Denmark vs. Japan  1 - 3

Report

The Japanese came into the game needing but a draw to finish second in Group E while Denmark had to have a victory in order to progress to the knockout rounds.

But it was Japan that got on the board first on 17 minutes as Keisuke Honda's 35-yard free kick from the right initially wrong-footed goalkeeper Thomas Sørensen before beating him to the far post for a 1-0 lead.

Thirteen minutes later, the set piece came to haunt Denmark again as Yasuhito Endo curled a spectacular shot from 25 yards that left Sørensen with absolutely no chance.

The Danes pressed on knowing they had to respond, but failed passing and bad touches in the area proved their downfall until 10 minutes from time when Daniel Agger won a dubious penalty.

Jon Dahl Tomasson stepped up and saw his effort saved by Eiji Kawashima, but the veteran striker bundled home the rebound for his 52nd international goal to make him the joint top scorer for Denmark.

It would not be enough, though, and Japan added one for good measure a minute from time when Honda unselfishly laid the ball back across goal for a wide open Shinji Okazaki to tap home.

Article

Kan congratulates Japan team on excellent achievement

25 June 2010 11:52

(GSM) - Prime Minister Naoto Kan has congratulated Japan football team after their stunning 3-1 victory over Denmark to reach the second round of the World Cup in South Africa.

The first-half goals from Keisuke Honda and Yasuhito Endo carried the Blue Samurai to the last 16 for the second time.

The Japanese Prime Minister Kan said: "I wish to congratulate the team on their excellent achievement.

"The side has given the whole country energy and pride."

The former Japan captain Hidetoshi Nakata, supports: "That's the sort of game we've wanted to see.

"They've grown up at this World Cup. Now let's hope they can go further than we did in 2002."

The three times Asian Cup winner reached the last 16 in 2002 as World Cup co-hosts.

Article

Japan make history by sinking Danes

24 June 2010 10:40

RUSTENBURG, South Africa (AFP) - Superb free-kicks by Keisuke Honda and Yasuhito Endo inspired Japan to an exhilarating 3-1 win over Denmark that sends them into the last 16 of a World Cup for the first time on foreign soil.

The two first-half strikes set Takeshi Okada's squad on track for a meeting with Paraguay in Pretoria on Tuesday.

Denmark pulled a goal back when skipper Jon Dahl Tomasson netted the rebound from his own penalty after Daniel Agger had been shoved off the ball by Japan's captain, Makoto Hasebe, nine minutes from time.

But substitute Shinji Okazaki wrapped up a famous victory and condemned the Danes to their first group-stage exit from a World Cup.

Man-of-the-match Honda said he believed Japan could harbour realistic hopes of going even further in the tournament.

"I expected to be really jubilant but I'm not as jubilant as I thought I would be because I don't think we are finished here. I believe we can go further in this competition," said the CSKA Moscow star.

Denmark coach Morten Olsen said his side had paid for their failure to take their early chances.

"That makes the difference at this level. They took their chances, we didn't take ours and it became an uphill struggle for us.

"The way the whole match evolved was decided by the two free-kicks in the first half."

Needing to win against opponents requiring only a point, Denmark's best period came in an opening quarter of an hour in which they might easily have taken the lead.

Tomasson failed to connect with Simon Poulsen's deflected cross on the edge of the six-yard box and a penalty claim was waved away when, from the resulting corner, Per Kroldrup seemed to be impeded by centreback Yuji Nakazawa as he volleyed wide.

Japan hit back with two chances in quick succession.

Daisuke Matsui was thwarted at close range by Thomas Sorensen's legs before skipper Makoto Hasebe struck a drive fractionally over the angle of bar and post.

Cutting in from the left, Tomasson then saw his attempt to place a shot beyond Eiji Kawashima run inches beyond the far post, just before Japan claimed the lead.

A free-kick conceded 35 yards out did not seem to present a major danger and Honda's shot was not struck with full power.

Sorensen, though, misread it, moving initially to his left before failing to get back across to his right in time to prevent the strike from finding the corner of the net.

The Stoke goalkeeper was at fault on that one but there was little he could do about Japan's second, on the half-hour mark.

Kroldrup was booked for pulling down Yoshito Okubo on the edge of the area and Endo stepped up to dip a David Beckham-esque free-kick over the corner of the wall and just inside Sorensen's left-hand post.

Danish coach Morten Olsen reacted by replacing 34-year-old midfielder Martin Jorgensen with Jakob Poulsen.

But the introduction of younger legs had little impact, with Christian Poulsen's comfortably-saved long-range effort the best the Danes could muster before the break.

Endo came close to claiming his second soon after the restart, when Sorensen misjudged another long range free-kick and was relieved to see the ball find the post after skimming off his fingertips.

