Wesley Sneijder was on target as the Netherlands beat Japan 1-0 in a Group E clash on Saturday to put themselves on the brink of reaching the World Cup second round.
Sneijder’s fine 53rd minute strike deceived Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima who misjudged the flight of the ball and could only deflect it into the back of the net.
However, the goal was reward for a much improved start to the second half by the unimpressive Dutch, who had been frustrated by the Japanese in a dull first period.
“Everyone could see Japan do not have a bad team and then you have to be very patient,” said Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk. “We can do much better but with six (points) out of two (games) without conceding a goal you can't say you're not satisfied.”
Netherlands, who laboured to a 2-0 win over Denmark in their opening game, lead the group with six points.
“We came here to win a prize to become world champions now that's far from straightfoward and easy,” added Van Marwijk. “If we can continue to show stability, and if we maintain confidence, we might get far. So the target is to go for the prize.” Japan, who beat Cameroon 1-0 in their opening match, had declared their intent to frustrate their opponents but they also attacked in numbers when they had the chance and will be aggrieved not to have got a goal.
“During the first half we were not only concentrating on the defence,” said Japan coach Takeshi Okada. “We expected the Netherlands to be frustrated but defence alone was not enough.”