FIRST GAME: Netherlands Preview

Expectations are always high for the Netherlands. Living up to them has been challenging.

A two-time runner-up, the Netherlands has its sights set on winning its first World Cup title and it begins that quest with a rare game against Denmark today in Johannesburg.

Ranked fourth by FIFA, the Netherlands is lauded for its 'TOTAL FOOTBALL' philosophy and enters every tournament as a favorite. The team is trying to change that in South Africa. Clockwork Orange returned to its dominant ways during World Cup qualifying, winning all eight games and outscoring its overmatched group rivals 17-2. That success is expected to continue in Group E, which includes Japan and Cameroon.

I rate them very high. They are probably one of the best teams in Europe at the moment.

The Dutch, however, were dealt a serious blow when Arjen Robben suffered a hamstring injury in a 6-1 win over Hungary. He has been ruled out against Denmark. Coach Bert van Marwijk said Saturday it was too risky for him to play. He hopes Robben will be fit in time to face Japan in Durban on June 19 and Cameroon five days later.

Van Marwijk said Robben really had only one full workout and he was going to 'take it easy' with him. Robben’s absence will put the playmaking onus on Wesley Sneijder, who has 14 goals in 61 games for the national team, one coming against Hungary. The midfielder is coming off a superb season with Inter, helping it become the first Italian team to sweep the Champions League, Serie A and Coppa Italia titles.

With or without. Shouldn't be a problem.