Japan vs Greece World Cup 2014: match preview

A look ahead to Thursday’s clash that could determine the first Group C elimination

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The Independent Football

Group C’s dark horses are squaring off at Natal in a match that none of them can afford to lose, whilst favourites Colombia and Ivory Coast are facing off earlier in Brazil’s capital.

LIVE: Follow Japan v Greece latest

Greece are hoping to bounce back from a heavy 3-0 defeat by the South Americans and manager Fernando Santos is expected to make quite a few changes in the starting line-up. Fulham record-singing striker Kostas Mitroglou will be starting instead of former Bayer Leverkusen man Fanis Gekas up front and Genoa winger Giannis Fetfatzidis is probably replacing Dimitris Salpingidis on the wings.

The National needs to put its rock-solid defence back together which raises questions as to whether German-born left-back Jose Holebas will be starting - if not, he will be replaced by Giorgos Tzavellas. Nevertheless, the 2004 European champions will feature the same centre-back duo of Kostas Manolas and Borussia Dortmund’s Sokratis Papastathopoulos.

Japan fell short against Ivory Coast last week and will be relying heavily on speed to break the Greek defence, just like Colombia did. Manager Alberto Zaccheroni will be expecting a lot from the trio behind the striker consisting of AC Milan’s Keisuke Honda, Inter Milan’s Yuto Nagatomo and Manchester United’s Shinji Kagawa.


KICK-OFF: Thursday, 11pm


Greece 0 Japan 1 (Oguro), Confederations Cup, June 2005


Greece have only won one of their last seven World Cup matches. They have lost all other six.

The Euro 2004 champions have a World Cup goal record of 2-18.

Former Fulham midfielder Giorgos Karagounis is the most capped Greek player ever and will be picking up his 137 appearance.

PAOK striker Dimitris Salpingidis and Roma right-back Vasilis Torosidis are the only players to have scored for Greece in the World Cup stage- one goal each. They both scored their goal four years ago against Nigeria.

Mainz striker Shinji Okazaki was the top scorer of the Asian World Cup qualifiers with eight goals.

Keisuke Honda has been involved in four out of the last five World Cup goals of his team as the AC Milan attacking midfielder has scored three goals and produced one assist.


Japan to win: 23.20

Greece to win: 13.5

Draw: 12.5

TV: Live on BBC One at 11pm