The Netherlands were less than 20 minutes away from elimination from the Men's Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008. But, in front on 49,000 fans, Ryan Babel and Gerald Sibon combined to produce the only goal of a tight contest against Japan, the former earning the penalty which the latter coolly dispatched down the middle of the goal to book them a quarter-final date with Argentina.
It was sweet relief for the lively Sibon, who has been the Oranje's chief goal threat during the first half. He failed to connect properly with an enticing Jonathan De Guzman cross on 15 minutes, and came close to breaking the deadlock with an overhead-kick just before the interval. In truth, though, the Japanese rearguard proved tough to penetrate.
The Netherlands came out with renewed purpose following the break. First, Japan goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa made a fine save from a De Guzman free-kick, before Royston Drenthe's set-piece was denied by the post.
Japan also connected with the upright, a Masato Morishige thunderbolt increasing Dutch nerves. But on 74 minutes, Keisuke Honda felled Babel and the referee pointed to the spot. Sibon stepped up and fulfilled his duty to snatch the Netherlands all three points and, crucially, the runners-up spot in Group B.