- Eto’o, (pen) 65
- Van Persie, 36; Huntelaar, 83
The Netherlands maintained their 100% record in Group E as they beat a sorry Cameroon 2-1.
It also meant they won the section and will now face Slovakia, who knocked out holders Italy earlier on, in the last 16.
Robin van Persie opened the scoring for the Dutch in the first half, but Cameroon came into the game more after the break, and Samuel Eto’o equalised from the penalty spot.
However, Klass jan Huntelaar got his first goal of the tournament late on, sending the Dutch into another victory
With both side’s fate having already been decided, many hoped the match would be open and attacking.
Cameroon – after disappointing so far in the tournament – hoped to leave South Africa with something to show for, and they started the match well; passing the ball slickly, but were not really threatening the Dutch defence.
It was Holland, though, who almost created the first real opportunity of the match. Wesley Sneijder’s through ball looked as though it would put van Persie free, but the ball skidded of the surface and Cameroon’s goalkeeper Souleymanou Hamidou gathered safely.
But, this apart, the Netherlands appeared content to allow their opponents possession and hit them on the counter attack.
And it was working: Van Persie should have scored the opening goal after 19 minutes. The pass from Giovanni van Bronkhorst was exquisite, but the Arsenal star hit it with his weaker right foot and it was saved well by Hamidou.
Sneijder was next up to threaten the Cameroon goal. He received the ball inside the penalty area, but – despite trying to weave his way through the defence – his shot was eventually blocked.
Then Rafael van der Vaart’s free-kick tested Hamidou once again, but the Cameroon goalkeeper was equal to anything thrown at him so far.
In what was a disappointingly slow contest, the Dutch had now moved up a gear, and Cameroon’s early dominance was wearing.
But, after 30 minutes, Paul Le Guen’s side created their best chance of the match when they looked least likely to. Jean Makoun rose well, but the presence of Maarten Stekelenburg allowed the goalkeeper to put him off, and the ball was headed over.
However, van Persie opened the scoring after 35 minutes to give the Dutch the lead. A lovely one-two with van der Vaart around the box allowed him to fire past Hamidou, despite the angle looking tough.
With the number of chances they had already created, the Netherlands probably deserved that goal. It looked inevitable, as well, because of the wealth of attacking talent Holland had in their ranks.
However, Eto’o could have levelled matters moments later after a nice cross from Geremi. But the Inter Milan striker couldn’t control the ball properly, and he let it slip to Stekelenburg.
Straight after the break, van Persie was at it again. This time Mark van Bommel played an easy ball through and, with the Cameroon defence going missing, the striker had time and space to pick his spot. However, the angle was probably too tough for him and the shot was hit straight at Hamidou.
The Dutch were completing dominating proceedings by now, and some lovely passing and movement from all showed why they are one of the big favourites to win the competition.
But Cameroon were still dangerous, especially through Eto’o. He weaved through the Dutch backline, but he was ever going to score and did well to win a corner.
From the resulting set-piece, Landry N’Guemo’s effort went well wide, as the Africans tried to salvage something from the match and, indeed, the tournament.
Makoun should have then equalised after 61 minutes. He was suddenly found free with only the goalkeeper to beat, despite hints of offside, but his effort was tame and Stekelenburg parried the ball away.
And then in dramatic fashion, a free-kick by was handled by van der Vaart inside the box, giving Cameroon a penalty. It was a good spot from the referee, and Eto’o was composed enough to hammer the ball past Stekelenburg into the top right hand corner.
Le Guen’s team talk, whatever it was, seemed to have worked because their energy levels had improved ten fold. They were now back in a game they had appeared to have lost.
But Nigel de Jong could have stopped those Cameroon celebrations. Van der Vaart’s free-kick dipped towards the Manchester City player, but his stretch wasn’t quite far enough to direct the ball on target.
The Dutch, hoping the match would just end in order to avoid any injuries or further bookings, started to look disjointed. Cameroon were now the team in the ascendancy; with extra pace and aggression being added to their game since the equaliser.
But they were left to rue the fact they couldn’t revert their pressure into goals as the Netherlands took the lead again. Arjen Robben looked as though he would be one-on-one with the goalkeeper, but his touch was behind him. He recovered, however, and his curling 20 yard drive hit the inside of the post. The rebound, though, landed to substitute Huntelaar, who side footed the ball first time into the net.
It was a good goal, and the picture of Robben running across the edge of the penalty area before letting fly with his left foot is now becoming all too familiar, but still impossible to defend.
And it was enough to secure another three points for the Dutch. Cameroon, on the other hand, will be pleased with an improved display, despite coming away from South Africa with no points to their name.
Cameroon: Hamidou, Assou-Ekotto, N’Koulou (R Song, 73), A Song, Bong (Aboubakar, 56), N’Guemo, Geremi, Makoun, M’bia, Eto’o, Choupo-Moting (Idrissou, 72).
Netherlands: Stekelenburg, Heitinga, Mathijsen, Van Bronkhorst, Boulahrouz, Van Bommel, De Jong, Sneijder, Van der Vaart (Robben, 73), Kuyt (Elia, 67), Van Persie (Huntelaar, 29).