DURBAN - A tactical change sparked an improved second-half performance that secured Netherlands a second straight win at the World Cup on Saturday.
In the first half of their 1-0 victory over Japan in Group E, defensive midfield duo Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong failed to find any gaps in the tight Japanese defence.
Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk then ordered the pair to move closer to the forwards and that change in approach helped make the difference in the second period.
"We did not have enough depth in our passing game before the break and therefore (Wesley) Sneijder and (Robin) van Persie both had to drop back to the midfield to pick up the ball," De Jong told reporters at the Moses Mabhida stadium.
"It was hard to reach them as the Japanese shielded them well, but we managed to change that in the second half.
Van Bommel added: "In the second half we really played to win with Nigel and I closer to our strikers."
Sneijder got the only goal eight minutes after the break when Japan keeper Eiji Kawashima misjudged his fierce swerving long-range drive and could only deflect it into the net.
Before that Van Bommel had already shown the benefit of the tactical change when his superb long ball set up Van Persie but the striker, still without a goal here, mishit a volley.
"From that moment we never had the feeling on the pitch that it could go wrong and I think we came closer to a second goal than Japan (did) to an equaliser," De Jong added.
His midfield partner Van Bommel noticed Japan had also adjusted their game plan just like Denmark did in their opening 2-0 defeat by Netherlands on Monday.
De Jong said the Dutch expected to be under more pressure from Japan, who only reacted when Netherlands lost the ball.
"So far everyone is adjusting their game to us and that is something we force (them to do)," Van Bommel told reporters.
"We again proved to be a balanced team, just like against the Danes, although we still didn't show our best football."comments