Japan draw sends Colombia through


Japan and 10-man Greece played out a stalemate that keeps alive both teams’ chances of progressing from Group C.

Greece captain Konstantinos Katsouranis was sent off for two bookable offences before the break in Natal.

The Greeks went close with a second-half header from Theofanis Gekas, which was saved by Eiji Kawashima.

Yoshito Okubo missed from just a couple of yards and Atsuto Uchida also prodded wide from a good position as Japan were left frustrated.

The draw leaves both teams on one point heading into the final round of group matches.

Japan face Colombia, who have already qualified with six points, and a win could still take them above Ivory Coast, whose current tally is three points.

Fernando Santos’s Greeks must defeat the Ivorians and hope that Japan’s result gives them a chance to finish in second place.

Whatever the permutations, a second goalless draw of the tournament offered little to suggest that either of these sides can qualify for the last 16.

Although Panagiotis Kone threatened when he surged forward from halfway and forced a low save from Kawashima, Japan were in control of possession from the start.

Yuya Osako curled wide from 25 yards and Keisuke Honda’s free-kick was thwarted by Orestis Kanezis’ scrambling save before Yoshito Okubo headed over from Yuto Nagatomo’s cross.

Shortly after recalled Fulham striker Konstantinos Mitroglu had limped off with an injury, Katsouranis was sent off for a lunge at Makoto Hasebe.

That seemed to spark Greece and defender Vaileios Torosidis’ powerful effort was pushed away by Kawashima before the same player missed with a header from a Georgios Karagounis free-kick.

Georgios Samaras missed narrowly with an effort straight from the kick-off for the second-half.

Despite being a man down, the Greeks continued to have the better chances and Kawashima showed real quality to push a Gekas header around a post from a Georgios Karagounis corner.

Midway through the second half, Japan should have moved in front when Atsuto Uchida’s fine cross was driven well wide by Okubo from just a couple of yards.

Uchida then stabbed wide after the Greeks failed to clear and Maya Yoshida almost diverted a driven cross on target.

Yashito Endo had a free-kick saved in the final minute and Santos’ side were able to hold out for a draw but neither side looks likely to make it beyond the group stage.