NETHERLANDS 1-0 JAPAN, Durban, 19/06/10
Sneijder 53

A second-half goal from Wesley Sneijder was enough for the Netherlands to earn three more group points, all but guarantee passage to the next round, and bring a rare title unification at the end of the tournament to the brink of being reality.

The first half was one of few talking points, as the Netherlands held the majority of the possession but struggled to break down a resilient Japanese defence. The most signifigant event of the half was an injury to Japan’s Yuichi Komano, as Van Persie’s foot accidentally hit him in the head, but luckily he only needed a brief spell of treatment and he was able to continue.

Despite a less-than-entertaining first half, things took a turn for the better in the second half. The Netherlands threatened the defence with attacks early in the half, and Sneijder was the one to benefit from it. Van Persie laid the ball off to him just outside the box as he took a blistering shot, and even though the goalkeeper got a hand to it he was unable to keep the ball out of the net.

This goal seemed to spark a Japanese revival as Yoshito Okubo led the attack, but couldn’t convert any of their chances. Likewise, the Netherlands continued to try to get a second goal, but were constantly snuffed out, largely thanks to Marcus Tulio Tanaka.

However after Sneijder was substituted for Afellay things changed and the Netherlands could have won 3-0, as the new player was on the end of two through balls and found himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Kawashima twice, but the man between the sticks was equal to it on both occasions.

The win means that the Netherlands are just one match away from the next round, and if they avoid defeat in their last match they will bring the title into the Last 16.

The Netherlands will now face Cameroon in their final Group E match on June 24th, which will be previewed for you later.