Netherlands could not hold on to a two goal lead and were lucky to leave Belgium with a 2-2 draw against a much better Japan side.

  • By Michael Bell
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hondaJapan started brightly, but against the run of play Rafael van der Vaart gave the Dutch a 12th minute lead, when he latched onto an error in the Japanese defence before lifting the ball into the net.

It was 2-0 on 39 minutes, with Van der Vaart’s great ball setting Arjen Robben free on the right hand side, and the stand in captain fired a brilliant shot into the top corner from just outside the box.

Just before the break Japan pulled one back through Yuya Osako, who finished first time into the corner after being played through by Makato Hasebe.

At half time, both managers made a changes which completely changed the game, with Louis van Gaal taking off Nigel de Jong for Jetro Willems, while Alberto Zaccheroni brought on Shinji Kagawa, and Yasuhito Endo.

With Daley Blind playing the anchor role for the Dutch in the second half Japan began to control the midfield with Kagawa, Endo and Keisuke Honda pulling the strings.

Japan found their equaliser on the hour mark, and it was the excellent Honda who fired into the bottom corner after neat passing around the Dutch box.

From that moment on Netherlands seemed to settle for the draw, and showed no real attacking intentions, with substitute Memphis Depay’s long range effort the only real chance created in the second period.

It was Japan who should have won the game, with Yoichiro Kakitani firing inches wide from yards out as the Dutch defense were carved open by Kagawa.

A disappointing performance by Netherlands, who were outplayed for most of the game, and the lack of attacking intentions towards the end was not great to see. Credit to Japan, who were excellent in the second half with Honda a joy to watch.

Netherlands were lucky not to lose their unbeaten run which now stretches to 16 games, but an improvement will be required when Colombia visit the Amsterdam Arena on Tuesday night.

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