Midfielder Wesley Sneijder scored to lead the Netherlands to a 1-0 win over Japan and the second win in as many games for the Oranje.
The win, combined with Denmark’s 2-1 victory over Cameroon earned the Dutch a guaranteed spot in the next round.
Oranje was expected to be an offensive powerhouse and qualify easily from Group E, they have been unimpressive in squeeking out victories over Denmark and Japan.
“Why do we focus on good soccer instead of winning?” Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk told the Associated Press after the match. “Let me assure you that we really, really want to win and if we can do that in style, then great. But you have to be able to win ugly games.”
Sneijder’s marker came at the 53rd minute after the Dutch came out in the second half pressuring the Japan end in an attempt to break the deadlock.
Netherlands striker Robin van Persie had several quality scoring chances after breaking through the tight Japanese defense, and did eventually set up Sneijder’s goal. Sneijder blasted a powerful kick that went off goaltender Eiji Kawashima’s hand and into the net.
The Dutch was again without the services of star winger Arjen Robben, who has missed both World Cup matches as he recovers from a hamstring injury he sustained in a friendly.
Group E play will wrap up on Thursday when Netherlands play Cameroon, while Japan faces Denmark.