Preview: Japan vs Greece
Japan will be armed with tough lessons when they take on the Piratiko (The Pirate Ship) of Greece in Natal on Wednesday.
The Blue Samurai started on the front foot against Ivory Coast only to drop back and try to grind out a 1-0 win. In the end their slender lead was overturned by a Didier Drogba-inspired comeback. In this game, they will hope to perform well in both halves to keep their hopes of getting to the knockout stages alive.
The Greeks were quickly blown out of their defensive comfort zone by a fast start from Colombia in their opener and they ended up losing the match 3-0. They will hope to remind the world of their legendary defensive quality by keeping Japan at bay.
This is a game in which the Piratiko will need to improve their attacking performance as well because they will need goals to beat Japan, not just a clean sheet.
Japan team news
- Shinji Okazaki and Keisuke Honda have both publicly promised an attacking game. Okazaki blamed the change to a conservative system in the second half for their loss to Ivory Coast
- Makoto Hatsebe will likely lose his place in the starting XI to Hotaru Yamaguchi. Hatsebe came into this tournament carrying an injury and was substituted in the opening game against Ivory Coast.
Greece team news
- Kostas Mitroglou will probably take Theofanis Gekas’ place in the starting XI as Greece’s centre forward.
- Greece manager Fernando Santos and captain Konstantinos Katsouranis both publicly slammed their defending as the reason for their loss to Colombia. They vowed a better performance against the Blue Samurai.
This may be a must-win encounter for both sides but Santos and Alberto Zaccheroni will approach this game in different ways.
Japan’s Italian boss Zaccheroni will hope his team keep the ball better for the whole game, not just the first-half like they did against Ivory Coast. If Japan play to their strengths and keep the ball, their flair players like Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda will be effective.
For Santos, his primary aim will be better defending from his side. Coming into this tournament, the Piratiko’s main strength has been solid defensive performances, but they were shockingly poor against Colombia.
Santos initially surprised many by starting with Gekas up front instead of a more dangerous Mitroglou but he needed workrate up front more than better finishing. In this crunch match though, it is understandable why Mitroglou’s goalscoring abilities would trump Gekas’ work rate.
The Greeks do not have flair players but, should Santos start with Mitroglou in place of Gekas, they will be dangerous on the break.