Following defeats to Cote d'Ivoire and Colombia respectively, head coaches Alberto Zaccheroni and Fernando Santos know nothing but victory will suffice on Thursday. Greece and Japan will meet this Thursday in Natal forced to get a victory to keep their hopes of reaching the round of 16 following defeats at their opening matches against Colombia and Cote d'Ivoire. Known for their defensive strength, the Greeks actually played very attacking-minded in their opener.
Of course, that could be attributed to the fact they were behind in the score since the 5th minute. But Georgios Samaras assures the circumstances of the game had nothing to do with Greece's switch of style of Fernando Santos' men. "I know what everyone expected of Greece though: that we would have 11 men behind the ball, defend, defend, defend and give everything to keep a clean sheet. But I think what they saw was a team that likes to attack, that moves the ball really well, and that tries always to create chances," he said to FIFA.com. A
dmittedly, playing a different style didn't work so well for the 2004 European champions, who finished on the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline. It is a must win game for both. Japan were doing better thanks to Keisuke Honda’s strike in the first half, but struggled to hold on against a very physical Cote d'Ivoire side. Once Didier Drogba entered the field, it took his team only a few minutes to turn around the score, with goals by Wilfried Bony and Gervinho - the latter with the help of goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima.
Coach Alberto Zaccheroni admitted after the loss that he could make radical changes to his squad for the match at Arena das Dunas, but Honda feels the Asian champions just need to focus on their strong areas.Possession is their strength says Keisuke Honda. "When we have the ball we just need to keep the ball and not give it away easily. When we do lose the ball we should press immediately. That is our philosophy. The last game we lost the ball too easily so that is how we spent a lot of energy in the first half; that is the point. That is why we must concentrate on keeping the ball."
This is Japan and Greece's first World Cup encounter.
Their only previous meeting was in the 2005 Confederations Cup with Japan securing a 1-0 win thanks to a goal by Masashi Oguro. Yasuhito Endo is the only current member of the Japan squad to have taken part in that game.
Greece's only previous World Cup fixture against an Asian side was in 2010 when they lost 2-0 against South Korea in their opening game.
Japan have won twice in their seven encounters against European sides at the World Cup (Drawn-2, Lost-3).
Greece have lost six of their seven World Cup games (Won-1).
Greece have failed to score in six of their seven World Cup games. Only against Nigeria in 2010 did they manage to find the net (2-1 - Dimitris Salpingidis and Vasilis Torosidis).
Greece have failed to keep a clean sheet in their seven World Cup encounters.
Greece have conceded an average of 2.6 goals per game at the World Cup, the highest ratio amongst the 32 teams involved in this tournament.
Keisuke Honda has been involved in four of Japan's last five goals at the World Cup (3 goals, 1 assist). He is Japan top-scorer in the competition (3 goals).
Giorgios Samaras has attempted more shots without scoring at the World Cup than any other Greek player (9, including blocked shots).