Photo: World Cup 2014
Japan had a one-man advantage for nearly an hour of their World Cup Group C match against Greece but had to settle for a 0-0 draw, a result that sent Colombia into the tournament’s knockout stage.
Thursday night’s match at Arena das Dunas in this northeastern city featured contrasting styles, with Japan showcasing its speed and attacking mindset and Greece exhibiting a more cautious approach.
With its more dynamic game plan, the Asian country controlled play in the first half and had possession of the ball 70 percent of the time.
But despite making forays down both sides of the field and creating three scoring chances for Yoshito Okubo and a free-kick opportunity for Keisuke Honda, Japan was unable to get the ball past Greek goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis.
Greece had its back against the wall for much of the contest after its best attacker, Kostas Mitroglou, was forced to leave in the 35th minute with an injury, and captain Kostas Katsouranis picked up his second yellow card a few minutes later and was sent off.
Playing shorthanded, the Greek squad posed little threat to Japan’s goal, with Eiji Kawashima denying one shot off the foot of Pangiotis Kone at the start of the second half.
The story of the remainder of the match was Japan’s failure to put the ball in the back of the net even though Okubo, Honda and Atsuto Uchida had clear chances.
The result sent Colombia, which defeated Ivory Coast 2-1 earlier Thursday, into the World Cup knockout phase for the first time since 1990.
Although Japan and Greece have garnered just one point each after two matches, both teams are still alive at this year’s World Cup.
To have the possibility of advancing to the round of 16, Japan must defeat Colombia on June 24 in the western city of Cuiaba. A Greek victory that same day over the Ivory Coast - as opposed to a draw - also would give the Asian country a better chance of earning the group’s No. 2 spot.
Greece can assure itself a spot in the knockout stage with a victory over the Ivory Coast in Fortaleza and a Japanese loss or draw against Colombia.
The Ivory Coast can lock up a round-of-16 berth by defeating Greece.