Netherlands First to Advance to Last 16 After Danish Win; Ghana Tops Group

The Netherlands yesterday became the first team to qualify for the round of 16 at the World Cup with a 1-0 win over Japan and Denmark’s 2-1 victory over Cameroon.

Wesley Sneijder scored for the Netherlands, which has won both of its games in Group E. Dennis Rommedahl and Nicklas Bendtner had goals for Denmark.

The results guarantee the Dutch can’t finish lower than second in the group. The top two teams in each of the eight groups after three games advance to the next round.

“We’re satisfied with the fact we’ve won our first two matches,” Sneijder told reporters in Durban, South Africa, hours before Denmark and Cameroon kicked off last night. “We’ve yet to play our best football.”

Ghana tied 1-1 with Australia in the day’s other game to move atop Group D. Australia played the final 66 minutes with 10 men after Harry Kewell received a red card.

“The result was quite good for us because we have four points now,” Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac told reporters. “We had so many opportunities but didn’t score.”

Today in Group F, Slovakia plays Paraguay, while Italy takes on New Zealand. In Group G, Brazil meets the Ivory Coast in the third match.

Holland’s Sneijder scored the only goal in the 53rd minute with a shot from outside the area that goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima was unable to hold.

The victory gives the Dutch six points. Japan and Cameroon have three points each and face each other in the final group game on June 24. Cameroon has lost both games and becomes the first team eliminated.

Ineffective

“We weren’t effective enough,” Cameroon manager Paul LeGuen said at a news conference. “It’s disappointing for us and the Cameroon people.”

Cameroon plays its final game against the Netherlands, which has twice finished runner-up at the World Cup, in four days.

“It’s very difficult for us because we really thought we had something to say at this competition, but sport often does this kind of thing,” said Samuel Eto’o, who scored Cameroon’s goal.

Rommedahl’s goal in the 61st minute gave Denmark the come- from-behind win in Pretoria. He took the ball on the right side, cut toward the middle and curled a left-footed shot past Hamidou Souleymanou.

Cameroon had taken the lead in 10th minute on a goal from Eto’o, with Bendtner tying it in the 33rd minute by poking in a cross from Rommedahl. Denmark goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen then made a one-handed save against Achille Emana with 12 minutes remaining.

Spirit

“We scored some goals,” Danish coach Morten Olsen said. “We showed spirit.”

Australia took a 1-0 lead in Rustenburg in the 11th minute when Brett Holman put in the rebound after Ghana goalkeeper Roger Kingson was unable to hold onto the ball after allowing Mark Bresciano’s free kick to bounce in front of him.

Ghana pulled even 14 minutes later on Asamoah Gyan’s penalty kick, which was awarded when Kewell was ruled to have used his arm to block Jonathan Mensah’s goal-bound shot. The red card is Australia’s second in the tournament after Tim Cahill was sent off in the Socceroos’ 4-0 loss to Germany in the opening game.

“We were unlucky with the red card,” Australia coach Pim Verbeek told reporters. “It was definitely not a red card, it was a mistake of the referee. It was not intentional.”

Ghana has four points, Germany and Serbia have three points and Australia has one. Ghana plays Germany and Australia faces Serbia in the final group games on June 23.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Bensch in London at bbensch@bloomberg.net.

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