The Netherlands stayed at the top of Group E, putting three points distance between themselves and Japan after defeating the Blue Samurai 1-0 in Durban on Saturday. Wesley Sneijder’s 53rd minute goal moves the Oranje to six points with a chance to move into the tournament’s knockout phase by day’s end.
If Cameroon and Denmark draw in Saturday’s third match, the Netherlands will have secured a play in the Round of 16. One point from the Dutch next Thursday against Cameroon will clinch first place in Group E.
The match started with the Dutch looking to improve upon their performance against Denmark, a 2-0 win that saw the Danes take Holland to half scoreless before a Daniel Agger own goal opened scoring. Bert van Merwijk’s team looked for active in gaining territory down the flanks, though after fifteen minutes of action they had yet to threaten goal.
Then Japan started to setting into the match, and although they failed to hold significant possession in the first half, the underdogs were able to constrain the Dutch into halftime. For the second consecutive match, the favored Oranje were drawn scoreless at half.
In the 53rd minute, the Netherlands received a small bailout when Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima failed to parry a Wesley Sneijder shot from just outside the box. A Robin van Persie lay-off from just inside the area allowed Sneijder to run onto a bouncing all, the resulting half volley hitting Kawashima’s extended arms and ricocheting into the net. The Netherlands were ahead 1-0 on another World Cup 2010 goalkeeping gaffe.
Takeshi Okada eventually went shifted to a three striker formation, something that almost paid off in stoppage time when a chance from eight yards out was put over by substitute forward Shinji Okazaki. The Dutch had their own chance for a goal eight minutes earlier when Klass-Jan Huntelaar was sent through on Kawashima, only for the `keeper to smother the chance.
The match ended 1-0, with the Netherlands holding 66 percent of the match’s possession, outshooting Japan 5-2. The result puts the Netherlands three points clear in Group E after of Thursday’s final group stage match with Cameroon, who plays Denmark in Saturday’s late game.
Japan remains on three and will face Denmark on Thursday in a match that could determine which team goes through to the knockout stage with the Netherlands.