Japan 0-0 Greece: as it happened

A rare dull game, as the ten men of Greece hold on for a battling draw against a toothless Japan

FULL TIME: Japan 0-0 Greece

And that's that. A fairly dreadful game, really. Greece, the buffoonish actions of their captain Karsouranis apart, come out of that quite well in the end. A resourceful and staunch defensive display from their ten men, and they so nearly snatched it a couple of times late on through Samaras and Gakas. Japan, however, will regret a lame and toothless display. That result's no good for them; they'll need to beat free-scoring Colombia in their final game. But for Greece there is more hope. Their game against Ivory Coast could be interesting. But they need to win, so will need to add to their all-time finals total of two goals in eight matches. Over to you, Georgios ...


90 min: There will only be four minutes of injury time. Japan aren't particularly happy about it, given Greece's, erm, professional approach to this game. Karnezis, with all that faffing around earlier, has jiggered the space-time continuum, hasn't he.

89 min: Greece commit too many men upfield for once, over-excited by that Gekas chance. Japan flood upfield. Okazaki is making good down the left, so Torosidis upends him with the penalty area in sight and cover nearby. Yellow card. Endo, to the left of the D, curls a majestic free kick towards the bottom right. It's curling in, but the excellent Karnezis is behind it all the way.

88 min: Gekas drops a shoulder down the left and hammers low and hard towards the bottom left. The effort's blocked. So close again! Greece have been mainly about defence since going down to ten men, but whenever they've attacked, they've looked very dangerous.

87 min: Nagatomo in more space down the left. He tries to clip a cross into the centre, but it's intercepted with the box loaded by Manolas. The Japanese full backs have probably been their best players.

85 min: Nagatomo, near the byline down the left, cuts back and looks for a spectacular one into the top-right corner. A decent effort, but it was probably going wide. We'll never know, however, because Yoshida gets in the road of his own player's shot and it balloons out for a goal kick.

83 min: Uchida has been a constant threat down the right. He steams into plenty of space down the wing again, and fizzes in a low ball. But there's nobody in blue gambling on a run, and Greece hack clear.

81 min: Kone bustles away down the right. And wins Greece a corner. It's his last act of the evening, as the board goes up with his number on it. He trots off, very slowly, to be replaced by Salpingidis. From the corner, Karagounis whips the ball towards Samaras, who guides a header wide left from 12 yards. A bit more on that, and Greece would have taken the lead! You'd expect Samaras to do better there. So nearly a classic Greek smash-and-grab raid, one their magnificent (and hilariously hipster-baiting) Euro 2004 side would have been proud of.


78 min: Okubo drops a shoulder, 25 yards out, and sends a swerving, dipping shot towards the bottom left. It's a great effort, and one that's met by a strong fist from Karnezis, who parries brilliantly.

76 min: Karnezis uses up what seems like three hours to take a goal kick. He can't have taken three hours, unless he's done something to the space-time continuum. You'd put nothing past this Greek side, who appear to be very good indeed at letting the clock run down. Jose Mourinho will be green with envy if he's watching.

74 min: Japan are pushing Greece back now. Okazaki falls over while trying to meet a right-wing cross on the edge of the box. He's been shoved in the back by Manolas, both hands! That could easily have been a penalty kick. You've seen them given.

71 min: Nagatomo gets busy down the left. Reaching the byline, he whips a ball into the six-yard box. Papastathopoulos gets the ball stuck under his feet. Okazaki is sniffing around. Finally the ball breaks from their tangle to the right, where Uchida is bombing in. He batters a shot wide from close range. So much for hoping for three goals to keep this World Cup's average up: one will do. One! Anyone? Anyone?

68 min: Japan should be leading. Yamaguchi sprays a delightful crossfield pass from left to right, releasing Uchida into the area. The rampaging full back's run has drawn the keeper off his line. Uchida rolls a ball across the face of the unguarded goal, but it's a bit pacy, and Okubo, coming in at speed just to the left of the left-hand post, can't turn the ball in. Instead, he welts it into the heart of the stand behind the goal. Oh for goodness sake. That's in keeping with the rest of this match, which has been a cornucopia of witlessness.