Thomas Kahlenberg was unable to control the ball when Tomasson's flick found him unmarked at the back post as Denmark began to pile on the pressure.

Kawashima was able to deal with a fierce 25-yard effort from Jakob Poulsen and a Daniel Agger free-kick and having been beaten by a Soren Larsen volley that came back off the bar, also stopped Tomasson's spot-kick before the forward bundled the ball over the line.

Japan's advantage was restored at the end however. The outstanding Honda turned Dennis Rommedahl superbly in the box and teed up Okazaki for the simplest of finishes.

Article

Denmark coach surprised by Japan´s tactical shift

24 June 2010 04:30

RUSTENBURG, South Africa (AFP) - Denmark coach Morten Olsen has voiced his surprise that Japan opted to change their tactical approach just before the World Cup, but admitted the move has been successful.

Olsen was struck by the difference between the high-tempo pressing game Japan played in a friendly against the Netherlands last year, when they lost 3-0 after dominating for the first hour, and the more cautious approach in their 1-0 defeat by the Dutch in their second Group E match here.

"They are a little more defensive, that is right," Olsen said ahead of his side's must-win meeting with the Japanese here on Thursday evening.

"They played with high pressure then and they play with low pressure now."

The switch has not affected Olsen's admiration for Japan's quality and he knows his injury-hit squad face a tough battle to overcome opponents who only need a draw to reach the last 16 of a World Cup for the first time on foreign soil.

"I said before the tournament that Japan was one of the teams that could surprise people who know nothing about Asian football," Olsen said.

"They fight for each other and the team. You saw the Dutch team, with all the quality that they have, they had many problems against Japan.

"But my team can perform better than we have done so far and that is what we will need to do."

Asked to sum up his mood going into the match, Olsen replied: "I'm excited but not nervous.

"If you are not excited before a match like this you should stop as a coach.

"I trust my team but even if have a good day we can still lose. We hope for a lucky punch."

Olsen would not be drawn on whether Denmark's height advantage could make the difference, as has been widely predicted in the build-up to the match.

Per Kroldrup, the Fiorentina defender who is expected to replace the suspended Simon Kjaer, was more forthcoming.

"Yes, that's something we hope we can benefit from, that we are perhaps stronger than the Japanese in the air," he said.

Olsen has rubbished suggestions that his squad, one of the oldest in the tournament, has passed its peak.

Pointing at the 32-year-old former Chelsea winger, Jesper Gronkjaer, Olsen asked: "What's 32? He can still play for eight years. If a player is fit and not tired of playing it is fantastic.

"They have experience. They have played in European cups, World Cups, they know each other, as human beings as well as their strengths and weaknesses as players.

"They are quality players because they have been able to keep a high level for a long time."

Olsen has described Arsenal forward Nicklas Bendtner as doubtful for the match because of a groin injury which restricts his training to alternate days.

It would be a major surprise however if Bendtner did not start a match in which Denmark will be aiming to maintain the country's proud record of always progressing beyond the first round when they make it World Cup finals.

Article

Preview: Denmark - Japan

23 June 2010 22:36

(GSM) - Denmark and Japan will battle for second spot in Group E which secures a place in the knock-out stages. The Netherlands already booked their spot in the next round and Cameroon is already eliminated after losing their first two matches against Denmark and Japan.

The Danes recovered well from their first match, which they lost against the Netherlands (2-0). The Scandinavian team bounced back from behind to defeat Cameroon (2-1). Dennis Rommedahl provided some Danish Dynamite by setting up Nicklas Bendtner for the equaliser and producing the winner on the hour mark.

The Japanese will draw inspiration from their match against World Cup outsiders the Netherlands: the Blue Samurai only lost bay a narrow margin (0-1). The minor loss came after they won their opener 1-0 to Cameroon.

The Asians are aware they have the 'chance of their lifetime' to reach the next round of the World Cup as a draw will see them through.

"The coach has told us that in life you only get a few opportunities to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup and told us to give it our all," said captain Makoto Hasebe.

"We are all really disappointed about losing to the Netherlands, but the Denmark result is not a bad one for us and we will head into the game in a positive frame of mind."

Article

Japan will go for win in Denmark showdown

23 June 2010 22:25

RUSTENBURG, South Africa (AFP) - Japan coach Takeshi Okada has vowed to play for a win in Thursday's decisive World Cup Group E clash with Denmark, despite knowing a draw will be enough to put his side into the last 16.

"For us and for football in Japan as a whole, it is a massive match," Okada told reporters on the eve of the crunch encounter. "The players have got to give everything they have and if they do we can qualify.

"I've told the players not to think about getting a draw. We have to score and we will start the match trying to win."

Okada's positive tone was echoed by Wolfsburg midfielder Makoto Hasebe.

"A really important match is waiting for us," he said. "We stake our whole life on this match, I believe. We will not be playing for a draw, we will be going for a win."

