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Japan vs. Netherlands

It's not a surprise to see the Netherlands as one of the co-leaders of Group E. The team joining the Dutch, however, has turned some heads.

The favored Dutch will take on surprising Japan in Durban on Saturday, and a victory for either team will give it sole possession of first place and possibly a spot in the knockout round.

Both teams enter off victories, with the Netherlands turning in a workman-like performance and getting a goal from Dirk Kuyt and an own goal to beat Denmark 2-0 on Monday.

"We wanted to play beautiful football but we lost the ball," coach Bert Van Marwijk said. "(But) from time to time you could see how good we can be."

Japan entered the tournament having lost all four friendlies in preparation, with coach Takeski Okada drawing the ire of the proud country for the poor performances.

The Japanese, though, put those woes aside with a 1-0 upset of Cameroon on Monday. Keisuke Honda scored the goal that gave his country its first World Cup victory outside of Japan.

Okada, though, wasn't about to gloat with two tough European opponents upcoming.

"This match is only our preparation for the second one and we still need to improve," Okada said. "I don't think it was a great success - what's important is the next game."

Japan will need to show improvement based on its lone previous meeting with the Netherlands, a 3-0 loss Sept. 5. Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie and Klaas Jan Huntelaar were the scorers.

Van Persie, who missed most of the season for Arsenal due to a right ankle injury, played well and looked fit in the opener. The striker picked up a yellow card and was substituted in the 77th minute but linked well with Sneijder for stretches of the match.

"He's had a long injury and now he's almost 100 percent and I think it's good to know that in a game like that he can start and now he can play better," teammate Rafael Van der Vaart said.

The Dutch, though, likely won't have Arjen Robben rejoin the lineup. The Bayern Munich winger has not seen action since injuring his hamstring in a 6-1 friendly win over Hungary about a week before the start of the World Cup.

The Netherlands can advance with a victory and a win or draw by Denmark against Cameroon on Saturday. Japan will move on if it wins and Cameroon wins or draws against the Danes.

The Japanese were without striker Takayuki Morimoto against Cameroon, but he may return Saturday. No forward has scored for the Blue Samurai in the last five matches, and Okada pushed the midfielder Honda into an advanced role to bolster the attack in the opener.

Honda has emerged as a star for Japan after a successful stint in which he scored once in four UEFA Champions League matches for Russian club CSKA Moscow.

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