67 min: Free kick to Japan down the inside-right channel. Endo and Honda take an age to decide what they're going to do. After the best part of a minute, Honda scuffs a toe-poke into the shins of the first man to break free from the wall. That is spectacularly useless. His goal against the Ivory Coast seems a long, long time ago right now.

65 min: Greece are the bosses of Japan right now. Another cheap free kick earned down the left. Karagounis batters it into the area. Kawashima wanders into a melee and just about punches it clear. This is dismal, but Greece aren't caring. They're scrapping to stay in this World Cup, and breaking up Japan's rhythm very nicely at the moment. Japan are not using their extra man very well.


62 min: Samaras earns a cheap free kick by falling over down the left wing. The free kick is headed clear by Yoshida, though the ball's quickly shuttled down the right by Torosidis, who whips in a cross that's claimed securely by Kawashima. "The pictures of the two managers at the top of this report look like bad Photoshop copies of George Bush and Dick Cheney," suggests Jonah Kyle. First we have up-to-the-minute references to Michael Owen at half time, now it's Bush and Cheney look-a-likes. Topical stuff, the sort of cutting-edge stuff you'll have come to expect from us here at Guardian Unlimited Football.

58 min: Corner for Greece, the result of a fairly agricultural hoof down the left. That results in a corner on the other side. And then another, from which Gekas plants a stunning header towards the bottom left from 12 yards out! It's in all the way, but Kawashima is down brilliantly to Gordon Banks the ball (well, OK, not quite) away from danger. That's a brilliant effort, and a save of equal merit! Splashes of class at last, though of course we're still goalless.

57 min: Hopefully a little bit of quality trotting on here. It's Kagawa, who had a shocker against Ivory Coast, giving the ball away repeatedly and with reckless abandon. But he surely can't put in another performance like that. He's short on confidence, but here's the perfect opportunity to get his groove back.

55 min: Endo blooters the resulting free kick straight into the startled coupon of Maniatis. There's no point sugar-coating it, this game is awful.

54 min: Japan are enjoying the lion's share of the ball. Samaras is booked for cutting Okubo off at the knees, the Japanese striker dancing around 25 yards out, just to the left of goal.

51 min: A free kick for Japan, 40 yards out down the left. Endo whips a ball to the far post, where Honda does his best to get a head to the ball. But his run's mistimed, and the delivery's too high anyway.

48 min: A slow start to this half. The exception being the Pele homage, obviously.

And we're off again! A change for Japan, who switch their captain for Endo. And we nearly have a sensational start to the half! Japan are prannying around in a huddle. Then their keeper trots back to the area. So Greece simply kick off quickly, and Samaras attempts to score into the unguarded goal from the halfway line! His effort drifts off to the right, the nearest he'll ever get to being compared to Pele. It was almost a carbon copy of the great man's effort against Czechoslovakia in 1970! It would have counted too. Japan were so dozy there.

Half-time entertainment: A musical reminder to viewers in Britain of Japan's World Cup.

Ah, a world where Michael Owen represented hope, rather than squandered opportunity! It seems a lot longer than a dozen years ago, doesn't it.

HALF TIME: Japan 0-0 Greece

Well. There's another 45 minutes, lost to the ether.

45 min +2: Maniatis plays a gorgeous long diagonal ball from 40 yards out along the inside-left channel to Torosidis, breaking into the area in acres down the right. He's clear in the box, and should be allowed to shoot, but the flag goes up for offside. An appalling decision. Greece are within their rights to be furious, but appear to have given up and do little more than shrug.

45 min: Karagounis, taking a set piece just to the left of the centre circle, launches long. Torosidis, level with the right-hand post, isn't far from planting a proper header goalwards, but can only get light eyebrows on the ball.


