Holland vs Japan – Oranjes made to work for narrow win
Holland all but confirmed their qualification from Group E with a workman-like 1-0 victory over organised Japan.
The Oranjes now sit three points clear of the Asian side and will be assured of first place if Cameroon draw with Denmark later.
Japan will also hope that the match ends all-square as it would mean they would likely only require a draw with Denmark to progress from the group.
Wesley Sneijder scored the only goal of the game eight minutes into the second half with a fiercely-hit strike from the edge of the area.
Japan keeper Eiji Kawashima should have done better with the shot but could only palm the ball into the other corner of the net.
The game followed a similar pattern to Holland’s first round victory over Denmark with Japan proving spirited if unadventurous opposition.
Their disciplined defensive display made it difficult for Holland to really press home their territorial advantage and most of the goal-mouth action was saved for the final 10 minutes.
In that time substitute Ibrahim Afellay had two great chances to make the win more comfortable.
First he was released down the left by fellow-sub Eljero Elia but Afellay’s shot was well smothered by the keeper.
The young PSV Eindhoven forward had a near carbon-copy chance five minutes later when he combined with third substitute Klaus Jan Huntelaar but the same result occurred, with Kawashima atoning for his earlier error.
His saves almost paid off when Japan substitute Shinji Okasaki found himself clear through on the left with a ball over the top. But his strike on the half-volley arrowed over the bar and with it Japan’s chances went awry.
Holland look assured of progression atop Group E but who will finish second? The Cameroon v Denmark match will go a long way to deciding the finishing places.