Japan vs Greece World Cup 2014: A tournament of squandered opportunities for Japan

Greece were able to hold out for a draw despite being down to 10-men

For Japan, this is proving a World Cup of squandered opportunities and the price they are likely to pay is their place in the last 16.

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Against Ivory Coast in Recife, they lost the lead and the match and, further up Brazil’s Atlantic coast in Natal, Japan failed to take advantage of a Greek side that played with 10 men for most of the match following the dismissal of Kostas Katsouranis for a dreadful tackle on Makoto Hasebe seven minutes before the interval.

“This is not a positive result for us,” said the Japan manager, Albert Zaccharoni, “we absolutely needed to win.”

With Shinji Kagawa starting on the bench at the Estadio das Dunas, Japan were reliant on their other unquestioned star, Keisuke Honda, to force a breakthrough and Greece proved resilient enough to keep their World Cup alive, if hanging by the slenderest of threads.

Kagawa played a part in Japan’s most threatening move of a frustrating night when he sent through full-back, Atsuto Uchida, whose fabulous cross set up a glaring opportunity that Yoshito Okubo squandered.

 

It is hard to see how either will qualify. Greece, who have yet to manage a goal in Brazil, will have to beat Ivory Coast and trust that Colombia, who qualified for the knockout phase of the tournament for the first time since 1990, do not lose to Japan.

The Greece manager, Fernando Santos, thought his side showed courage, determination and the ability to defend but lacked a lot when it came to the counter-attack, would probably be happier than Zaccharoni with his equation. However, the truth was that Natal was probably playing host to two teams who will very shortly be returning home.

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