Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Sneijder the decider


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DURBAN – Wesley Sneijder scored the only goal yesterday to help the Netherlands beat Japan 1-0 for their second straight World Cup win.
Sneijder’s 53rd-minute strike finally broke down Japan’s stubborn resistance, which had stifled Dutch creativity for much of the match.
Robin van Persie laid the ball back and Sneijder sent a powerful right-foot shot that Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima could only deflect into his net. It was the Inter Milan playmaker’s 15th goal in 63 internationals.
“Our players did everything they could, but we could not beat the Netherlands,” Japan coach Takeshi Okada said. “We feel sorry for the fans.”
The Netherlands, however, again failed to live up to their billing as one of the most fluent attacking teams. They struggled to a 2-0 victory over Denmark in their first Group E match, while Japan had a 1-0 victory over Cameroon.
Before Sneijder’s goal, Van Persie missed chances for the Dutch in front of 62 010 fans at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Japan responded to the goal by pushing forward and Yoshito Okubo had two shots in quick succession, the first was saved by Netherlands goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg and the second went over the bar.
Substitute Ibrahim Afellay came close to doubling the Dutch lead in the 84th minute and again in the 88th when he bore down on goal, but he was foiled both times by good saves from Kawashima diving at his feet.
Japan nearly made the Netherlands pay for those misses when substitute Shinji Okazaki latched on to a deep cross at the far post and shot just over the bar.
The win set a record of ten straight victories for the Netherlands in World Cup qualifiers and finals tournament matches. It also extended the Dutch record of never losing to an Asian team.
The win has placed the Netherlands in first place in Group E with six points. Cameroon and Denmark are also in the group. (AP)
Line-upsNetherlands – Maarten Stekelenburg, Gregory Van der Wiel, John Heitinga, Joris Mathijsen, Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, Mark Van Bommel, Nigel De Jong, Wesley Sneijder (Ibrahim Afellay, 83), Rafael Van der Vaart (Eljero Elia, 72), Dirk Kuyt, Robin Van Persie (Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, 88).
Japan – Eiji Kawashima, Yuto Nagatomo, Yuji Nakazawa, Marcus Tanaka, Yuichi Komano, Makoto Hasebe (Shinji Okazaki, 77), Daisuke Matsui (Shunsuke Nakamura, 64), Yuki Abe, Yasuhito Endo, Keisuke Honda; Yoshito Okubo (Keiji Tamada, 77).

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