Alberto Zaccheroni’s days as the boss of the Japan Men’s National Team might as well be numbered. Up a man, the Samurai Blue were unable to figure out goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis and were forced to play to a scoreless draw against Fernando Santos’s Greece at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil. Japan and Greece are still alive in the FIFA World Cup Group C, but both teams certainly will need to win out to have a puncher’s chance of going through.
Here are six things we learned, followed by player ratings, for this FIFA World Cup match between Japan and Greece.
1. Japan dominate possession early
Early on in the first half, Japan dominated possession, forcing the Ethniki to defend. Japan midfielder Hotaru Yamaguchi fired a shot that was blocked in the second minute. In the fourth minute, Greece forward Kostas Mitroglou tried a shot but it was saved. A through ball in the seventh minute for Japan was snuffed out. Midfielder Shinji Okazaki tried to reel in a ball seconds later but failed. Panagiotis Kone tried a shot in the 11th minute but it was collected by Eiji Kawashima. Makoto Hasebe was cautioned for a foul on midfielder Giannis Maniatis in the 12th minute.
2. Yuya Osako knocking on the door
Japan’s Yuya Osako offsides on a dangerous sequence in the 17th minute of play. Osako then had a shot in the 19th minute saved by Greece goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis. In the 21st minute, a shot from Osako missed the top right corner. Jose Holebas tried his luck on goal in the 22nd minute but it was saved by Kawashima. Konstantinos Katsouranis was cautioned for a foul on Osaki in the 27th minute. The ensuing free kick in the 28th minute was saved by Karnezis, albeit botched.
3. Greece down a man at the break
The aformentioned Mitroglou suffered what appears to be a hip injury in the 31st minute but was able to return to the pitch moments later. A header from Japan midfielder Yoshito Okubo sailed high and out in the 33rd minute. Mitroglou was replaced by forward Theofanis Gekas in the 35th minute of play. Katsaouranis was sent off in the 38th minute for a second yellow forcing the Greeks to go down a man for the rest of the match. Torosidis forced a big save from Kawashima in the 40th minute of play. Ioannis Fetfazidis was substituted by Georgios Karagounis in the 41st minute to allow Greece to play to a 4-3-2. Torosidis was unlucky to miss the mark on the header in the 45th minute of play.
First Half Team Statistics
(Japan at left, Greece at right)
8 Shots 4
2 Shots on Target 2
2 Shots off Target 1
4 Blocked Shots 1
1 Corners 2
8 Crosses 5
1 Offsides 2
10 Fouls 11
1 Yellow Cards 0
0 Red Cards 1
296 Total Passes 93
91 % Passing Accuracy 71 %
75.3 % Possession 24.7 %
20 Duels Won 30
2 Tackles Won 6
2 Saves 2
6 Clearances 14
4. The Greeks Don’t Want No Freaks
Early on in the second half, Zaccheroni forced his players to stretch the field to get more opportunities on goal. Yasuhito Endo came in for Hasebe at the break. Japan defender Yuto Nagatomo won a free kick for Endo in the 50th minute of play but it missed everyone, sailing wide right. Keisuke Honda had a shot easily collected by Karnezis in the 53rd minute. Samaras was cautioned in the 54th minute for a foul. Shinji Kagawa, who was held out due to a “personal crisis of confidence,” came in for Osako in the 57th minute. The Greeks had a number of ensuing corners to close off the hour mark with Kawashima being put on notice.
5. Japan’s finishing…well off the mark
A dangerous cross in the 62nd minute from Kone was collected by Kawashima. A major aerial collision took place in the 65th minute leaving Maya Yoshida and Torosidis winded. Okubo made a meal of an opportunity for Japan in the 68th minute but skied it from a difficult angle. Meanwhile, Atsuto Uchida hit the side netting in the 71st minute.
6. A hard-earned point for both teams
Okubo had another shot saved by Karnezis in the 78th minute of play. In the 80th minute, Dimitrios Salpingidis came in for Kone. Samaras made a meal of his chance in the 81st minute of play. Greece defender Kostas Manolas cleared a major opportunity for Japan in the 83rd minute of play. Also with some rock-solid defending was Holebas in the 85th minute. Yoshida could have done better with his chance seconds later. Kawashima made a big save in the 87th minute, and Torosidis was cautioned a minute later for a foul. Karnezis continued his solid night with another huge save on the Endo free kick in the 89th minute.
Japan in line green, Greece in blue
|4||Shots on Target||4|
|6||Shots off Target||4|
|90 %||Passing Accuracy||65 %|
|74.3 %||Possession||25.7 %|
Japan Player Ratings
Eiji Kawashima 7, Atsuto Uchida 5, Maya Yoshida 6, Yasuyuki Konno 5, Yuto Nagatomo 5, Hotaru Yamaguchi 5, Keisuke Honda 7, Makoto Hasebe 4.5, Shinji Okazaki 6, Yoshito Okubo 8, Yuya Osako 7, Yasuhito Endo 5, Shinji Kagawa 4
Greece Player Ratings
Orestis Karnezis 10, Jose Holebas 6, Kostas Manolas 7, Sokratis 6, Vasilis Torosidis 7.5, Giannis Maniatis 6, Konstantinos Katsouranis 1, Panagiotis Kone 7, Georgios Samaras 5.5, Ioannis Fetfatzidis 4, Kostas Mitroglou 4, Theofanis Gekas 5, Giorgos Karagounis 5, Dimitrios Salpingidis NR