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 Togel Singapore 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.
Japan braced for tough Dutch test in Durban.
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.
With Bafana Bafana’s World Cup life hanging by a thread, many South Africans face a tricky choice – throw away their yellow jerseys and watch the World Cup as they would the Olympics – with interest but without fervour, or adopt another team to try to get excited about.
Yesterday was ‘Football Friday’, when the country was encouraged to dress up for the Cup, and even my middle-aged hosts were sporting yellow Bafana gear accordingly. But unlike on Cape Town’s tourist-friendly Waterfront, where I enjoyed the opening game amidst multiracial hordes of happiness, the crowd, if you can call it that, watching South Africa’s defeat against Mexico in a local bar here in the Guateng province, were less than thrilled by their nation’s first eleven.
The Johannesburg hinterland where I am staying has businesses dominated by Afrikaans-speaking whites, whose preferred sport is rugby, and barely a third of the bar that night was wearing yellow. As Uruguay began to rack up the score and it became evident that the hosts would finish up on the losing side, the interest levels waned, eyes drifted from the TV screens and conversations turned to other matters.
The next day the airwaves were full of voices urging the nation not to give up on the World Cup, but probably many will. Unless South Africa win by a cricket score against France and Uruguay beat Mexico, the host nation will be out for the first time in the first round.
While blacks are by far the majority here and love football, they are not visible to many tourists who steer clear of the inner-city areas or townships/shanty towns they live in for fear of crime.
So what visitors are left with are semi-interested Afrikaaners who, if the radio phone-ins are anything to go by, have little experience of the Beautiful Game.
The nation as a whole has come together with car flags, shirts and football fridays, but as their team makes its early but not unexpected exit from the tournament, the separate communities of the Rainbow Nation will shuffle back to their townships and gated communities, the dream of a soccer-Invictus a fond memory of 2010.