Saturday, June 19, 2010

Japan braced for tough Dutch test in Durban

The Netherlands brushed aside Japan when the two sides met in a friendly in Enschede just over nine months ago, but there's far more at stake when the pair meet at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban today, with a place in the World Cup knock-out stages on the line.

Fresh from their opening day victories, both sides will be eager to book a spot in the Round of 16 with another win here, although neither side looked particularly convincing in their first-up performances.

The Dutch may have laboured to a scratchy 2-0 win over Denmark last time out, but for Japan coach Takeshi Okada it was all about the result, as the Samurai Blue conjured their first ever World Cup victory on foreign soil with a narrow 1-0 win over Cameroon.

It was hardly champagne football on display from the Asian powerhouses, but after relieving some of the immense pressure heaped upon them by an expectant press and public, Japan can relax as they go into the Durban clash as underdogs.


CSKA Moscow attacker Keisuke Honda knows all about Dutch football, having spent two-and-a-half successful seasons at VVV Venlo before moving to the Russian league.

The 24-year-old scored the only goal in the game against Cameroon, and he will hope to extend his streak against a Dutch defence which at times looked vulnerable in their opening win over Denmark.

"The atmosphere within the team is very good after collecting a win," fellow attacker Yoshito Okubo told the Japan Football Association website.

"As we will play at a lower altitude, I should be able to run more," he added.

Should Japan lose the match in Durban, they will face Denmark in a do-or-die showdown in Rustenburg on June 24.

Samurai Blue fans no doubt hope that it won't come to that, as Takeshi Okada and his side look to pull off another improbable win over one of the genuine aristocrats of world football.

Copyright © Mike Tuckerman & Soccerphile.com

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