World Cup - Ten-man Greece hang on for draw against Japan

World Cup Group A, Estadio das Dunas, Natal - Japan 0 Greece 0

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World Cup - Ten-man Greece hang on for draw against Japan
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Japan's forward Yoshito Okubo during the match against Greece at the Dunas Arena in Natal (AFP)

Greece managed to hold on to a 0-0 draw after being reduced to 10 men against Japan in a tight World Cup Group A game with few chances.

The game had already been stagnant before Konstantinos Katsouranis was sent off, but Greece actually enjoyed several chances after his loss, with Ioannis Fetfatzidis and Theofanis Gekas both going close. Japan pushed hard for a winner in the final 20 minutes, but the Greek defence held firm to leave second place in the group wide open.

The first half was a relatively dull affair as both teams became mired in a midfield battle, with chances coming infrequently at both ends of the pitch. But as the half drew to a close, with the game needing something to change it, Greece found themselves down to 10 men. Katsouranis was unfortunate not to get the ball in challenging Makoto Hasebe, but he earned a second yellow card for his trouble and saw his side reduced in number.

Yet surprisingly, it was Greece who would go on to enjoy the better chances for much of the game thereafter. Fetfatzidis forced Eiji Kawashima into a fine save with a fierce effort from outside the area immediately afterwards. And after half-time, the pattern bizarrely continued.

Gekas came the closest to a goal with a glancing header towards the bottom corner again threatening a goal, but Kawashima managed to scamper across to shove it around the post.

Shinji Kagawa was introduced for Japan with the intent to find a way through, and he produced a magnificent pass to find Atsuto Uchida down the right, who cushioned a fine ball for Yoshido Okubo at the back post, but the veteran forward was sprinting too quickly to sort his feet out and hit his effort over the bar. Uchida had another good chance just afterwards as he pounced on Sokratis Papastathopoulos in the area after the centre-back took a heavy touch, but prodded wide of the post.

In the end, Greece sufficiently frustrated Japan to hold on for a draw. Alberto Zaccheroni's men may content themselves with the knowledge that Colombia are now through and will have less to play for (as well as a potentially-rested squad) in their remaining game, but the chance to take a big step towards the knockout stages has been missed for the Samurai Blue.

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KEY MOMENTS

38' KATSOURANIS RED CARD - Konstantinos Katsouranis throws Greece's hopes into jeapoardy as he goes in with a challenge on Makoto Hasebe which earns him a second yellow card.

59' GEKAS CHANCE - Theofanis Gekas produces a fine save from Eiji Kawashima with a header towards the bottom corner, almost seeing Greece sneak the lead.

68' OKUBO MISS - brilliant play from the substitite Shinji Kagawa, whose brilliant ball finds Atsuto Uchida, and his cushioned cross seems perfect for Yoshido Okubo, but the veteran forward puts it over the bar after arriving at the back post.

TALKING POINT

Will Greece ever play football? The fact that Greece came closer to scoring when they had ten men than when they had eleven suggests that this is a side that simply loves to defend. They don't seem to know how to play any other way - is anybody ever going to instil some attacking nous into this side?

MATCHCAST: FULL COMMENTARY AND PLAYER RATINGS

KEY STATS

Greece have kept a clean sheet for the first time in a World Cup match (eight games).

Japan finished with 74.3% possession; more than they have ever managed from a single World Cup game.

Since 1966, only one team has had more possession in a single World Cup game than Japan (Argentina versus Greece in 2010).

Greece have scored just two goals in their eight World Cup matches.

Tonight marked Greece’s first draw in a World Cup match.

Only once in their last five matches against European opposition at the World Cup have Japan managed to score (three versus Denmark in 2010).

Japan conceded more fouls than Greece during the game (23-18).

Hotaru Yamaguchi attempted 84 passes in the match; more than any other.

In fact, nine Japanese players attempted more passes than the highest Greek player – Giannis Maniatis (26).

Konstantinos Katsouranis’ red card was Greece’s first at a World Cup.

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MAN OF THE MATCH

Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Greece): Even though his hesitation could have cost Greece a goal but for Uchida stabbing the ball wide, the centre-back was in inspired form to repel Japan's attacks with remarkable composure as his side did what they do best.

PLAYER RATINGS

Japan: Kawashima 7, Uchida 7, Yoshida 6, Konno 6, Nagatomo 5, Yamaguchi 5, Hasebe 5, Okazaki 6, Honda 6, Okubo 5, Osako 5. Subs: Endo 7, Kagawa 7.

Greece: Karnazis 7, Holebas 7, Papastathopoulos 8, Manolas 7, Torosidis 7, Katsouranis 5, Samaras 4, Kone 6, Maniatis 6, Fetfatzidis 6, Mitroglou 5. Subs: Gekas 6, Karagounis 6, Salpingidis 6.

THE MATCH IN A TWEET

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