CAMEROON 1-2 NETHERLANDS, Cape Town, 24/06/10
Eto’o 65 (pen); Van Persie 36, Huntelaar 83

The Netherlands survived a major scare from Cameroon to finish top of Group E with full points, defend the UFWC title, and set up a Last 16 clash with Slovakia.

The first half was one of few talking points, where both sides seemed happy to let the others come at them and wait until the attack broke down. It was Robin Van Persie who had the first genuine chance in the 19th minute, but his strike was poorly hit as it was directed straight at goalkeeper Souleymanou Hamidou.

Cameroon’s Geremi seemed determined to set up a goal, as he expertly sent in several good crosses from the wing, but the Dutch defence were equal to each one. But it was the Netherlands who seemed most likely to score first, with Dirk Kuyt firing just wide in the 32nd minute. Kuyt did, however, help set up the first goal. A pass to Van Persie followed by a one-two with Rafael Van Der Vaart left Van Persie one-on-one with Hamidou, as he slotted the ball through his legs to send the Netherlands 1-0 up into the break, despite a goalmouth scramble at the other end of the pitch where Cameroon couldn’t get the ball going the right direction.

The opening stages of the second half had more in common with an exhibition match than a World Cup match, as both sides made changes to rest players and give others a game. But Samuel Eto’o didn’t seem to get the message, as he made it his mission to make sure his team left the World Cup with something, as he burst through the defence only to scuff his shot, and almost pouncing on a lazy backpass. And in the 64th minute he had a chance to get his goal. When Van Der Vaart handled the ball in the box from a free kick the referee awarded a penalty, which Eto’o stroked past Maartan Stekelenburg.

The Netherlands truly were up against the ropes at this stage, but managed to survive without any more damage, and Cameroon’s chance of overturning the result began to fade away.

The result was sealed in the 83rd minute, thanks in part to a returning Arjen Robben. After receiving the through-ball, he turned inside and curled a shot around the goalkeeper but it only hit the post. However Klass-Jan Huntelaar was on-hand to slot the ball into an empty net and confirm another Dutch win.

They will now face Group F runners-up Slovakia in the next round of the World Cup, which will be previewed shortly.