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Japan’s disappointment at losing to the Netherlands on Saturday was understandable, but Thursday’s final group game against Denmark was always going to be the one that mattered most. With only a point now needed to secure qualification for the knockout phase, Takeshi Okada’s side stands on the verge of an unlikely triumph.

Japan came tantalizingly close to snatching a late draw against the Dutch in Durban, but the points collected from its opening victory over Cameroon mean the 1-0 defeat can be written off as collateral damage. Denmark’s 2-1 win over the Africans later in the day turned out to be a far more significant result, and the Danes’ inability to score more means they must now beat Okada’s team to claim a place in the second round.

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