Holland have already qualified, so Japan and Denmark play for one place, with Japan needing a draw and Denmark needing a win. Cameroon are already out.
height could prove to be the decisive factor when Japan and Denmark play off for a berth in the last 16. The Danes believe their opponents' lack of inches gives them the edge at set pieces, while the Japanese hold fast to the belief that their time spent in preparation at altitude will prove decisive in Rustenburg's thin air.
The Japanese have been meticulous in trying to prepare their players for the effects of altitude. They use "low oxygen" for conditioning, and eat plenty of beef liver to increase the haemoglobin in their red blood cells. The Japan coach, Takeshi Okada, said yesterday that going that extra mile in the build-up was paying dividends now. "The training seems to have lasting effects," he said. It remains to be seen if it will bear fruit against a Danish side that must beat Japan to progress. A draw would see Japan go through.
Denmark's Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner made it clear the Danes will be trying to make the most of their definite height advantage. The 6ft 4in target man said: "Japan is a good team and very defensive, but I believe in the strength we have. I would be bitterly disappointed if we didn't win. We know we have to score. But if we can hold up the ball and use the height we have in attack then I believe that could break any defence down."
With Japan only needing a draw to progress, the game is likely to be played mostly in the Japanese half. But the "Blue Samurai" have demonstrated in conceding just one goal – down to a goalkeeping error – in their opening two games that they are able to shut up shop, so they go into the game as narrow favourites.Reuse content