Denmark's coach Morten Olsen views tomorrow's Group E decider against Japan as a final and said his team are confident of getting the win they need to reach the second round and set up a last-16 game against one of Paraguay, Italy, New Zealand or Slovakia.
"It's a decisive game and hopefully the first final for us," said Olsen, who won 102 caps for his country. "We know what to do." But he also acknowledged that it will be tough to beat Japan, who defended well in beating Cameroon 1-0 and were resolute in their second match, even though they lost 1-0 to Holland.
"It is difficult to score goals nowadays, when you play defensive teams," Olsen added. "We've shown indications of playing well, and our defence has worked really well. There are some players who haven't found their form yet, but I have great faith that they can find it.
"These are two teams that if they use their full potential then we can have a fair match against big teams as well. I said before the World Cup that Japan could be one of the teams that could surprise with people knowing nothing about Asian football. But we have followed Japan for the last half year and I've seen them play some games. They are fighting for each other and fighting for the country. You saw the Dutch team with all its qualities have many problems against Japan."
Denmark's fate may hinge on whether the Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner is fit to play in a match from which Japan only need a draw to progress. Both teams have three points from two matches, but Japan have the better goal difference.
Bendtner has been bothered by a nagging groin injury throughout the tournament and had a special warm-up at the beginning of today's training session, although he did join up with the squad for shuttle runs and ball work.
"Every other day he doesn't participate in practice and when he plays, then we see how he is," Olsen said after the session. "There's always a doubt with an injury like that, so we have to wait and see.There are always players who have small problems. Bendtner will continue to be [doubtful] regardless of how far we go in the tournament."
The manager will make a late decision, although earlier in the day Bendtner himself was confident of playing. "It could well be more difficult than against Cameroon," he said. "We have to win, so they can play very tactically. But we have a few advantages we can use, including our height."
Japan's coach Takeshi Okada is also expecting him to play and has been drilling the players on how to shut down the 6ft 4in striker. "I think Bendtner will be the key man in their attack," he said. "They will fight under his lead. I think it's going to be a very close, fierce match."
Fighting talk and Makoto Hasebe, Japan's captain, added: "The coach has told us that in life you only get a few opportunities to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup and told us to give it our all. The team will head into the game in a positive frame of mind."
The Danes were on the brink of being eliminated against Cameroon last Saturday, going one down to a Samuel Eto'o goal before rallying with goals from Bendtner and Dennis Rommedahl to finish the Africans' challenge in the tournament.
Daniel Jensen will miss out with injury, however, and Simon Kjaer is suspended. The referee will be South Africa's Jerome Damon, who took the New Zealand v Slovakia match in the first week.
Cameroon's match with Holland in Cape Town is expected to give the Dutch a chance to field the inspirational Arjen Robben, who injured a hamstring while showboating in a friendly against Hungary and was sorely missed as they laboured in both of their wins.
"It is possible that I get my first minutes against Cameroon," Robben said. "Everything is possible. We are taking it day by day."
He trained in chilly conditions last night in a pair of black compression tights but the Dutch FA is unsure if he can wear them for the match or if an orange pair need to be commissioned.
"When it comes to tights we are not sure but don't worry, we are prepared for anything and everything," said the manager Bert van Marwijk.