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2:30 PM ET, June 24, 2010
Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg, South Africa
Last 5 Matches
Free-kick goals give Japan rousing win over Denmark and berth in last 16
RUSTENBERG, South Africa -- Take a bow, Japan. Better yet, take two. You've advanced at the World Cup.Spectacular first-half goals by Keisuke Honda and Yusuhito Endo helped lift the Japanese to a 3-1 win over Denmark on Thursday, sending Japan into the round of 16. It was an energentic performance by the Japanese, who collected just their second tournament victory on foreign soil.When the game was over, the happy team bowed like a chorus line before its joyous fans on each side of the field."For Japan it's a big win," Honda said. "I'm glad we won but I am not satisfied. The next game is more important. I want to show the Japanese that nothing is impossible."The Danes, who replied in the 81st minute when Jon Dahl Tomasson tapped in the rebound from his own penalty kick, failed to advance from the group stage for the first time in four World Cup appearances.Japan's first two goals came from free kicks less than 15 minutes apart, and Shinji Okazaki scored an insurance goal in the 87th.The Japanese finished group play with six points compared to three for third-place Denmark. Cameroon was last.The Japanese have now reached the knockout round for the second time. They also advanced in 2002, when they were tournament co-hosts with South Korea.Japan will face Paraguay in Pretoria on Tuesday in the second round."Our team has a strength that others don't have," Japan coach Takeshi Okada said. "We are truly united. We wanted to demonstrate that soccer is a team sport."Honda got his second goal of the tournament in the 17th minute with a blistering kick from the right of the Danish area. The ball went over the wall and swerved beyond goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen's reach into the far corner.Endo's free kick came from outside the penalty area directly in front of the Danish goal. He curled his shot around the wall. Despite leaping to his left Sorensen couldn't get to it."The way the whole match progressed was decided on the two set pieces when they scored the two goals," Denmark coach Morten Olsen said. "We knew which two players were going to take the free kicks. We prepared, but it didn't help."Denmark was awarded a penalty when Makoto Hasebe brought down Daniel Agger. Tomasson hit the ball at Eiji Kawashima, but the goalkeeper couldn't hold on and the Danish captain knocked in the loose ball.Honda tormented the Danish defense with his tight dribbling before laying the ball to Okazaki, a substitute, who put away the final goal."Prior to the match, the coach said we shouldn't concentrate on the defense and that we should attack," Honda said. "That's what the coach told the players to boost our motivation. It was really effective and led to this wonderful result."