JOHANNESBURG — The Netherlands became the first team to qualify for the round of 16 at the World Cup, beating Japan 1-0 Saturday and then watching Denmark defeat Cameroon 2-1.
The two-time World Cup finalists, who also became the first European team to earn six points from its first two games at this year's tournament, dictated play but still did not display the kind of fluid football that fans have been expecting to see.
Wesley Sneijder scored in the 53rd minute as the Dutch finally broke down a stubborn Japanese defense in Durban.
"Why do we focus on good football 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."
In Pretoria, Denmark got goals from Nicklas Bendtner and Dennis Rommedahl to beat Cameroon. The win was enough to push the Dutch through to the knockout round, and make Cameroon the first team to be eliminated.
In between those two matches, 10-man Australia held on to earn a point in a 1-1 draw against Ghana.
Japan's stifling defense worked well against a Dutch team that has been expected to play an exciting brand at football at the tournament in South Africa. But Robin van Persie dropped a ball back to Sneijder, who sent a powerful shot past Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima.
"We pressed in the second half and got a goal," Sneijder said. "This is the kind of game we maybe could have got two or three goals, but we won it and that's great."
The Netherlands reached the World Cup final in 1974 and 1978, but lost both times.
Argentina, which is in Group B, is the only other team in the tournament with six points from two matches, but the South Americans have yet to qualify for the next round.
Cameroon took the lead against the Danes at Loftus Versfeld when Samuel Eto'o scored his first goal of the tournament in the 10th minute after a mix-up in defense.
But Rommedahl found Bendtner rushing toward the goal in the 33rd, and the Denmark striker scored with his right foot. In the 61st, Rommedahl ran down the right and beat Jean Makoun before shooting past Cameroon goalkeeper Hamidou Souleymanou.
Despite the win, Denmark coach Morten Olsen was less than impressed with his team's performance.
"We had far too many elementary mistakes and we can't allow that," he said. "We must correct that ... if we are to progress in this tournament."
However he hailed the performance as a "heroic physical effort" especially as the team has been plagued by injuries.
Cameroon coach Paul Le Guen said he would not resign despite his team becoming the first to be eliminated from calculations for the second round.
"It is doubtless a serious disappointment for us and Cameroonian nation as a whole," Le Guen said.
Australia hung on for a 1-1 draw against Ghana despite playing a man down for the final 70 minutes.
The Socceroos took the lead in Rustenburg when Brett Holman knocked in a rebound from a goalkeeping error in the 11th minute, but Australia striker Harry Kewell was shown a straight red card in the 24th for using an arm to stop a goal-bound shot. Asamoah Gyan converted the resulting penalty.
"It was definitely not a red card," Australia coach Pim Verbeek said. "What can you do with your arm? You can't cut it off."
Ghana now leads Group D with four points, followed by Germany and Serbia with three each. Australia is last with one point but still retains hope of a berth in the round of 16.
Also, France striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home from the World Cup for insulting coach Raymond Domenech during a team talk.
The French football federation said Saturday that the Chelsea striker was thrown out for refusing to publicly apologize to Domenech.