NETHERLANDS-DENMARK (GROUP E)
There was much hype surrounding this Netherlands side, but its usual attacking flair was on hold against a well-organized Danish defense, up until its cringe-worthy own goal at least. Rafael van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder - the coordinators of attacking play - surprisingly seemed to only get in each other's way; the Dutch, who usually thrive on wide, attacking play, clearly missed the spark of Arjen Robben. However, tricky winger Elerjo Elia was a joy to behold once he came on, and may well start the next game. Denmark was well organized at the back until Simon Poulsen popped one into the back of his own net, but also struggled to get forward with Nicklas Bendtner only half-fit - - each team only got three touches in the opponent's box in the first half. In truth, it was a congested match, and we would hope the Dutch can get its act together in the next match, if only for the sake of those who like to watch offense.
JAPAN-CAMEROON (GROUP E)
Next, Japan chalked up an unexpected victory against a surprisingly weak Cameroon side - - Japan's first ever tournament win outside home soil. The Japanese hardly looked spectacular in a generally sloppy game, with their goal coming from a fluky Daisuke Matsui cross connecting with an abnormally quiet Keisuke Honda. Cameroon looked disorganized and out-of-sync, and despite the efforts of superstar Samuel Eto'o, never looked like scoring. Coach Paul le Guen has some real thinking to do if Cameroon is to advance - - the team clearly suffered from box-to-box midfielder Alex Song's inexplicable absence, and why does the 36 year old Hamidou Souleymanou start in goal ahead of the excellent young Carlos Kameni?
ITALY-PARAGUAY (GROUP F)
Anyone having trouble sleeping? Just turn on a replay of Italy Paraguay - a match slower than a molasses-making tutorial run in slow motion. An extremely physical game where neither team was able to control the midfield, possession constantly shifted between the sides, only to be surrendered again after a handful of passes. It is no coincidence that both goals came not from great build-up play or tricky dribbling, but from poorly handled set-pieces. Italy looked feeble: clearly the absence of Andrea Pirlo left the side with no creativity, and if not for the driving rain the Italian defense would have been caught out by a fast and physical Paraguayan attack, orchestrated by the talented Lucas Barrios. Paraguay defended well, but was caught out by goalkeeper Justo Villar's inability to reach a fairly routine cross. One of the shortest keeper's in South Africa, Villar could well cost the Paraguayans again. Italy need to improve: the champions tend to start slow, but rarely this slow.