The Japanese failed to take advantage of their opportunity with the Greeks playing with a man down, now their second round lives are not in their hands.
By: Jorge Belon, Editor in Chief
NATAL– The Samurai Blue and the Sky-Blue White, played to a scoreless draw on Thursday night.
The Greeks and Japan, both entered this match looking for three points to keep their round of 16 dreams alive and in their own hands. However, for Greece the game would change dramatically when their captain Kostas Katsouranis picked up his second yellow card at 38 minute of the match.
After Katsouranis was taken out of the game, the Samurai Blue were able to take control of the game. However, they would waste countless opportunities in the match.
The Japanese took a total of 18 shots and none of them where able to find the back of the net. A big reason for that is that only four of those shots were on target. With Greece being down a man they were forced to just defend, the Greeks would rarely counter. However, their stingy defense kept frustrating the Japan’s offense for the entire match, and in result they could never get a clear opportunity.
The clearest chance came late in the second half at the 68 minute, a beautiful build up that started from the center of the field, a long ball was delivered from Shinji Kagawa to defender Atsuto Uchida, who had made a darting run into the heart of the penalty box. Uchida collected the long pass, and then crossed the ball to a running midfielder Yoshito Okubo.
Okubo in front of the net with the Greek goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis, doing his best to get back into position quick enough before midfielder took the shot. With time Okubo winded up and blasted the ball, but he would get his foot under the ball and sent the ball high into the sky. The Japanese midfielder would cover his head after he missed the shot, in complete disbelief that he missed such a golden opportunity to give his team the lead and possibly the victory.
“It’s disappointing that we weren’t able to get the ball in the net,” Keisuke Honda told FIFA.com after the match. “The result is everything and it doesn’t matter how much effort we put in in attack, it’s very disappointing not to have picked up three points. We fell into their trap, but we fought right to the end and never stopped trying.”
Japan would get a few more chances, but none of them would ever get as close as that one. As for Greece they held on to the draw, knowing that it was their best result considering they were down a man and it sets them up for their next match against the Ivory Coast.
“We now need to win our next game because Côte d’Ivoire have three points and we’ve just one,” Greece’s Coach Fernando Santos told FIFA.com. “We need to find a way to put the Ivorians under pressure. I hope that everything turns out like EURO 2004, when Greece also needed to win their last [group] game and ended up going through.”
The Greeks will need to defeat the Ivory Coast on Tuesday, June 24 at the Estádio Castelão to make the next round. As for Japan they will need to beat Colombia on Tuesday at the Arena Pantanal, however, they will also need Greece and Ivory Coast to tie or for The Elephants to lose.
Highlight to this video can be seen on this link http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=intl:1895979, video provided by ESPN FC.