and a lack of cutting edge in attack are likely to be Denmark’s undoing in the tournament. The target is second place in the group behind the Dutch who are outright favourites to come top, but the Danes need someone to hit goalscoring form for that to happen.”

Odds: 125-1

 Thomas Sorensen (Stoke City), Stefan Andersen (Brondby), Jesper Christiansen (FC Copenhagen)

Defenders: Daniel Agger (Liverpool), Simon Kjaer (Palermo), Per Kroldrup (Fiorentina), Lars Jacobsen (Blackburn Rovers), Simon Busk Poulsen (AZ), William Kvist Jorgensen (FC Copenhagen), Patrick Mtiliga (Malaga)

Midfielders: Daniel Jensen (Werder Bremen), Christian Poulsen (Juventus), Christian Eriksen (Ajax), Jakob Poulsen (AGF), Martin Jorgensen (AGF), Mikkel Beckmann (Randers), Thomas Enevoldsen (Groningen), Thomas Kahlenberg (Wolfsburg), Dennis Rommedahl (Ajax), Jesper Gronkjaer (FC Copenhagen)

Forwards: Jon Dahl Tomasson (Feyenoord), Nicklas Bendtner (Arsenal), Soeren Larsen (Duisburg).

by WFI editor Mark Bisson (
[email protected])

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