43 min: Goals, please! Come along, we've all stayed/got up.


41 min: Greece respond to losing their captain/idiot by sacrificing Fetfetsidis in order to bolster the centre of the midfield with Karagounis.

40 min: Torosidis tries to free Samaras into the area with a cute pass down the inside-right channel. It doesn't come off. But the ball rolls back to him and, deciding that he may as well roll the dice under the circumstances, unleashes a screamer towards the bottom right. Kawashima parries magnificently. Nothing comes from the resulting corner, but what a shot! The nearest we've come to an opening goal, and it's the ten men of Greece. The beauty of football for you, right there, in a nutshell. Actually, this game probably isn't the best time to be prattling on about the beauty of football, but you get the general point.

Red card! Greece down to ten men!

38 min: And you think England's captain had a nightmare tonight. Katsouranis, already on a yellow, picks up his second booking of the night after sliding in on Hasebe, who was going absolutely nowhere. Greece have been struggling, and they're really up against it now.


37 min: Another skitter for Nagatomo down the left, another ball towards Okubo in the middle, another move that comes to nothing. But Japan are the dominant side now. If they had a Luis Suarez, they'd be a couple of goals up now.

35 min: Your medical correspondent, Dr Murray, is a right quack. Winging it on 31 mins, he told you that there was "no serious injury" to Mitroglou. Well, he's just been replaced by Gekas, holding his side and grimacing. Just as Mitroglou has been hooked, so Dr Murray should be struck off.

33 min: A bit of space for Nagatomo down the left. His cross into the box is decent, but Okubo heads clumsily over the bar from ten yards. A decent chance, and a fairly inept finish, albeit not a sitter.


31 min: Mitroglou and Hasebe come together in the middle of the park, entirely innocently, and both roll around for a bit. No serious injury. A lull, which is not exactly what this game needs.

29 min: Another free kick for Japan, and this time it's a decent one. Just to the right of the D, Honda whips a fantastic effort over the wall and towards the top right. Karnezis gets behind it to parry very impressively, though the loose ball nearly breaks to Osako, sniffing around. Japan can't make anything of it, and Greece eventually mop up.

27 min: Katsouranis is booked for a cynical trip on Osako, who was looking to break upfield at speed. Japan were reacting to a decent initial move by the Greeks. The excellent Maniatis danced in from the right and, for a second, looked to have time to shoot from the edge of the area. But Konno put paid to that idea with a stunning sliding tackle. At which point Japan looked to break, whereupon ... here, this entry has a similar cyclical structure to Finnegans Wake. And admittedly is probably not much easier to comprehend.

24 min: Free kick for Japan wide left, 25 yards from goal. Okubo launches it over Yoshida's head. The ball flies out of play on the right. Not a whole lot of entertainment being put on here, but the crowd are still giving it plenty.

21 min: And now it's Greece doing their level best to open the scoring. Holebas makes good ground down the left, drifts inside, and curls a low cross into the box with the hope of finding Mitroglou, six yards out. Kawashima comes out to claim.


20 min: Here, this was nearly it, too! Osako glides in from the left and looks to curl one into the top right from 20 yards. He's only a ball's width away from a spectacular strike, as I'm not sure the keeper was fingertipping that away if it was on target.


19 min: Okazaki cuts in from the right and attempts to send a low curler into the bottom left. Karnezis is behind it all the way, and gathers. "I think you should know that the favourite for 1st goalscorer in this match is No Goalscorer, followed by Kostas Mitroglou and Giorgios Samaras," reports Mike Wood. "I'm not confident either." Oh I'm full of confidence. This World Cup has hardly put a foot wrong yet. It's just a matter of time before the dam breaks. I'm shamelessly tempting fate publishing your email while I can.


