Japan overpower Denmark to cruise into last 16+

A pair of fabulous first-half free kicks from Keisuke Honda and Yasuhito Endo and a late strike from substitute Shinji Okazaki powered Japan to a 3-1 win over Denmark on Thursday and into the second round of the World Cup finals.

The Japanese needed only a point to secure their passage into the last 16 but an ultimately comfortable victory in their final Group E game means they join already qualified Netherlands in the last 16, where they will meet Group F winners Paraguay in Pretoria on June 29.

Takeshi Okada’s men wrapped up the group phase with six points, three behind the Netherlands, who won 2-1 against Cameroon.

Japan reached the knockout phase for the first time since the 2002 World Cup that the country co-hosted with South Korea.

“This was our first objective (to reach the second round) so I am relieved,” said coach Okada. “The players kept going until the end without losing their focus. I am proud to be with such a great bunch of players.”

Okada kept faith with the side that beat Cameroon 1-0 before losing to the Netherlands by the same scoreline in Durban on Saturday.

The Blue Samurai made a bright start and Daisuke Matsui went close to breaking the deadlock after 13 minutes but the Grenoble midfielder was denied as Denmark goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen blocked his flick after a dangerous ball into the box by Yoshito Okubo.

Makoto Hasebe then fired just off target but won a free kick following a foul by Christian Poulsen and Honda stepped up to break the deadlo


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June 24th, 2010

Jimmy Kilpatrick

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