It is backs-to-the-wall time for Group E rivals Denmark and Cameroon when they meet in their second 2010 FIFA World Cup™ encounter in Tshwane/Pretoria on Saturday, with the pair desperately seeking a positive result after opening defeats. The Danes went down 2-0 to the Netherlands last Monday while the Indomitable Lions lost 1-0 against Japan, results which turned their bids for a place in the Round of 16 into an uphill struggle.
"A win would put us in a promising position going into our final group match," said Denmark defender Simon Kjaer in an exclusive interview with FIFA. "We have a good team and we're well aware of our strengths and weaknesses. We plan to go out and show that we can handle the pressure."
Against the west Africans, the 21-year-old centre-back has a particularly important job: shutting down none other than quicksilver Inter Milan striker Samuel Eto'o. "Eto'o is a great player and on top of that he's a vital cog in their team, just like [Wayne] Rooney," said the Palermo-based Kjaer. “We can't afford to allow him any space in the penalty area. But Cameroon have other dangerous players as well. They are fast and we'll have to be strong to deny them."
Kjaer's defensive colleague, Per Kroldrup, who has felt the full force of the three-time UEFA Champions League winner in Serie A action, is another expecting a tough challenge. "I think that this time I'm better prepared overall, which could give me an edge," said the 30-year-old of the last time the pair squared off – for a 2-2 league draw in Florence in April, a game in which both he and Eto'o found the net. "Anyway, tomorrow's another day."
"He's the biggest star in their side," added goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen as he assessed Eto'o's threat. "Their team is full of top-quality players with big European clubs. But you don't always know which Cameroon will turn up. One day they are world-class, then the next they can't seem to get their game together."
You don't always know which Cameroon will turn up.
Denmark coach Morten Olsen believes his side have their own answer to Cameroon hitman Eto'o in the shape of Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner. "Eto'o is one of their key players, just like Nicklas is for us," said Olsen. "But if you have a player that the opposition particularly focus on, it opens up space elsewhere. We have to keep a close watch not only to stop Eto'o scoring but to prevent him setting up opportunities for his team-mates." Whatever happens in Pretoria on Saturday, it promises to be an intriguing encounter.