18 min: Honda, 40 yards out down the left channel, shapes to shoot but checks and clips a clever diagonal ball towards Osako, hovering just inside the box down the inside right. The striker's offside, but that's better from the Japanese, who have already made 132 passes to Greece's 26, albeit few of them executed in the final third.

16 min: Okubo twists and turns in the middle of the park, 35 yards out, and attempts a shot. Papastathopoulos is right up in his grille and blocks the effort, snuffing it out pretty much at source. Japan aren't offering much up front at the moment.

13 min: A mime from the Japanese captain Hasebe, who performs Man Waiting For Bus Considers Lying Down And Having Little Sleep While Waiting For Bus. Maniatis nips in and makes to bugger off with the ball, but he's tugged back by Hasebe, suddenly awake again and no longer interested in the contemporary arts. That's a cynical tug, for the Greek midfielder was heading towards the Japan area. A yellow card all day long. The free kick, launched into the area from 40 yards, comes to nothing.

10 min: Another blooter from Greece, but in the more creative style, as Kone takes a few strides down the inside-right channel and attempts to score from 40 yards. I'm not sure he was giving Kawashima the credit a keeper at a World Cup deserves, but you get nothing if you don't ask.

9 min: A downfield blooter launched by Greece, this time. A strange business down the right, with Maniatis in acres, but opting not to chase after the ball, presumably under the impression he was miles offside. But I'm not totally sure he was. The assistant ref didn't raise their flag at any point. A chance to romp free down the right. Think the Luis Suarez goal earlier tonight, only with added indecision (on the part of Suarez, to be clear, not Phil Jagielka or Gary Cahill).

7 min: Honda isn't very far from slipping Osako clear into the area with a lovely little dink on the edge of the D. Greece clear. Yoshida returns the ball in the blunt-instrument style, Okazaki nearly latching onto the long hoof. But the ball bounds out of play to the left of the goal, Greece just about shepherding it out.

5 min: Holebas wins a corner for Greece down the right. The resulting set piece is all huff and puff, the ball not breaking to a white shirt, and eventually getting hacked clear by a blue one.

4 min: Mitroglou is sent into a little space down the inside-left channel by Samaras. The striker bustles and gets a shot away, looking to Suarez the Japanese keeper Kawashima at his near post. But the effort's blocked and mopped up by the keeper.

2 min: Okazaki goes on a skedaddle down the right, cutting inside. His low cross is deflected out to Yamaguchi, on the edge of the area. He sends one low fizzer goalwards. Blocked. Then he sends another in roughly the same direction. That's dealt with too. Greece looking a bit ropey at the back, there, though, and remember they've got a terrible habit of shipping goals early doors.

1 min: Japan knock it around the middle for a while without going anywhere. Sterile domination, they call it, or tiki-taka. Switch to Plan B, folks! Plan B!

And we're off! After a long wait for the clock to tick round to 7pm local time, Japan get the ball rolling, with the place jumping. A magnificent atmosphere at the Estadio das Dunas in Natal, as there has been pretty much everywhere, really. What a lovely World Cup this is! (And for those reading in the Guardian's homeland of England, don't let Mr Roy and Luis Suarez ruin it for you.) The goals-per-game average at this World Cup is currently a round, plump and delicious three. Don't let us down, lads!

The teams are out! Japan will be playing in their first choice blue, while Greece are in one of their our-home-shirts-are-white-rather-than-blue phases, and are in their current favourite kit as well. The players line up to listen to their national anthems.

Japan's is very easy on the ear. A bit stern perhaps - in terms of mood and general atmos, it makes Bartok's 44 Duos for two violins sound like Fiesta by the Pogues - but it doesn't hang about. In and out in under a minute. "May your reign continue for a thousand years / Until the pebbles grow into boulders lush with moss." That's your lot as far as lyrics go. Brief and to the point. A bit like Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want by the Smiths (1m 50s) only less needy.

