The latest in a series of FIFA World Cup previews from ScoresOddsPicks Executive Writer Shea Matthews. I think of Group E as "The Rodney Dangerfield Group." Its main sportsbook contender, Holland, gets no respect. And I really can't understand why.
It's not that Holland isn't considered one of the better teams in the tournament and the runaway Group E favorite. I'm just surprised that the Dutch aren't being mentioned in the same breath as Spain, Brazil and England when people discuss the top overall tournament contenders. Holland went 8-0 in qualifying and outscored opponents 17-2. This team is armed to the teeth with stud players. Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben are the threats up front and the midfield is stacked too with Wesley Sneijder, Mark van Bommel and Rafael van der Vaart. This is a great team.
The Danes remind me of the Swiss in this tournament in that they're a conservative, organized group with a low ceiling and a high floor. They have a good centerpiece in Christian Poulsen to be the primary ball carrier but not a whole lot of elite talent after that. Still, they'll be hard to score on and could make noise if they can even draw Holland in their opener.
Cameroon is expected to battle Denmark hard and, while it has more upside than the Danes, it probably has more downside too. Their top player is Samuel Eto'o – and he's disgruntled. So disgruntled that he almost left the team after legend Roger Milla criticized him, hinting that he puts more effort into his club play than international play. That means Eto'o and Cameroon could go either way. Maybe he'll be inspired by Milla's comments and lead the team into the knockout round. Or maybe he'll be distracted and disinterested, contributing to Cameroon's group-stage demise. My betting advice would be to tread carefully, as Cameroon doesn't have much margin for error.
Most groups have a predicted odd man out and Japan fills that role for Group E. It looked competent in its 2-1 friendly loss to England a few days back but its 2-0 loss to Japan showed that scoring may be a problem for Japan. We know it can't keep pace with Holland and it won't penetrate Denmark's defenses either.
Free pick: Holland and Denmark. The Dutch are a no brainer and I think the Danes are in a better place mentally than Cameroon is, so that could be the difference.