World Cup 2010: Netherlands 1-0 Japan: Wesley Sneijder The Hero For Oranje

Oranje failed to break through the Blue Samurai's defence in the first half, but a Wesley Sneijder goal after the break helped them to the full three points...
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The Netherlands have taken a big step towards becoming the first side to qualify for the knockout stage of the World Cup with a narrow 1-0 win over Japan in a largely lacklustre encounter in Durban.

The Oranje and the Blue Samurai both failed to impress in the first half, resulting in a 0-0 score at half-time in both side's second match of the group phase. Oranje then broke the deadlock after the break and Japan were unable to restore parity in the remainder of the game.

The Dutch have now collected six points from two games and are sitting in pole position to qualify for the next round. Japan have three points from two matches and need a result in their final match if they are to survive the group stage.

Oranje started the match the better side of the two and got their first chance of the match after eight minutes of play. The referee had no choice but to award the Dutch a free kick in a dangerous position after a foul on Robin van Persie. Wesley Sneijder stepped up to take it, but his shot sailed over the bar.

Dirk Kuyt then tried his luck with an acrobatic bicycle kick after a cross from the left, but his shot was blocked by the Japanese defence before being cleared into safety.

The Asians then made a foray into Dutch territory in the 15th minute. Defender Yuji Nakazawa created some space down the left and tried his luck from 25 yards, only to see his shot bounce wide at the far post.

Holland struggled to break through the Japanese defence, but full-back Gregory van der Wiel still managed to get a shot in halfway the first half. His attempt was eventually blocked though and led to nothing.

Japan won a free kick deep in Dutch territory around the half-hour mark and Yasuhito Endo whipped in a good cross for Keisuke Honda. The attacking midfielder sent his free header way over the bar, though.

Another free kick from Endo minutes later led to a chance for Tulio, but the powerful centre back aimed wide and the chance went begging. Daisuke Matsui unleashed a shot from the edge of the box only moments later, but Maarten Stekelenburg collected the shot with ease.

The Japanese goalie got called into action for the first time only seconds before the half-time whistle. Rafael van der Vaart opted to test the Asian goalie with a long range strike, but his shot was too weak to trouble Eiji Kawashima.

Netherlands started the second half with attacking intentions and got a good chance only one minute after the interval. Mark van Bommel found Van Persie with a lovely pass, but the Arsenal star failed to get his volley on target.

The Dutch did open the score after 53 minutes of play though. The Japanese defence failed to clear the ball and Sneijder fired home the loose ball from the edge of the area. The goalie really should have done better there.

Japan were clearly not giving up after the opener and Yoshito Okubo almost drew things level again. However, his low shot went only inches wide of the Dutch target.

Okobu found Yuichi Komano streaking up the right flank in the 70th minute and his low cross caused the Dutch defence all kinds of trouble. Van der Wiel intercepted the cross though before Honda could get to it.

Oranje got a chance to hit Japan on the counter-attack after Nakamura gave the ball away cheaply. Holland attacked in numbers but Van Bommel's pass to Van Persie was poor and it led to nothing.

Holland missed a golden opportunity to put the match to bed five minutes before the final whistle. Afellay went one-on-one with the goalkeeper after a superb pass, but the PSV star was denied by an excellent save from Kawashima.

Again Afellay got a huge chance only minutes later after a brilliant through pass from Huntelaar. However, the versatile midfielder's finish was again under par and the Japan glovesman saved his shot.

Japan then nearly equalized in the dying seconds of the game, as Okazaki pounced on a loose ball inside the Dutch penalty area. He sent his shot just over the bar from a very dangerous position, though, as the Netherlands held on for a 1-0 win.

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