Greece’s hopes of qualifying for the knock-out stage of the World Cup remain intact following their 0-0 draw with Japan on Thursday.
Japan had chances to take the lead in the first half, notably when Yuya Osako shot wide and Keisuke Honda’s free-kick was parried by Greek stopper Orestis Karnezis.
The former European Champions then suffered a double blow to their chances; firstly when Kostas Mitroglou had to be withdrawn having been on the receiving end of an elbow, and then when captain Konstantinos Katsouranis was sent off for a second bookable offence.
Giorgos Karagounis came on as a substitute three minutes before half-time to restore some balance to the centre of the Greece midfield.
Vasilis Torosidis’ fierce strike then drew a good save from Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima, before the same player perhaps should have done better when he met a fine Karagounis free-kick with his head as Greece threatened to make the breakthrough before the interval.
A speculative effort from the halfway line by Georgios Samaras straight from kick-off had Kawashima worried momentarily before sailing wide, and then Theofanis Gekas – Mitroglou’s replacement – nodded a Karagounis set-piece towards the far corner, only for Kawashima to pull off a fine save to tip it wide.
But it was Japan who squandered the game’s best chance midway through the second period when Yoshito Okubo blazed high and wide with the goal at his mercy when he connected with Atsuto Uchida’s volleyed ball across the face.
Okubo forced a good save from Karnezis late on when he drilled in a powerful effort from range, but neither side was able to find a way through as the game finished goalless.The Greeks will need to defeat Ivory Coast on Tuesday, and hope that Japan slip up against Colombia, to ensure they make it through to the last 16.