Durban: The Dutch have good reason to give Japan plenty of respect before their Group E match on Saturday and not just because of the Blue Samurai`s surprise victory over Cameroon in their World Cup opener.
The Dutch, who will be looking for vast improvement on their laboured 2-0 victory over Denmark on Monday, still have fresh memories of their shock at being outplayed by the Japanese for an hour in a friendly last year.
The Dutch ultimately ran out 3-0 winners in that match in Enschede and a similar result in on Saturday at the Moses Mabhida stadium would suit them fine as they look to book a place in the round of 16.
"The first hour of that match Japan was in charge but finally we won," Dutch playmaker Wesley Sneijder told reporters.
"Our coach said that was the only match our opponents really made it difficult for us, so let that be the only one."
Coach Bert van Marwijk is expected to stick with the same line-up he chose for the Denmark game, preferring again to use impressive winger Eljero Elia as an impact player coming on from the bench.
The Netherlands` most potent weapon on the wing, Arjen Robben, has been training on his own this week as he continues his recovery from a hamstring injury and is highly unlikely to be risked.
Japan`s win over Cameroon in Bloemfontein on Monday ended a miserable run of results for Takeshi Okada`s team and so he will again forgo the traditional short passing game for a more compact defensive style.
"It doesn`t matter what anyone thinks, I have to pick players that are going to win us three points." Okada told the Kyodo news agency.
Defensive midfielder Yuki Abe also had bad news for anyone hoping for a free-flowing contest.
"The Dutch themselves think their strength lies in attack so what we need to do is try to wind them up and frustrate them," he said.
An added incentive for both teams on Saturday is that whoever tops Group E will return play their second round match in Durban, which not only offers football free of altitude complications but is the warmest of the host cities.