Honda drives Japan past Indomitable Lions


Keisuke Honda carried Japan to their first World Cup finals victory on foreign soil when he scored the goal which beat Cameroon 1-0 in a Group E match yesterday.
Paul Le Guen’s Cameroon had been expected to ease to victory against an out-of-form Japan in what on paper appeared their easiest group fixture.
Takeshi Okada’s Japan had other ideas and bustled their way to a deserved win to join the Netherlands as the day’s Group E winners after the Dutch beat Denmark 2-0 in the early match.
A dour first half was briefly illuminated by Honda’s 39th minute goal. Daisuke Matsui was allowed time and space on the right wing to float in a cross that evaded everyone but Honda at the far post, who finished neatly. Cameroon had registered the game’s first shot on goal shortly before Honda’s strike but the Indomitable Lions failed on too many occasions to feed the ball to their front three.
They improved after the break with captain Samuel Eto’o beating four players down the right wing before setting up Eric Choupo Moting, who curled his shot wide of the far post. Cameroon’s Stephane Mbia hit the bar late on with a rasping 30 metre drive but the African side, who left normal first-choice midfielder Alexandre Song on the bench, did not threaten enough as Japan left Honda up front while the rest defended their lead.
Dutch’s lucky win
Netherlands needed a lucky own goal and a late strike by Dirk Kuyt to get their World Cup campaign off to a winning start with a 2-0 win over Denmark in their Group E match at Soccer City yesterday.
They took the lead just after halftime when Denmark defender Simon Poulsen’s misdirected header from Dutch striker Robin van Persie’s cross hit the back of fellow Dane Daniel Agger and went into the net for the first own goal of the tournament.
Forward Dirk Kuyt put the game beyond Denmark in the 85th minute when he followed up to tap home after Eljero Elia had hit the post following a through ball by Wesley Sneijder. Although the nature of the own goal was fortunate for the Dutch, they probably deserved what luck was going after being more enterprising for most of a largely poor first half. The Danes seemed content to sit back and soak up what was thrown at them -which was actually very little.
Van Persie and Rafael Van der Vaart created a couple of half-chances that hardly drew gasps from the vuvuzela-blowing fans, while the Danes were just as ineffective on their forays.
The nearest they came to a goal was when Nicklas Bendtner, surprisingly named to start after recovering from a groin injury, sent a header wide after 27 minutes.