The Netherlands managed to grind out a 2-0 win over Denmark despite struggling to live up to the billing as one of the most dangerous attacking teams at the World Cup.
The Dutch took the lead through an own goal in the 46th when Denmark defender Daniel Agger found his own net when trying to clear a cross from Robin van Persie.
Simon Poulsen was blamed for the own goal in the match report but FIFA’s Technical Study Group of coaching experts made an amendment after studying video tape.
Dirk Kuyt doubled the lead in the 85th when he tapped in a rebound off the post from close range.
Denmark had frustrated the Dutch until the own goal with a compact midfield, and the Netherlands never came close to the free-flowing, high-scoring type of play their fans have become accustomed to – despite several other chances.
Instead, they had to rely on a bit of luck, as Van Persie beat an onrushing Thomas Sorensen to a long through ball down the left flank before squaring up to send a cross into the area.
Poulsen had plenty of time and space to clear the ball, but his off-balance header bounced off Agger’s back before trickling into the net.
“That was like a bucket of cold water over our heads,” Denmark coach Morten Olsen said.
“Simon Poulsen was one of our better players but he was unlucky. It’s one of those things that happens in football.”
After wasting a number of chances to double the lead, substitute Eljero Elia broke clear into the area and rolled his shot past Sorensen and against the post. Kuyt beat his marker to tap the rebound into an empty net in the 85th minute.
Both coaches sprang a surprise in their lineups with Bert van Marwijk putting Arjen Robben on the bench after previously ruling him out of the game because of a hamstring problem, while Morten Olsen started Arsenal forward Nicklas Bendtner after saying he would almost certainly miss the game with a groin problem.
But with the 1-0 lead to protect, Van Marwijk never looked likely to risk Robben’s fitness by putting him on, as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury.
Bendtner was taken off in the 62nd. Olsen said Bendtner “wasn’t supposed to play,” but that a late injury to Jon Dahl Tomasson forced him to change his mind. “We had to take some chances,” Olsen said.
“But we couldn’t let Bendtner play more than one hour. We still have two important games.”
The Dutch next face Japan in Durban on Saturday, the same day Denmark play Cameroon in Tshwane.