DURBAN, South Africa -- The Netherlands is showing it doesn't have to be flashy to win.
Wesley Sneijder scored the only goal Saturday and the Netherlands beat Japan 1-0, its second straight World Cup win and the second time the Dutch couldn't produce the kind of offensive show they were expected to bring to South Africa.
Sneijder's 53rd-minute strike finally broke through a Japanese defense that had stifled Oranje creativity in front of 62,010 fans at Moses Mabhida Stadium.
"Why do we focus on good soccer instead of winning?" Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk said. "Let me assure you that we really, really want to win and if we can do that in style, then great. But you have to be able to win ugly games."
Despite scoring just twice themselves so far in the tournament - the Dutch got an own goal in their 2-0 win over Denmark - they will advance to the knockout phase of the tournament if Cameroon and Denmark tie later Saturday.
Striker Robin van Persie missed chances for the Dutch before finally setting up Sneijder's goal. He laid the ball back and the Inter Milan midfielder fired a powerful right-footed shot that goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima could only deflect into his net.
"We pressed in the second half and got a goal," Sneijder said. "This is the kind of game (when) we maybe could have got two or three goals, but we won it and that's great."
Japan responded by going on the attack and Yoshito Okubo had two shots in quick succession, the first saved by Maarten Stekelenburg and the second over the bar.
Substitute Ibrahim Afellay came close to doubling the Dutch lead in the 84th and again in the 88th minute when he twice bore down on the Japan goal, but he was foiled both times by good saves from Kawashima diving at his feet.
Japan nearly made the Netherlands pay for those misses in the final minutes when substitute Shinji Okazaki latched onto a deep cross at the far post but shot just over the bar.
"It shows you there are no easy games. Look at France and Germany," Van Marwijk said, referring to the World Cup losses for the European powerhouses.
The Netherlands is a two-time World Cup finalist - losing in 1974 and 1978 - while Japan's best finish was reaching the round of 16 when it co-hosted the tournament with South Korea in 2002.
The win set a new record of 10 straight victories for the Netherlands in World Cup qualifiers and finals matches - a run that includes eight qualification matches and its two victories in South Africa.
It also extended the Dutch record of never losing to an Asian team. It has now won eight matches and tied one against Asian opponents.
The Netherlands controlled possession - particularly early in the match - with Rafael van der Vaart, Dirk Kuyt and Van Persie all switching positions across the midfield to confuse Japan's defense.
Kuyt had the most spectacular Dutch effort before the break, a bicycle kick in the 10th minute after a cross from Giovanni van Bronckhorst, but defender Yuji Nakazawa headed the effort clear.