Kasuhito Endo's strike eludes Danish keeper Thomas Soerensen for a 2-0 Japan lead. ((Roberto Schmidt/Getty Images))

Take a bow, Japan. Better yet, take two. You've advanced at the World Cup.

Spectacular first-half goals by Keisuke Honda and Yusuhito Endo helped lift the Japanese to a 3-1 win over Denmark on Thursday, sending Japan into the round of 16.

It was an energetic performance by the Japanese, who collected just their second tournament victory on foreign soil.

When the game was over, the happy team bowed like a chorus line before its joyous fans on each side of the field.

"For Japan it's a big win," Honda said. "I'm glad we won but I am not satisfied. The next game is more important. I want to show the Japanese that nothing is impossible."

The Danes, who replied in the 81st minute when Jon Dahl Tomasson tapped in the rebound from his own penalty kick, failed to advance from the group stage for the first time in four World Cup appearances.

Japan's first two goals came from free kicks less than 15 minutes apart, and Shinji Okazaki scored an insurance goal in the 87th.

The Japanese finished group play with six points compared to three for third-place Denmark. Cameroon was last in the group won by the Netherlands.

The Japanese have now reached the knockout round for the second time. They also advanced in 2002, when they were tournament co-hosts with South Korea.

Next up, Paraguay

Japan will face Paraguay in Pretoria on Tuesday in the second round.

"Our team has a strength that others don't have," Japan coach Takeshi Okada said. "We are truly united. We wanted to demonstrate that soccer is a team sport."

Honda got his second goal of the tournament in the 17th minute with a blistering kick from the right of the Danish area. The ball went over the wall and swerved beyond goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen's reach into the far corner.

Endo's free kick came from outside the penalty area directly in front of the Danish goal. He curled his shot around the wall. Despite leaping to his left Sorensen couldn't get to it.

"The way the whole match progressed was decided on the two set pieces when they scored the two goals," Denmark coach Morten Olsen said. "We knew which two players were going to take the free kicks. We prepared, but it didn't help."

Denmark was awarded a penalty when Makoto Hasebe brought down Daniel Agger. Tomasson hit the ball at Eiji Kawashima, but the goalkeeper couldn't hold on and the Danish captain knocked in the loose ball.

Honda tormented the Danish defence with his tight dribbling before laying the ball to Okazaki, a substitute, who put away the final goal.

"Prior to the match, the coach said we shouldn't concentrate on the defence and that we should attack," Honda said. "That's what the coach told the players to boost our motivation. It was really effective and led to this wonderful result."

Japan opened its group campaign with a 1-0 win over Cameroon, when Honda also found the net, before losing 1-0 to the Netherlands.

Shrewder team

Japan, using the same starting lineup for the third straight game, was the shrewder team at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium where Denmark needed a win to stay in the tournament.

The Japanese defended stoutly against Denmark's high-ball tactics while making their own advantages in pace and agility tell by forcing the Danes to commit fouls around their penalty box.

From the outset the Danes looked to profit from their considerable height advantage, hitting frequent crosses from the flanks for forward pair Nicklas Bendtner and Jon Dahl Tomasson.

The industrious Japanese defence mostly crowded out the Denmark attack, though, while the pace of Hasebe and Honda was a constant threat for the Danish defence.

The Danes soon ran out of ideas going forward and became bogged down in midfield.

Three minutes after the restart, Endo almost extended Japan's lead from another free kick, floating a long shot towards Sorensen, who was too far off his line and failed to grab the ball which bounced off the post.

Bendtner, starting his third straight game despite a lingering groin injury, and Tomasson, who has also been carrying a hamstring problem, probed forward but lacked a clinical touch inside the box.

The Danes had 19 shots on goal to Japan's 15.

Denmark coach Morten Olsen brought on forward Soren Larsen and midfielder Christian Eriksen but the busy Japanese forward line meant the Danes also had to be cautious.