Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni feels his side need to go back to basics if they are to stand any chance of keeping their FIFA World Cup™ dream alive. The Blue Samurai failed to break down the determined resistance of 10-man Greece in a frustrating goalless draw in Natal on Thursday night, which leaves them with one point going into their final Group C match against Colombia.
The Colombians have already qualified for the last 16 after beating Ivory Coast 2-1 in Brasilia. Japan must now win on Tuesday and also hope the result between Greece and Ivory Coast goes their way for the Asian champions to remain in Brazil. Zaccheroni hopes his men can rediscover the form they showed in qualifying, when they were the first side to reach the finals.
"Japan should be brave enough to play at the international level by imposing its game on opponents and playing fast," the Italian said. "In the last two games unfortunately we were not able to play with the speed we were accustomed to."
Forward Yoshito Okubo, who had spells in Europe at Real Mallorca and Wolfsburg, accepts it was a missed opportunity having seen Greek captain Konstantinos Katsouranis dismissed on 38 minutes following two yellow cards.
"They were down one man and became really defensive, but we had a lot of opportunities in the second half and we could have won if we had finished," Okubo said. "We were able to pass the ball in midfield so we have to practice feeding the ball [to the front]. It was a wasted opportunity, and it was shameful. We have one more match and I will devote myself fully [to getting the victory]."
Despite being overrun in midfield, the Greeks still had some chances of their own. Vasilis Torosidis forced a fine save from Eiji Kawashima, who in the second half then pushed away a bullet header from substitute Theofanis Gekas and former Celtic frontman Georgios Samaras glanced a late chance wide.
Greece went down 3-0 to Colombia in their opening Group C match, but Fernando Santos's squad could yet progress should they beat Ivory Coast and Japan fail to win in Cuiaba. Defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos says the Greeks still believe they can advance to the Round of 16.
"We have a point and we have hope," Papastathopoulos said. "If things go well we can get four points with a win in the next game."