Japan outclass Denmark
Japan gave notice of their potential on Thursday when they beat Denmark 3-1 in their final Group E fixture and clinched a place in the last 16 of the World Cup on foreign soil for the first time.
"Our team has a strength that some others don't have. All 23 of the players and all of the staff, we are one team together really," said Japanese coach Takeshi Okada.
Image: Japan players celebrate after winning their match against Denmark
Japan in control from the start
On a cold night at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Japan were in control from the start and stretched the Danish defence with ease.
Their intricate, almost meticulous, one-touch play and the speed of their movement created a series of chances before they took the lead after 17 minutes with a superb goal by Honda.
Taking a free-kick 30 metres out on the right, the blue-gloved striker with bleached hair struck a left-foot shot that faded to the left and away from the flat-footed Danish keeper Thomas Sorensen, who looked helpless.
Image: Keisuke Honda scores the opening goal
Japan down Denmark 3-1
Denmark tried to exploit their clear height advantage with attempted high crosses, but it was a ploy the Japanese blunted with excellent marking and brave defensive play. Tall striker Nicklas Bendtner, one of three Danes to be cautioned, was easily kept quiet.
Jon Dahl Tomasson shot narrowly wide and had another effort saved, but the Danes were left reeling when Per Kroldrup tripped Okubo and Endo curled a right-foot free-kick round the wall and inside Sorensen's left post from 25 metres.
Japan almost scored a third early in the second half when Endo floated in another free-kick that the flapping Sorensen could only fumble against a post before the Danes raised their tempo and briefly put the Japanese goal under siege.
Image: Keisuke Honda (left) celebrates his goal with team mates
Netherlands continue impressive charge
Netherlands continued their impressive charge at the World Cup when they beat Cameroon 2-1 on Thursday to make it three wins out of three in Group E and advance to a last 16 meeting with Slovakia.
Having won all eight qualifiers, the Dutch, who have already beaten Denmark and Japan here, became the first team since Brazil in 1982 to win all their qualifying and group games.
After a few nervous moments in defence, Van Persie should have put Netherlands ahead in the 19th minute when he chested down a lovely 40-metre pass by Giovanni van Bronckhorst but shot meekly at goalkeeper Hamidou Souleymanou.
However, the striker made sure in the 36th when a quick-fire one-two with Rafael van der Vaart put him through and he slotted the ball into the net through the keeper's legs.
Image: Robin van Persie scores the opening goal
Robben flies to aid of faltering Dutch
Arjen Robben came on in the 73rd minute and, after looking lively from his first touch, set up the winner when his 20-metre shot rebounded from a post straight to substitute Huntelaar, who sidefooted it back into the empty net.
"I'm really pleased he played for 20 minutes and nothing happened (to the injury)," coach Van Marwijk said of Robben.
"I expect he can play longer at the next match but I'm not sure if he will start."
Image: Klaas Jan Huntelaar (right) scores the second goal