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Japan set-plays down Danes

Other News Materials 25 June 2010 02:48
Japan secured their place in the Round of 16 of the World Cup on Thursday with a 3-1 victory over Denmark, dpa reported.
Japan set-plays down Danes

Japan secured their place in the Round of 16 of the World Cup on Thursday with a 3-1 victory over Denmark, dpa reported.

The win left them on six points, second in Group E, and set up a second round meeting with Paraguay.

Only once before have Japan ever reached the second phase - and that was on home soil in 2002; this, five days after they got their first by beating Cameroon, was only their second World Cup victory on foreign soil.

"I am really happy. This is Japan's best team ever," said Japan captain Makoto Hasebe. "It's unbelievable."

Two first-half free-kicks - the first from Man of the Match Keisuke Honda and the second from Yasuhito Endo - set Japan on their way and although Jon Dal Tomasson pulled one back, Shinji Okazaki made the game safe with three minutes to go.

"We had our chances but just couldn't score the goals. And they had two super free kicks," said Denmark's Thomas Kahlenberg.

"And we knew that we absolutely needed to win. But after we fell behind by two goals it was difficult."

Denmark had begun brightly, a series of early crosses suggesting they had taken to heart the much-discussed statistic that they were, on average, 8 centimetres per man taller than Japan.

Takeshi Okada's side initially seemed unsettled by the aerial assault, and were possibly a touch fortunate that Denmark's only real chance in the opening 10 minutes fell to centre-back Per Kroldrup. Tumbling backwards, he hooked his volley just wide.

As Denmark's method became predictable, though, Japan settled.

Daisuke Matsui was denied by the knee of Thomas Sorensen as he ran on to Yoshito Okubo's astute angled ball, and then captain Makoto Hasebe beat Sorensen only to see his shot skim the outside of the side netting.

The goal was coming, and it arrived on 17 minutes from the predictable source of Honda, who sent a 35-yard free-kick wobbling and wavering through the air and past a befuddled Sorensen.

The second, 12 minutes later, was more orthodox as Endo, the Asian Player of the Year, clipped his set-play over the wall and inside Sorensen's left-hand post.

After all the talk of how the Jabulani ball is supposedly difficult to control at altitude, Japan seem to have recalibrated with remarkable efficiency.

It could have been even better for them by half-time, left-back Yuichi Komano breaking forward and striking a firm shot goalwards only for Sorensen to tip over.

Moments after half-time, Endo almost added yet another free-kick, Sorensen misjudging what was probably a mishit cross and touching the ball onto the post.

Tomasson had been denied by a brave block from Eiji Kawashima in the first half, and the Japan keeper was quick off his line to deny the veteran forward seven minutes into the second, after Nicklas Bendtner had flicked on Lars Jacobsen's raking angled ball.

As Japan became increasingly content to hold what they had, Denmark came to boss possession, but their passing lacked the incisiveness it had had in their victory over Cameroon, and Okada's side seemed comfortable.

But then, from nothing, Bendtner rattled the bar with a speculative long-ranger, and Denmark came again.

Hasebe bundled over Daniel Agger in the box and, although Tomasson's weak penalty was saved, he knocked in the rebound.

Even then, though, Japan seemed unruffled, and with three minutes remaining Okazaki rolled in the decisive third after brilliant approach play from Honda.

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