Scoring its opening marker on an own goal, the Netherlands defeated Denmark 2-0 in the first match of Group E on Monday.
The favoured Dutch struggled through most of the match offensively despite tremendous ball control, but managed to earn three points and should advance from Group E with a win in their two remaining games.
The fluke own goal occurred in the 46th minute, when Denmark defender Simon Poulsen attempted to clear a Robin van Persie cross, but headed it off teammate Daniel Agger and into the gaping net.
“That was like a bucket of cold water over our heads,” Denmark coach Morten Olsen told the Associated Press of the own goal. “Simon Poulsen was one of our better players but he was unlucky. It’s one of those things that happens in football.”
In the 85th minute, Netherlands added an insurance marker when substitute Eljero Elia shot it past Denmark goaltender Thomas Sorenson, but the shot struck the post. The rebound went to Dirk Kuyt, who quickly deposited it into the net.
Injured Netherlands winger Arjen Robben was surprisingly inserted on the bench, despite having been ruled out of the opener last week by manager Bert Van Marwijk after sustaining a hamstring injury in a friendly match.
With a lead through much of the game, Robben did not make an appearance, and it is still unclear when he will receive playing time in the World Cup.
The next game for both squads will be on Saturday, when Netherlands will look to remain undefeated when they play Japan, while Denmark will play Cameroon.