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Man advantage no help as Japan held to 0-0 draw by Greece

Jun 19, 2014, 8:01 PM EDT

Japan's Keisuke Honda, right, takes on the Greek defense during the group C World Cup soccer match between Japan and Greece at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Thursday, June 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan) AP

Fifty-two minutes with a man advantage wasn’t enough. Despite seeing Greece midfielder Kostas Katsouranis sent off in the 38th minute, Japan was unable to break through the Greek defense on Thursday at Arenas das Dunas, relegating Group C’s bottom two teams to a 0-0 draw in Natal.

Japan had two clear chances in the second half but were unable to steer a pair of close range opportunities on goal. Come the final whistle, Greece goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis has only been called on to save four shots, two of which came from long-range free kicks. In the opposite goal, Eiji Kawawshima also made four spots, helping Japan register its first point of the tournament.

With the Asian champions scheduled to face group favorites Colombia on Tuesday in Cuiabá, Japan has a number of reasons to rue tonight’s missed opportunity. Greece, on the other hand, can hope an upset over the Ivory Coast on the same day in Fortaleza will help secure an unlikely place in the knockout round.

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Japan dominated possession in the first half, but to very little effect. Despite holding the ball 75 percent of the time, the Samurai Blue only registered one shot on target, a total that matched their far more defensive opponents. Come intermission, neither team had shown an ability to consistently create opportunities.

Japan’s possession did contribute to another potentially decisive outcome. In the 38th minute, booked for a challenge in midfield, Katsouranis was sent off, earning his second yellow card 11 minutes after his first caution. The 34-year-old midfielder also forced head coach Fernando Santos to burn his second substitution of the half, the first going after starting striker Kostas Mitroglou had to be removed in the 35th minute.

Out of half time, Japan’s control temporally waned, with Greece nearly scoring in the 60th minute off a corner kick. Eight minutes later, the Samurai Blue had their best chance of the match when Atusto Uchida played a ball through the six-yard box for Yoshito Okubo. Although the attacker put his far post chance into the stands, Uchida nearly replicated the feat three minutes later when he put a ball wide of the opposite post. Japan had regained control of the game, but they were still unable to test Karnezis.

At the other end of the field, Greece made one last play to steal full points, with an 81st minute corner giving Georgios Samaras a chance to head his side in front. After the Celtic forward was unable to steer his shot on goal, Greece was left holding out for their first point of the competition.

With it, the former European champions preserved a route to the final 16. Defeat Ivory Coast on Tuesday, and Greece needs only a Colombia result against underdog Japan to make its first knockout round. Japan, on the other hand, must beat Colombia to have any chance at moving on.


Japan: Kawashima, Uchida, Konno, Yoshida, Nagatomo, Yamaguchi, Hasebe (Endo 46′), Honda, Okubo, Okazaki, Osako (Kagawa 57′)

Goals: None.

Greece: Karnezis, Holebas, Sokratis, Manolas, Torosidis, Katsouranis, Maniatis, Kone (Salpingidis 81′), Samaras, Mitroglou (Gekas 35′), Fetfatzidis (Karagounis 42′)

Goals: None.

  1. jucam1 - Jun 19, 2014 at 8:48 PM

    And with that!!!! Colombia is in to the knock out round!

  2. nottinghamforest12 - Jun 19, 2014 at 9:08 PM

    Some of these teams just have no business in the tournament. It’s the World Cup & theoretically you’re supposed to take teams from around the globe, but a lot of it has to do w/ who you’re paired against in qualifiers. I’d rather just take the best teams possible regardless of where they come from.

    • tridecagon - Jun 19, 2014 at 11:29 PM

      Spain – out
      England – probably out
      Portugal – we’ll see on Sunday

      The best teams not in the tournament are mostly from Europe and were beaten by these teams in qualifying. Maybe the Euro qualifying systems aren’t fair, but what we do NOT need is a greater number of European teams in the tournament.

      • southbeachtalent - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:29 AM

        Do you think USA stands a chance on Sunday? I hope so…

  3. soundsofsuccess7 - Jun 19, 2014 at 9:29 PM

    Pathetic group. Can’t believe Columbia and Ivory Coast got free passes to the next round because these two terrible teams were in their group. Shameful.

  4. r8rbhawk - Jun 19, 2014 at 10:57 PM

    Boring, give these teams -1 point

    • reformed2012 - Jun 20, 2014 at 1:23 AM

      The USMNT should learn how the Greek park the bus.

      All the USMNT need now is 0-0 draw from this point on, and have perfect PK shootouts, they will find themselves playing at the Maracana on July 13th.

  5. chunkala - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:40 AM

    Add some strategy to these tournaments – a 0-0 tie = double loss for both teams. After watching their terrible display yesterday, did both teams really deserve a point?

  6. chunkala - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    These are the matches that everyone fears (or should) and make the WC look bad.

  7. chunkala - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    You have one team that refuses to ever push forward and just hopes for an own goal in every match.

  8. chunkala - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:48 AM

    And then you have the other team that couldn’t score even if the other team had 6 red cards. Did you see their player miss from 2 feet out? Anyone could have scored there.

    • scoochpooch - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:29 PM

      You called it.

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