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 Posted by Chris Paraskevas
Jun 20, 2014

Greece can be happy with boring result

Ten-man Greece held Japan to a goalless World Cup draw in Thursday's Group C clash at Arena das Dunas.

In the end, this was the result that neither team wanted but only one team, Greece, will be happy with.

The possession statistics won't reflect kindly upon Greece after their scoreless draw with Japan in Natal, but there are more positives than negatives in this performance for Fernando Santos' side.

JapanJapan
GreeceGreece
0
0
ESPN, ESPN3 FT
Match 22
Game Details

For one, the Greeks -- despite failing to score a goal in Brazil and being outplayed in their first two games -- have somehow managed to keep destiny in their hands. A win against the Ivory Coast in their final group match should see them into the knockout stages, assuming Japan don't beat Colombia.

Prematch, there had been much talk of Giannis Maniatis' clash with Giorgos Tzavellas, with the former booking a flight back to Greece. Only a last-minute intervention by Maniatis' teammates convinced the player not to abandon the campaign.

That episode sent the Hellenic Football Federation and Santos into damage control, with the Portuguese coach insisting there were no divisions within the squad.

His players echoed their manager's sentiments in the best way possible: with a typical backs-to-the-wall performance with 10 men, after Kostas Katsouranis' brainless first-half dismissal.

Wearing the captain's armband at this tournament, veteran midfielder Katsouranis is a divisive figure and surviving member of the Euro 2004 squad. His second yellow card was deserved and inexcusable, and he now will miss the Ivory Coast match.

Greece somehow managed to fend off Japan with just 10 men after Kostas Katsouranis (21) was sent off at the end of the first half.

As always seems to be the case in football -- and doubly so for a team such as Greece, which thrives on a reactive game -- Katsouranis' sending off seemed to unite his teammates and they improved substantially.

With 10 men there was a sudden solidity to defence and midfield, with players in both departments turning in heroic performances. The likes of Panagiotis Kone, Kostas Manolas, Sokratis and the aforementioned Maniatis were remarkable.

Giorgos Karagounis underlined his importance to this Greek side, coming off the bench to help settle nerves and guide the team to what could be a crucial point. At the age of 37, he still oozes class and is arguably his country's greatest-ever footballer.

- Video: Samarui Blue can't score against Greece
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- Santos: 10-man Greece brilliant vs. Japan

Despite ceding territory and possession to the Japanese, it was Greece who had some of the game's best chances. Vasilis Torosidis was denied by Eiji Kawashima before halftime and it wasn't the only save the goalkeeper had to make.

A constant threat from set pieces, Santos' players showed a surprising degree of potency in attack, a particularly impressive feat given Kostas Mitroglou was forced off with injury.

The Fulham striker has had a disastrous second half of the season and has endured a miserable World Cup. Deemed not fit enough for the Colombia game, he was given a starting spot here but a knock in the first half saw him replaced by Theofanis Gekas. It remains to be seen whether Mitroglou will feature again in Brazil.

Greece fans can be pleased overall with the spirit shown by this side during the second half in particular, while the threat retained from set pieces and the form of Manolas and Kone provide hope ahead of the showdown with the Ivory Coast.

GreeceGreece
Ivory CoastIvory Coast
2
1
ESPN2, ESPN3 FT
Match 38
Game Details

Even Jose Holebas grew in stature and provided a fairly regular outlet down the left flank, while Georgios Samaras began to recapture the form that can make him such an effective footballer.

While it is incredibly frustrating that it essentially took a sending off to spark this team into life (see Euro 2012 for previous example), Greece showed what they are capable of with a modicum of application and determination.

Santos will have some big selections to make for the final group game, needing to replace both Katsouranis in midfield and Mitroglou in attack.

More important, however, Greece will need to adopt the fighting mentality that served them so well here; and which is in stark contrast to the limp display turned in against Colombia.

Incredibly, this team is alive and kicking in Group C.

Chris Paraskevas

Chris Paraskevas is editor of FootballHellas, an English language website for Greek football, and has also worked for Goal.com and ESPN. You can follow him on twitter @cparaskevas

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