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Three lessons from Japan 0-0 Greece

Three lessons from Japan 0-0 Greece


Japan fell short being held by 10-man Greece and are now facing a daunting task of beating Colombia to stand a chance of progress. We look at three takeaways from the match

By Bhas Kunju | Chief Editor, Goal Singapore

Four Asian teams at the World Cup, six matches played and a grand total of three points accumulated from a possible 18. That's three draws and three defeats. As it stands Asia are the only continent without a win in Brazil. Against Greece on Friday morning, odd were on Japan's side to break that duck, but how the Samurai Blue fared was a disappointment.

Colourful fans
Photos of Japanese fans cleaning up the area they were seated in after the end of the match against Ivory Coast was a highlight in a week that has so far seen England fans attacked, and Chile fans running riot.

Apart from that, the Japan contingent in the stands have also opted for some of the most bizarre costumes seen so far in this World Cup. See the picture above. Clearly something is lost in the translation.

The Kagawa conundrum
When and how often Shinji Kagawa played was a major point of discussion at his club Manchester United this past season, with the Japanese playmaker reduced to largely cameo roles off the bench.

The one safe place he had was on the Japan national team roster. A shoo-in for a starting berth he shone over the course of the past season at international level, scoring goals, grabbing assists and leading the Asian Champions to impressive results.

Against Greece, Kagawa faced the same predicament he endured at club level, as he was benched for his poor performance in the previous game. This isn't a defence of the former Dortmund star's inclusion in the lineup. If Kagawa was omitted from the starting eleven for his showing against Ivory Coast then by that same reasoning, pretty much half the team would have been axed.

You can't help but feel sorry for the little guy. When he did come on he fared better than most of his team-mates who struggled in the final third. So what is it about him that makes him so expendable?

Japan are far from taking on the best
Reigning Asian champions, fifth World Cup in a row, scores of players plying their trade across Europe, Japan are the defacto face of Asian football.

Unfortunately that still leaves them far from being able to take on the best in the world. On home continent, Japan are hard to match, but that says more about the state of Asian football than it does about the Blue Samurai. Perhaps, just two or three other nations across the entire continent could match Japan in terms of football infrastructure. That advantage has paid off in consistent presence amongst the best in the world as representatives of Asia following their debut in 1998. But challenging the best is another issue.

It would be unfair to make an entire premise about a team based on two World Cup performances. Although, repeated disappointing results against mid-ranked teams at the world's stage is probably a good indicator something is not quite right.

One-off grand results like the narrow 4-3 defeat to Italy a year ago mask other more telling outcomes, like the 1-0 defeat to Jordan, narrow wins over Cyprus, New Zealand and Zambia, all hardly the most competitive of sides, certainly not for a team of Japan's calibre.

Against 10-man Greece, who have until the goalless draw on Thursday morning, never even kept a cleansheet at the World Cup, Japan's shortcomings were quite evident. Competent in midfield and in defence, the final third was worrisome. Not only was there a lack of a clear striker, the same can be said of the chances created.

With a man less, Greece managed four shots on target, the exact same that Japan mustered. The same pattern emerges in the build-up play. Japan registered a meagre 16% accuracy rate in crossing, Greece on the other hand actually fared better with 18%. The same shows for offensive passes, as Alberto Zaccheroni's men completed just 32% of their forward passes. Again, Greece trumped them in spite of the disadvantage, managing 44%.

At this rate, Japan's hopes of managing a second consecutive appearance in the final 16 are pretty slim, with a dangerous Colombia up next.