Denmark v Japan preview
It is do or die time for Denmark and Japan as they battle for a place in the knockout stages.
By Elliot Ball
Last Updated: 24/06/10 11:13am
It is do or die time in Group E for Denmark and Japan as they battle for a place in the World Cup knockout stages.
Both sides have claimed three points heading into Thursday's showdown but it is the Japanese who occupy the all-important second qualifying spot behind leaders Holland.
That means the Danes require victory at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium to book their spot in second round, while anything else will see their Asian opponents through to the last 16 of the South Africa finals.
Morten Olsen's men head to Rustenburg on the back of an impressive 2-1 comeback win against Cameroon after losing 2-0 to the Dutch via some unconvincing defending in their opening match.
Japan opened their account with a surprise 1-0 success over Cameroon and were denied a point by Wesley Sneijder's long-range effort in their second Group E outing.
With so much at stake, it promises to be an intriguing affair with Denmark set to turn to attacking trio of Nicklas Bendtner, Dennis Rommedahl and Jesper Gronkjaer to lead them to glory.
Takeshi Okada's side, meanwhile, will rely on Veteran Yuji Nakazawa and defensive partner Marcus Tanaka Tulio to perform if they are to scrape a result while midfield talisman Keisuke Honda - being deployed as a lone striker - will be out to add to the winner he scored in the opener.
Denmark's motivational defender Simon Kjaer will watch on from the sidelines through suspension after collecting two bookings against Netherlands and Cameroon.
Japanese coach Okada has virtually a full squad at his disposal with defender Yasuyuki Konno the only doubt for the Group E decider.
Denmark will take heart that they beat Japan 3-2 in their last meeting - although that was in 1971.
The fact that Japan have never won a World Cup finals game in which their opponents have scored will be a more relative point for Olsen to bark out during the pre-match team-talk.
Okada on the other hand will be hoping his side can improve upon their poor scoring record in football's biggest tournament - Japan have scored only nine goals in 12 World Cup games.