The paean to Greece is very pleasant too. More of your bog-standard military stomp, it ticks along at twice the tempo, but takes a fair bit longer to get to the point. "I recognise you by the fearsome sharpness of your sword / I recognise you by the gleam in your eyes with which you rapidly survey the earth! / From the sacred bones of Greeks of old arisen / And valiant again as you once were / Hail, o hail, liberty!" Hovers around the two-minute mark, this one, like most of the really good Elvis and Beatles singles, so not bad company to be keeping.

Dramatis personæ

Japan drop the out-of sorts Shinji Kagawa to the bench: Kawashima; Uchida, Yoshida, Nagatomo, Konno; Hasebe, Yamaguchi, Honda, Okazaki; Okubo, Osako.
Subs: Sakai, Morishige, Endo, Kiyotake, Kagawa, Kakitani, Nishikawa, Aoyama, Inoha, Saito, Sakai, Gonda.

Greece introduce Fulham striker Konstantinos Mitroglou and Genoa winger Ioannis Fetfatzidis to their starting line-up: Karnezis; Torosidis, Papasthathopoulos, Manolas, Holebas; Fetfetsidis, Katsouranis, Maniatis, Kone, Samaras, Mitroglou.
Subs: Tzavellas, Moras, Tziolis, Karagounis, Vyntra, Glykos, Kapino, Salpingidis, Christodoulopoulos, Gekas, Samaris, Tachtsidis.

Referee: Joel Aguilar (El Salvador)


サッカー日本代表 – the Soccer Nippon Daihyō, for those not conversant – took 44 years to make it to a World Cup. Japan first had a go at qualification in 1954, eventually reaching their first finals in 1998. But they wasted no time in making a few impressions on the tournament. Their record of three defeats at France '98 distorts their actual performance: only against Jamaica did they truly disappoint, putting up a decent show in one-goal defeats against highly fancied Argentina and eventual semi-finalists Croatia. Four years later, as joint hosts, they made it to the second round, topping a group containing Belgium and Russia, before going out rather lamely to semi-bound Turkey. In 2006, they were a minute away from leading Brazil at half time during a group match, but Ronaldo burst that particular bubble and they eventually went down 4-1. Last time round they made it out of the groups again, doing for Denmark and Cameroon, before being beaten by Paraguay on penalties after a 0-0 draw, which let's face it is a fate that's befallen just about everyone at some point or other. And while their start to their 2014 campaign wasn't ideal – a 2-1 loss to a Didier Drogba inspired Ivory Coast – what a goal by Keisuke Honda!

The Ethniki Ellados took 60 years to make it to a World Cup. Greece first had a go at qualification in 1934, eventually reaching their first finals in 1994. They too wasted no time in making an impression, though it wasn't a particularly favourable one. They conceded a goal within two minutes of their opening match against Argentina, and that rather set the tone for the Greeks at the World Cup finals ever since. They went down 4-0 against Argentina, 4-0 again by Bulgaria, and finally 2-0 by Nigeria; all anyone really remembers from their campaign is Diego Maradona's television-cameraman-bothering goalscoring celebration. Four years ago, competing in their second finals, Greece finally won a game. That payback 2-1 victory over the Nigerians counted for little, however, as defeats to South Korea and Argentina sent them packing. So, will it be third time lucky? It doesn't much look like it so far: they've just been spanked 3-0 by Colombia, which leaves them with an all-time finals record of played seven, won one, lost six, goals scored two (both against Nigeria 2010's ten men), goals conceded 18. And an uphill battle to get out of one of the easier groups in this tournament.

Japan start the match as favourites, having given the Ivory Coast a good run for their money before running out of steam and ideas in the second half on Saturday night. They have worries over the form of Shinji Kagawa, but at least nobody's been booking flights home in fits of pique like Giannis Maniatis. It's not must-win for either team, though Japan can't afford to lose: they go out if Greece take all three points tonight.

Kick off: 11pm in London, 7pm at the stadium in Natal, 7am in Tokyo, 1am in Athens.

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