Much has been made of Denmark's height advantage, although Japan are not a particulary short side and Okada underlined that an aerial threat would only be a factor if his side allowed their opponents to put dangerous balls into the box.

"Of course, having taller players can be an advantage," he said. "But we have already played against teams with a height advantage, it doesn't automatically mean you win.

"We will try to do everything we can to stop their crosses and, for the rest, God will decide if we can get the goal we need.

"We cannot suddenly make our players taller. We just have to do what we can with what we've got."

On that theme, Okada made it clear he was looking for a big performance from CSKA Moscow's Seisuke Honda, who scored Japan's goal in a 1-0 defeat of Cameroon that was the Blue Samurai's first World Cup win on foreign soil.

Honda also has experience of the Dutch league and Okada said: "He's scored our only goal and I expect him to help us score again.

"He has the physical strength to compete with European players, and I would like him to take advantage of that."

If Japan do reach the last 16, they will emulate the 2002 squad that made the first knockout round on home soil.

If they fall short, the campaign in South Africa is still likely to be regarded as a success in light of the breakthrough win over Cameroon and a solid display in the 1-0 defeat by the Netherlands, who are already through to the last 16.

"I am not thinking about losing but if we do and the result is worthy of criticism, we will have to accept that," Okada added.

Article

Bendtner doubtful for Japan clash

23 June 2010 20:45

RUSTENBURG, South Africa (AFP) - Nicklas Bendtner is doubtful for Denmark's decisive World Cup Group E clash with Japan on Thursday, Danish coach Morten Olsen revealed.

The Arsenal forward has only been able to train on alternate days because of a groin problem and Olsen will make a late decision on whether he starts a match Denmark must win to reach the last 16.

"You have followed Nicklas's programme, he is quite alright," Olsen told reporters on the eve of the match at Rustenburg's Royal Bafokeng Stadium.

"By necessity he does not train every other day and every time he plays we have to wait to see what the reaction is. There is always a doubt with an injury like that so we have to wait and see."

Asked whether Bendtner had a better than 50-50 chance of being ready to face the Japanese, Olsen replied: "I'm very bad in mathematics, I don't know. He is doubtful."

Losing Bendtner would be a serious blow to Denmark's hopes of getting the win they need, with his forward partner and captain Jon Dahl Tomasson also struggling for full fitness because of a hamstring problem.

As expected, Olsen confirmed that experienced midfielder Daniel Jensen had been ruled out of the match. The Werder Bremen star featured as a second-half substitute in the 2-1 win over Cameroon but suffered a recurrence of an Achilles injury.

Olsen admitted that Denmark's injury problems could be critical on Thursday, although he insisted that he remains confident his side will maintain the country's proud record of having progressed beyond the first round in their three previous World Cup appearances.

"We have our problems with injuries but I will be very disappointed if we do not go through," he said, while expressing his respect for opponents who only need a draw to book a spot in the knockout phase, thanks to a superior goal difference as a result of having lost by only one goal to the Netherlands (Denmark lost 2-0).

"I said before the tournament that Japan was one of the teams that could surprise people who know nothing about Asian football," Olsen said.

"They fight for each other and the team. You saw the Dutch team, with all the quality that they have, they had many problems against Japan.

"But my team can perform better than we have done so far and that is what we will need to do."

Article

Okada wary of Bendtner threat

23 June 2010 15:02

(GSM) - Japan coach Takeshi Okada has pinpointed Nicklas Bendtner as Denmark’s key man, if he is fit to play ahead of team's tough final World Cup Group E match on Thursday.

The Arsenal front man is suffering from a groin injury, but Okada is still worried and planning to stop him.

"I think Bendtner will be the key man in their attack. They will fight under his lead," Okada said.

But Denmark coach Morten Olsen is still uncertain over the inclusion of Bendtner in his team, he said: "There are always players who have small problems.

"Bendtner is still doubtful for the Japan game, and will continue to be regardless of how far we go in the tournament."

The 22-year-old forward is keen to break Japan's defence, he stated: "It could well be more difficult than against Cameroon.

"We have to win, so they can play very tactically. But we have a few advantages we can use, including our height."

Japan boss Okada wants "to fight" with the Danish Dynamite.

"It would be ideal if we can overwhelm the opposition by 10 goals, but it won't be that easy. I think it's going to be a very close, fierce match."

"The coach has told us that in life you only get a few opportunities to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup and told us to give it our all," Japan captain Makoto Hasebe said.

"Will head into the game in a positive frame of mind," he added.

Japan needs at least a draw, while Denmark must win in order to reach the round of 16. Both teams have three points from two matches, but Japan has a better goal difference.

Japan have qualified for the Round of 16 as co-hosts at the 2002 World Cup.