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Japan’s hard-boiled victory over Cameroon on Monday was never going to win Takeshi Okada’s side any new friends, but confidence, respect and three crucial points are a far more valuable reward.

After three weeks in which Japan’s chances of securing a first-ever World Cup win on foreign soil looked more remote than ever, the picture has now changed completely. Instead of facing the Netherlands on Saturday with the threat of elimination hanging over their heads, Okada’s men do so knowing victory will all but clinch their place in the second round.

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