Japan vs. Denmark is an elimination game.
The way Group E lays out, the winner of this game will advance to the knockout round and the loser will leave South Africa early.
If the game were to end in a draw, Japan would win on goal differential. But neither team will be looking for a tie.
Both teams are going for the win.
Denmark did not qualify for the 2006 World Cup or the 2008 European Championship. The Danes do not want to leave South Africa early.
Japan has never advanced from the group stage away from Asian soil. They are looking to prove that their run in 2002 was not a fluke.
Both teams have talented players that soccer fans should be familiar with. Let’s take a look at the players who will have a huge influence on today’ match.
Jon Dahl Tomasson is the unquestioned leader of the Danes. The 33 year-old captain has made more appearances (111) and scored more goals (51) than anyone else on the Denmark team.
Tomasson is banged up, but there is no way in hell this striker misses the match.
“Big time players step up in big games” –Santana Moss
Look for Tomasson to step up against Japan.
Keisuke Honda is one of the bright young stars on the Japanese roster.
The 24 year-old has scored five goals for Japan in 17 appearances and plays his club football with the Russian powerhouse CSKA Moscow. Honda also scored Japan’s only goal of the 2010 World Cup.
Honda is a utility player who can succeed at any position on the pitch. He has a chance to become a Japanese legend if he plays well against Denmark. Japan has never advanced from the group stage away from Asian soil.
Another young player who has an incredibly bright future is Nicklas Bendtner. This striker is only 22 years-of-age but has already played five seasons in the English Premier League (Arsenal and Birmingham City). Bendtner has 123 Caps in the EPL and has scored 31 goals.
For Denmark, Bendtner has scored 12 goals in 33 appearances and scored in Denmark’s 2-1 victory over Cameroon this World Cup.
Bendtner also has a nagging injury but will not miss the match. Look for Bendtner to have a huge impact on the outcome of the match.
Thomas Sorensen is one of the best goalies you probably have never heard of.
The 34 year-old plays for Stoke City in the EPL and is coming off an incredible 09-10 season. Sorensen averaged 1.10 goals-allowed per match.
In comparison, other World Cup goalies Joe Hart (1.17), Marcus Hahnemann (1.20), Mark Schwarzer (1.22), Tim Howard (1.29), Robert Green (1.75) and David James (1.85).
Sorenson has been Denmark’s go-to keeper the past few years and has not disappointed. The veteran has 89 Caps, and will need to rely on his skills and experience to stop a talented Japanese attack.
Shunsuke Nakamura is free kick expert (just ask Manchester United fans).
Nakamura has more goals than anyone else on the Japanese team (24). The midfielder is getting up there in age (32) but is still a threat whenever he gets a shot at goal.
Nakamura plays his club football in Japan for Yokohama F. Marinos but soccer fans worldwide know about Nakamura because of his play at Celtic.
In his four seasons in Scotland, Nakamura appeared in 128 matches and scored 29 goals. In 2006, his left foot scored two brilliant free kicks against Manchester United in the Champions League.
Even though he is on the wrong side of 30, Nakamura can still play and will need to play well if Japan is to advance to the knockout round.