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Three quick thoughts on Netherlands-Cameroon (World Cup Group E)


Three quick thoughts on the Netherlands' 2-1 win over Cameroon in Group E on Thursday:

1. The Dutch, once again, won without frills. The country that gave us Total Football saw its national team grind out two 1-0 wins before Thursday's if-not-lackluster-then-certainly-ho-hum 2-1 victory. (Cameroon outshot the Dutch, who didn't have a single corner.) There's nothing wrong with that: The Netherlands played beautiful, attacking football in Euro 2008, torching Italy 3-0 and France 4-1. What did that get the Dutch? Nothing, as they collapsed against Russia and got bounced in the quarters. This team has been a little more workmanlike; the Dutch got the result they needed Thursday (had they somehow conspired to lose by a wide enough margin, the Dutch would have fallen into a second-round game against Paraguay instead of Slovakia) and not much more. Talent was never a question for the Dutch; now it looks like they have the mettle to make a deep run.

2. Arjen Robben looked good. The biggest cheer of the night might have come when Robben, who's been held out of the first two Holland games with a hamstring problem, came on as a sub. The Bayern Munich winger made it through 20 minutes without any problems. He looked a bit rusty when he got behind Rigobert Song and latched onto a long ball, but after it looked like the move was going to fizzle out, he spun and launched a sublime shot that rattled the post, allowing Klaas Jan Huntelaar to tap the rebound home. His speed gave Cameroon problems, and he was a large reason that the Netherlands finished the game strong after an indifferent performance in much of the second half.

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3. Cameroon should be happy its tournament is over. Despite winning just one World Cup game since its glorious run to the quarters in 1990, Cameroon came to South Africa optimistic that it could contend in Group E. But the campaign dissolved in what Alex Song before Thursday's game called "disharmony" brought about by "cliques and egos." (Song also said the team has deceived its supporters and, in fact, its whole country. Then he was mysteriously dropped from the lineup minutes before kickoff.) Song's comments at least made it clear that the players are aware what their problem is, and on Thursday, at least, it looked like everyone was on the same page, and the Indomitable Lions gave a creditable performance in what was ultimately a meaningless game for them; they've been drawing dead since they lost to Denmark.