JAPAN 0-0 GREECE
THURSDAY 19TH JUNE – NATAL
Greece fell down to ten men just before half time as Katsouranis got two bookings. But Japan lacked the enthusiasm on the ball to gain advantage over their opposition in a poor game in Natal.
Both teams went into the late kick off game of day 8 looking for a win in order to have any considerable chance of progressing in a tight group on paper. Japan dropped Kagawa for getting caught in possession against Ivory Coast too often. Konno also replaced the centre back Morishige. Greece brought in Fulham striker Mitroglu and Fetfatzidis in a 4-5-1 formation.
The opening minutes revolved around Honda as Japan let him orchestrate and spearhead any attacking moves. But Greece, a strong towering team were not seriously challenged in an uninspiring opening fifteen minutes. Japans efforts went through Hasebe into Honda and often down the left side to Nagatomo who whipped in crosses into Greece defenders. Greece’s only notable chance came from a break off a Japan spell with the ball. Kone broke away from the midfield and surged towards the box only for his shot to be blocked.
Going into the subsequent half of the first 45 minutes, the Blue Samurai were firmly in control with 69% possession. But a compact midfield organised by PAOK veteran Konstantinos Katsouranis mostly prevented Honda and co pull away and cause problems for the defence. This activity continued until Katsouranis got his second yellow card of the game and was consequently sent off, theoretically allowing more space for Zaccheroni’s team. But the substitute Karagounis worked hard to prevent such happenings.
The game was lit up six seconds after kick off of the second half when Samaras took a shot on goal from the halfway line. Despite it not hitting the target it was arguably Greece’s best chance besides the occasional threatening corner. The play persisted to be dull as Japanese full backs crosses met the likes of solid defenders Sokratis and Manolas. On 70 minutes Sokratis was caught overplaying six yards from goal and Uchida snatched at the ball only to watch it go wide. Greece chose to firmly park the bus and close themselves in from feeble waves of Japanese attacks. Kagawa mildly injected new energy but it was soon nullified as Greece fell to the floor countless times to waste time. The game dribbled away into the forgettable closing moments before referee Aguilar blew the whistle on a bore draw.
Second place is no longer likely for Japan and Greece, Ivory Coast are more plausible contenders for the second place. Anyhow Japan now face in form Colombia and Greece will play against Ivory Coast on the 24th June.
GREECE: Karnezis, Maniatis, Manolas, Samaras, Kone (Salpingidis 80), Mitroglu (Gekas 35), Torosidis, Fetfatzidis (Karagounis 41), Papastathopoulos, Holebas, Katsouranis.
BOOKINGS: Katsournis 27, Samaras 54, Torosidis 88.
SENT OFF: Katsournis 38.
JAPAN: Kawashima, Uchida, Honda, Nagatomo, Okazaki, Okubo, Konno, Yamaguchi, Hasebe (Endo 46), Osako (Kagawa 57), Yoshida.
BOOKINGS: Hasebe 12.
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