by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 19th 2014)
With both teams needing a win an exciting, or at least not boring, match was expected, but Greece and Japan conspired to produce a turgid 0-0 draw that had one redeeming feature. It ensured that José Pékerman Krimenʼs entertaining Colombia side would at least match their best performance in the World Cup – a last 16 appearance in 1990.
A year ago Alberto Zaccheroniʼs Japan won several admirers if not points at the Confederationsʼ Cup. Today they could not find a way past a ten man Greece. The Greek captain Konstaninos Katsouranis was dismissed for a second yellow card after 38 minutes. The Salvadorian referee Joel Aguilar Chicas had little choice. Katsouranis picked up his first card in the attacking third. He failed to reach Ioannis Maniatisʼ pass and fouled Maya Yoshida who got there first after 27 minutes. Ten minutes later Katsouranis gave Aguilar little choice but to brandish another yellow card and then red after the experienced Greek captain fouled his Japanese counterpart Makoto Hasebe who was the first player carded after fouling Maniatis almost 25 minutes earlier.
Shutting Up Shop
Vasilios Torosidis and Kone exchanged passes before Torosidis shot from right of area. It was well saved by Japanʼs goal-keeper Eiji Kawashima to his left. Giorgos Karagounis – a veteran of 137 caps came on to shore up the midfield after the dismissal of Katsouranis. He almost had an immediate impact as his 40 yard pass found Torosidis in the area, but he pulled his shot wide.
Giorgios Samaras tried an audacious long-range lob immediately after the break when he spotted Kawashima off his line, but his aim was a little wide. Yūya Ōsakoʼs first half effort did not save him from Zaccheroniʼs tactical switch ten minutes into the second half. He made way for Manchester Unitedʼs Shinji Kagawa who had been demoted to the bench for losing possession too much against Ivory Coast.
Kagawaʼs incisive pass to Atsuto Uchida on the right of the area opened up the Greek defence that had settled for defending the point they had. Uchida squared it, but the opportunity was wasted at back post by Yoshito Ōkubo – terrible effort especially as the offending player was a striker.
Shinji Okazaki won Japanʼs last opportunity, forcing Torosidos to take one for the team. He handled a through ball and was booked. Second half substitute Yashuhito Endōʼs free-kick was saved well by Karnezis. Despite having a man advantage for over 50 minutes and over 70% possession Japan found that these were Greeks bearing no more gifts.