Keisuke Honda revved up the throng of blue-clad supporters in Rustenburg on Thursday as Japan punched its ticket to the Round of 16 with a 3-1 victory over Denmark.
Honda, Yasuhito Endo and Shinji Okazaki scored for Japan while Jon Dahl Tomasson replied for Denmark.
With the win, Japan sets itself up for a second round match against Paraguay while Denmark will head home after a disappointing tournament.
The first half couldn’t have gone any better for the Japanese. They pushed the pace on the attack and lured the Danes into untimely fouls.
In the 17th minute, Honda helped the Blue Samurai jump out to an early lead, pounding a free kick that knuckled past the out-stretched fingertips of Danish keeper Thomas Sorensen.
After Per Kroldrup was given a yellow card for an aggressive challenge on Yoshito Okubo in the 30th minute, Endo curled a beautiful free kick around a wall of Danish defenders and the post, giving Japan a 2-0 lead
Tomasson, the Danish captain, was the sole bright spot for Denmark in the first half.
In the 14th minute, he broke in on the left side and got a shot off that just skipped past the far post.
Then in the 21st minute, he nearly tied the match as he lunged at a crossed ball but couldn’t get a boot on it before the Japanese keeper punched it away.
While the Danes came out strong in the second half and had several quality chances, they had trouble breaking the Japanese defence who has only given up one goal in the tournament coming into the match.
Denmark started to apply pressure in the 78th minute with Soren Larsen cracking a shot off the crossbar. A few minutes later, Tomasson was given a penalty kick after a Makoto Hasebe foul in the box.
Despite being stopped on the initial attempt, Tomasson followed up his rebound and easily tapped the ball in the open goal.
But the glory was short lived and the dagger was applied only minutes later.
With Denmark pushing for an equalizer, Honda picked up the ball and danced around his man before unselfishly setting up Okazaki who tapped it in to seal the game.
Japan came into the tournament as the 45th ranked team and moved on to the Round of 16 for the first time on foreign soil. They advanced to the second round in 2002 when the tournament was held in Japan and South Korea.
Second round action begins June 26 with the Japan-Paraguay match set for June 29.