Thursday, June 24th World Cup Team Guides and Matchups - Denmark, Japan, Cameroon, Netherlands, Paraguay, Italy, New Zealand, and Slovakia

On Wednesday 4 more teams claimed their spot in the round of 16, the United States, England, Germany and Ghana, joined ranks with Uruguay, Mexico, Argentina, and Korea. While 4 more teams are heading home, Slovenia, Algeria, Australia, and Serbia joined Greece, Nigeria, France and the host South Africa.  It will be hard to match the drama of Wednesday, but there are teams willing to accept that challenge.

On Thursday, 8 more teams will step up for their final chance to claim a spot in the 16, while 4 will celebrate, 4 will head home.  The action will start with teams of Group F.

Paraguay vs. New Zealand - 8am MT - ESPN 2

Perhaps no team is a bigger surprise than New Zealand, a win would move them into the round of 16, a draw and they will need some help.  Paraguay has played well with a win over Slovakia and a draw against Italy, a draw and they are in, a loss and they will be at the mercy of others.

SB Nation Exclusive Content:

Paraguay Team Site and Team Guide

New Zealand Team Site and Team Guide

Blog Post: Where We Stand: Groups E and F

SB Nation World Cup Day 14, Schedule, Preview, and predictions

Match Links:

Official FIFA Match Preview

"A large part of their football is based on their robustness and they will probably try to capitalise on that. But we have our own strong points. We know the type of football we want to play and are playing better match by match," Justo Villar, Paraguay goalkeeper.

"Maybe it wasn't the greatest match ever [against Italy], but we showed great desire and determination. We've given ourselves a chance of qualifying - what a tremendous challenge. All that remains for us to do is give 100 per cent and seize the opportunity we've been given in this final match," Ryan Nelsen, New Zealand defender.

For Paraguay they are playing with the knowledge that a point can put them in the round of 16, while the "All Whites" are playing for a place of respect and to do something they have never done before, make it to the round of 16.  New Zealand have shown incredible heart but it won't be enough today, 2-1 Paraguay.

more after the jump:

Italy vs. Slovakia - 8am MT - ESPN

One would have to consider Italy with just two goals and two draws one of the disappointments of the World Cup, but they can change all that with a win over Slovakia, which would put them into the round of 16. A win might not be enough for Slovakia, but it would need to be a convincing one to make up their -2 goal differential.

SB Nation Exclusive Content:

Italy Team Site and Team Guide

Slovakia Team Site and Team Guide

Match Links:

Official FIFA Match Preview:

"I really don't know what our problem is. We are making a lot of mistakes, especially at the back. We knew they (Paraguay) would be a difficult side to beat but we couldn't make enough openings," Miroslav Stoch, Slovakia midfielder.

"We haven't done what we're capable of but we can still kick-start our World Cup, anything can still happen. There's a feeling of disappointment, when a team plays with heart and desire, if you don't get a result your disappointment is relative to the amount of effort you put into it," Italy coach, Marcello Lippi.

Fox Sports Match Preview:

If struggling Italy can't manage to beat Slovakia on Thursday, the Azzurri could match France's unenviable feat from the 2002 World Cup and exit the group stage as defending champion.

"We're worried," midfielder Daniele De Rossi said. "I said it before and I'll say it again. If we don't make it past the first round it would be a failure."

Italy's forwards have had trouble finding the target in their opening two games, both 1-1 draws, against Paraguay and 78th-ranked New Zealand.

"If we can't win we don't deserve to advance," De Rossi added. "We're Italy and we ought to be able to win one of these three games - otherwise it would only be fair to go home."

So will Italy do like France and continue to disappoint in their final match, or will they find a way to secure the win and move on to the round of 16?  I have to believe that Italy will find a way to get past Slovakia, but it will likely be a slugfest that ends 1-0.

Netherlands vs. Cameroon - 12:30pm MT - ESPN 2

This match will be about pride for Cameroon, they will not advance no matter the result.  For the Netherlands it is about staying fit, healthy and ready for the round of 16, so no matter what happens they have already claimed their spot.

SB Nation Exclusive Content:

Netherlands Team Site and Team Guide

Cameroon Team Site and Team Guide

Match Links:

Official FIFA Match Preview:

"We have to keep on going, stay professional until the end, prepare the practice sessions for the game against the Netherlands. It's not a friendly game, it's a World Cup game and we have to respect the Cameroonian people and the competition itself, all the spectators and TV viewers as well," Cameroon coach, Paul Le Guen.

"I take the match against Cameroon very seriously because it is in that match that the team has to show what they have learned. And we want to improve in every match and it is important for the players to know exactly what is asked of them in every position. Therefore, the match against Cameroon is also a match in which we have to improve ourselves. So I take it very seriously in many aspects," Netherlands coach, Bert van Marwijk.

Fox Sports Match Preview:

Arjen Robben may make his belated first appearance of the World Cup as Samuel Eto'o makes his last when the Netherlands plays Cameroon on Thursday.

With the Dutch already through to the second round and Cameroon eliminated, subplots will take center stage in Cape Town. And the biggest one is whether Oranje will finally start playing with the free-flowing flair for which it has been famous since the 1970s.

There is nothing that the Netherlands have to prove in this match, yet you know they will fight for the win as going into the round of 16 after a loss or draw would be a let down.  Cameroon is playing for pride and pride only, but that will be too little against Oranje who will get the 3-1 win.

Denmark vs. Japan - 12:30pm MT - ESPN

Well the second spot in Group E will be decided in this match, either side will move on with a win, and a draw will see Japan advance on goal differential.  Both teams lost to the Netherlands and both teams beat Cameroon, and now they are playing for their World Cup lives.

SB Nation Exclusive Content:

Denmark Team Site and Team Guide

Japan Team Site and Team Guide

Match Links:

Official FIFA Match Preview:

"I just can't see us losing. It's something that we feel deep down - maybe that seems arrogant, but we're perfectly aware of our strengths. Team morale is extremely high. There's a great atmosphere in the squad, and that's crucial in a team sport," Morten Olsen, Denmark coach.

"As they're a big team, we'll have trouble stopping them if we defend like we've been doing recently. The key for us will be keeping our shape in defence, preventing them from picking up balls in good positions," Yuji Nakazawa, Japan defender.

Fox Sports Match Preview:

Japan and Denmark will meet in a decider Thursday to determine the final team from Group E to advance to the next round of the World Cup.

Japan needs at least a draw, while Denmark must win in order to reach the round of 16. Both teams have three points from two matches, but Japan has a better goal difference.

Denmark coach Morten Olsen views the match against Japan at Royal Bafokeng Stadium as a "final" and said the team is confident.

"It's a decisive game and hopefully the first final for us," he said. "We know what to do."

Well this may be the best match of the day as the sides each know they are battling for their shot at the round of 16, for the Dane's they have made it past the group stage each of the last 3 World Cup, for Japan they only have made it out of the group when they were the host.  It should be entertaining but in the end, I have a feeling that Denmark will claim their spot next to the Netherlands in the round of 16.

OFF MY SOAPBOX

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