Story of the half: Greece continued to play to type, willing to stay behind the ball during a half where Japan dominated possession. Though that dominance failed to translate onto the scoresheet, it did get a man sent off. The Samurai Blue have 45 minutes to make their numbers pay off.
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Other key moments:
29′ – As expected, Japan has had the ball, but neither side’s been able to generate much danger. Off a dead ball, however, Keisuke Honda nearly changes that. Opening his left foot on a shot from well beyond the penalty area, the Milan midfielder forces Orestis Karneszis to spill the shot in front of goal. Unfortunately, none of Honda’s teammates are there to take advantage.
35′ – Now the move seems like desperation. Kostas Mitroglou, who has struggled with injuries throughout 2014, was a surprise inclusion in the starting lineup, but when the Fulham striker walked off the field grabbing his back, Fernando Santos’s gamble had cost him a substitution. Far too early, Theofanis Gekas was Greece’s first man off the bench.
38′ – Japan had been holding over 70 percent of the ball, making it difficult to imagine Greece playing further on their back foot. In the 38th minute, however, when Konstantinos Katsouranis drew a second yellow card, the Greeks were left with 10 men. By the end of the half, Japan’s possession is climbing toward the 80-mark.
Japan: Kawashima, Uchida, Konno, Yoshida, Nagatomo, Yamaguchi, Hasebe, Honda, Okubo, Okazaki, Osako
Greece: Karnezis, Holebas, Sokratis, Manolas, Torosidis, Katsouranis, Maniatis, Kone, Samaras, Mitroglou (Gekas 35′), Fetfatzidis (Karagounis 42′)
Numbers to know:
76 – The percentage of possession Japan had in the first half.
14 – The number of passes Katsouranis was credited with before being sent off, a team high. Six Japanese players bested that mark.
2 – The number of shots on goal Japan had. Greece’s total? Also two.
Questions for the second half:
- When will Japan push? Greece is still a threat on the counter, but with his team given a half to play up a man, Alberto Zaccheroni should start thinking goal difference. One goal will probably be enough to take full points, but this is a chance for Japan to turn the first tiebreaker in their favor.