Sneijder strikes for Dutch
Wesley Sneijder was on target as 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.
Image: Wesley Sneijder (right) celebrates his goal with teammate Rafael van der Vaart
'Winning the Cup won't be easy'
Netherlands, who laboured to a 2-0 win over Denmark in their opening game, lead the group with six points and if Cameroon fail to beat the Danes later on Saturday the Dutch will become the first team to book a place in the second round.
"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 in really winning something, we might get far. So the target is to go for the prize."
Japan, who surprisingly 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. So I told our players to be very courageous and aggressive when we had the ball."
Image: Japan's Yoshito Okubo (centre) is challenged by Netherlands's Nigel de Jong (left) and John Heitinga as they vie for possession
Japan lacked composure in front of goal
The first half was disappointing as Netherlands failed to exploit their possession and mustered only three shots with midfielder Rafael van der Vaart's late effort the only one to test Kawashima in the Japan goal.
The Dutch came out firing after the break and Robin Van Persie had already wasted two chances before he seized on a loose ball in the penalty area.
With the Japanese defence closing him down, Van Persie slipped the ball to Sneijder on the edge of the box and the playmaker slammed his shot into the net off the keeper.
"What you need is a bit of luck," said Sneijder. "And we ended up at 1-0 and I think, at the end of the match, we should have ended up with 2-0 or 3-0."
His goal forced Japan to come even further out of their defensive shell but they lacked composure in front of goal despite some impressive approach play.
Image: The Netherlands's Rafael van der Vaart (left) and Japan's Yuichi Komano (centre) get into a tangle as they vie for possession