Saturday, June 19, 2010
Game 24: Netherlands vs Japan
The Netherlands dominated most of the match, but were unable to score many goals due to Japan's emulation of North Korea by placing six defenders behind the ball throughout most of the match. Playing a passing game, the Netherlands would patiently whittle away at Japan until the 53rd minute when Wesley Sneijder would score.
A blistering rocket of a shot, the keeper Eiji Kawashima would be fooled by the sudden spin of the ball, taking it slightly away from him only to blast off of his forearm and go into the back of the net.
Seeing themselves 1-0 down, Japan would begin to press by bringing in more attacking options, but very few of their shots would trouble the Dutch keeper Stekelenburg. With Japan trying to muster a goal, they would leave themselves vulnerable in the back, and substitute Ibrahim Afellay would have a couple one-on-one chances, the first in the 84th minute, and again in the 88th, but Kawashima would come up big to keep his team in the game.
Japan's best ever opportunity would sadly come at the very end of the match, when Shinji Okazaki would get onto the end of a brilliant crossing header and beat the defense, only to see his shot narrowly go over Stekelenburg's crossbar.
The Netherlands are now on a national-side record of ten straight wins, and will automatically qualify for the next round provided Cameroon and Denmark tie in their final match.
The Dutch were able to give a warning to teams at this years tournament, that even when going up against a solid defense, they still have the capability to score sudden and spectacular goals from range in the form of Sneijder and van der Vaart. All in all, it was another solid performance by the Dutch, who maintained control of the ball and created a number of opportunities. The score could have easily been much higher if not for Kawashima's heroics, and if not for the trouble they had of having to navigate through a ten-man side defensive unit.
Netherlands is one of the favorites to contend for the title, and even though they have been runner-ups two times, once in 1974 and the following year 1978, they have never won the tournament. Could this year be different for Oranje?