Japan dominates; fails to measure up

Japan and Greece was the final matchup, two days ago.

One thing that struck me, very early in the game, was that the Japanese were much smaller (though a little faster) than the Greeks, and it seemed like an advantage the Greeks would be able to exploit.

Throughout the game, the Japanese definitely had the better of the play, solidly dominating possession, though early on I don't think they had an advantage in chances.

Japan had a glorious try off a free kick in the 28th minute.  Honda had an outstanding kick that bent around the wall on a very hard shot, but the goaltender barely managed to keep it out of the net.

But it really looked like the Greeks lost out in the 38th minute, when their captain, Katsouranis, got his second yellow card (the second challenge might not have been that bad, but the first was so bad that, on balance, it was reasonable) of the match.

That didn't end the game, though it came pretty close to ending any chance of Greece winning the game.

After that, their strategy seemed to largely devolve into fouling the hell out of anyone who got close to the box.  And they were given quite a bit of latitude by the refs, so maybe it wasn't a bad strategy; they should have given up a lot more free kicks than they did.

In the sixtieth minute, the Greeks mounted their last serious attempt to win the game, when they ended up with three corners in a row, but were unable to convert on any of them.

Japan got their best chance of the game in the sixty-eighth minute, but the forward breaking alone into the box didn't take advantage of the space he had for a second touch.  But the one touch he allowed himself went almost straight up in the air and well over the net, even though he was only kicking from six or seven yards out.

Much of the rest of the game was Japan building up to bring the ball down the side, and go for a cross to a header to put it in.  But that's where their lack of height was killing them; the Greeks got to most of those crosses.

One thing that felt a little weird, and might have been related to the height differential, was that the Japanese attempting almost no long passes.  Pretty much everything was within twenty yards.  They needed to stretch things a bit more, especially being up a man.

My last note is that Maniatis was lucky to not get a card (a red would not have been unreasonable) for some nonsense he pulled in the 81st minute.

Despite that, Greece held on for the scoreless draw; a clear victory for them, given that they were down a man for most of the game.  Japan has to be hating life; that didn't eliminate them, but they missed a very clear opportunity and I wouldn't be surprised to see them knocked out before the knock out stage.

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