World Cup 2010 - Sneijder fires Dutch to win

Sat, 19 Jun 14:25:00 2010

Netherlands maintained their 100 per cent record at the World Cup with a 1-0 win over Japan at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.

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After a dour first half, the game sprang into life after the break with Wesley Sneijder settling the contest with the only goal of the game on 53 minutes.

Japan initially rallied after the goal but to no avail, leaving Bert van Marwijk's side on six points from a possible six, top of Group E and in pole position to qualify for the knockout stages.

But it was far from convincing stuff from the Dutch, who could have conceded an equaliser in the dying moments and are yet to hit top form at the tournament, despite their impressive record.

Winger Arjen Robben was forced to sit out the game as his slight hamstring tear had not yet healed and the Bayern Munich man's absence was noticeable from the start.

The Dutch enjoyed vast swathes of possession - at one point in the first half they had registered 71 per cent - yet they lacked the guile to unlock a well-organised Japanese defence.

Chances were few and far between during the opening period, with the Dutch resorting to the odd effort from distance, none of which troubled keeper Eiji Kawashima.

Indeed, the better chances came at the other end, with Yuto Nagatomo flashing a shot wide of Maarten Stekelenburg's post on 12 minutes before Daisuke Matsui gave the Dutch keeper his first real taste of action with a smart volley on 38 minutes.

Fortunately for the vuvuzela-blowing supporters packing the stadium, things picked up dramatically after the break as Netherlands returned from the dressing room in far more determined mood.

Robin Van Persie signalled their intent with a header straight at Kawashima two minutes after the restart before he volleyed wide of the mark from Mark van Bommel's long ball through.

The goal came from a rocket of a shot from Sneijder which swerved in the air and deceived Kawashima, whose attempted save only succeeded in diverting the ball into the opposite corner of the net.

Japan responded well to going behind and three chances in the space of 10 minutes nearly saw Takeshi Okada's side draw back on level terms.

Yoshito Okubo tested Stekelenburg with a sweet striker before shooting wide of the post from outside the box, while in between Yuki Abe's flicked header brought Stekelenburg into further action.

The Dutch should have sealed the win in the closing stages as substitute Ibrahim Affelay wasted two glorious chances, both times being thwarted by Kawashima as he bore down on goal.

And the PSV Eindhoven man was nearly made to regret his profligacy as substitute Shinji Okazaki ran onto a flick-on in the 90th minute, only to blast wide of the mark.

The result saw Netherlands extend their impressive unbeaten record in all competitions to 21 games, the longest current run by any country in international football.

Japan meanwhile lost for a third time to European opposition in 2010 but retain hope of progressing to the knockout phase.

Match stats

Netherlands v Japan

Goals 1-0

1st Half Goals 0-0

Shots on Target 5-2

Shots off Target 3-7

Blocked Shots 2-0

Corners 4-5

Fouls 18-11

Offsides 2-1

Yellow Cards 1-0

Red Cards 0-0

Passing Success 86.5%-74.8%

Tackles 21-13

Tackles Success 81-69.2

Possession 65.6%-34.4%

Territorial Advantage 49.2%-50.8%

Mike Hytner / Eurosport

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