Japan and Greece meet in the second round of fixtures in Group C in hope they can recover from their opening defeats which has made qualification to the knockout stages a difficult task. Japan lost their first match 1-2 to Ivory Coast despite dominating early on and taking the lead, while Greece continued their World Cup struggle with a convincing 0-3 defeat to Colombia.
Japan’s plan in their opening match relied on quick counter attacks as they let Ivory Coast have the ball and drew them further up the pitch. Against Greece though, this game plan may not work with the European team looking to sit deeper than most teams at the World Cup. This means the creative players in the Japan team will need to up their game to create the space for teammates or thread balls between the centre-backs and full-backs to get behind the line. The goal scored against Ivory Coast saw Japan pull the right-back (Serge Aurier) out of position and quick passing allowed Honda to break into the box before firing home. This is the type of play that will need to be produced on Thursday and despite a poor season for AC Milan, Honda has the ability to either create or score himself – as long as his delivery into the box improves from that previous match where 7 out of 11 passes/crosses failed to find a team mate.
Greece have had difficulties with finding the back of the net in the last decade and focused an organised team effort rather than individual flair, once they go behind early on like against Colombia it always looked difficult that Greece were going to get themselves back into the game. The Greek side managed to have 11 shots throughout Saturday’s match, but only 2 were on target and none of the shots inside the area (3) failed to test the goalkeeper. The need for an outlet up front was desperately obvious for Greece, but the disappointing performance by Gekas and the fitness problems of Fulham striker Mitroglou gives Fernando Santos a headache before the match. Whoever the Greece coach chooses to start up front though will hold the key to the Europeans chancers.
Premier League Watch
The only Greek starter to have been associated with the Premier League was Georgios Samaras – the former Manchester City forward. Samaras tried to force the issue to the Colombian defence with 3 take-ons and created 3 chances, but in the end he didn’t have enough quality to produce anything in the opposition penalty area.
Shinji Kagawa managed to complete 39 out 49 passes, but failed to have any influence on the ball in the attacking third for Japan. The other Premier League player to feature for Japan was Maya Yoshida, who had a better game than Kagawa, and made 6 clearances, 2 interceptions and 1 block.
Honda is the first Japanese player to score at 2 separate World Cups and became Japan’s leading goal scorer at World Cups (3).
Greece have conceded a goal within the first 7 minutes in each of their 3 opening games at World Cups.
Greece have now lost 6 times in their last 7 World Cup matches and failed to score in any of these defeats.
Japan have already come out in the last few days to say they won’t change their attacking style and this is what they need to do. Greece will make it difficult for Japan, but the Asian side will come out on top in the end.
Japan 2 Greece 1