After a frustrating opening half for the Dutch side, it finally
broke through in the 53rd minute with Sneijder's stinging drive
deflected by Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima into his own net.
Japan had the best chance to level the score a minute from time but
an unmarked substitute Shinji Okazaki fired over the bar from just 10
yards as Netherlands held on for victory.
The result handed the Oranje maximum points from its opening two
fixtures in Group E.
The Oranje, who had a sea of supporters at Durban's Moses Mabhida
Stadium, dominated possession but had just one shot on goal in the
Rafael van der Vaart's 25-yard shot towards the near post proved an
easy save for Kawashima.
Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk fielded the same line-up that beat
Denmark 2-0 in its group opener, with Van der Vaart, Sneijder and Dirk
Kuyt playing in support of forward Robin Van Persie.
Netherlands dominated the early exchanges and created the first chance
after four minutes when Van Persie's teasing cross from the left flashed
across the goal and just eluded Liverpool striker Kuyt.
Shortly after, Sneijder's curled free-kick went over the bar.
At the other end, Yuto Nagatomo's right-footed strike from the edge
of the area went wide.
On the half-hour mark, Yuji Nakazawa did well to clear Giovanni van
Bronckhorst's cross from the right with Van Persie waiting inside the
Soon after, Keisuke Honda nodded high from Daisuke Matsui's
free-kick. Tulio Nataka then latched onto Yasushito Endo's free-kick and
his header went wide as Japan got closer.
Japan first tested Maarten Stekelenburg in the 37th minute, with
Matsui's volley forcing a save from the goalkeeper.
Five minutes before the break, Honda wasted a good chance when he
fired a 40-yard strike way over the bar.
Netherlands pressed forward more aggressively after the break and Van
Persie twice had the chance to break the deadlock.
His weak header from Van Bronckhorst's cross proved an easy save for
Kawashima and seconds later, the Arsenal striker fired wide from 15
Netherlands took the lead soon after. A poor headed clearance from
Japan's defence fell to Van Persie who spotted Sneijder and the Inter
Milan winger's powerful strike came off Kawashima and into the back of
Japan reacted and Yoshito Okubo forced a good save from Stekelenburg
with a stinging drive from 25 yards. Shortly after, Okubo fired over the
bar as the Blue Samurai surged for the equaliser.
With 15 minutes remaining, the ever-present Okubo shot wide of the
far post as another opportunity went by for Japan.
Substitute Ibrahim Afellay twice had the chance to put the game
beyond Japan's reach in the latter stages of the match but his
close-range efforts were denied by Kawashima.
With seconds left to play, Okazaki struck wide from close-range, much
to the relief of the Dutch fans.