A man down before halftime, Greece held Japan to a goalless draw in a largely forgettable World Cup Group C clash on Thursday that kept both sides in with a chance of making the knockout phase.
Both sides were looking to get their campaigns back on track after losing their opening encounters. Greece however will be the happier after playing for 52 minutes without skipper Kostas Katsouranis, who was sent off for two yellow card offences.
Japan dominated possession but was unable to make the most of the chances they created against a Greek defence which once again looked like the one that conceded four goals in 10 qualifying matches for Brazil.
The Asian champions, who opened their campaign with a 2-1 defeat to Ivory Coast, stayed true to the attacking style that made them the first country to qualify for Brazil. They however will need to beat Colombia in their final match to have a chance of progressing.
Colombia top Group C with six points from their first two games ahead of Ivory Coast with three. Japan faces the Colombians on Tuesday in Cuiaba, when Greece meets the African team in Fortaleza.
Greece, who lost their opener 3-0 to Colombia, hassled and harried the Japanese to stay in the match after Katsouranis was dismissed in the 38th minute for taking Japan captain Makoto Hasebe’s legs away from underneath him.
It was Greece who came closest to opening the scoring in the remaining minutes before halftime. Vassilis Torosidis launched a thunderbolt of a shot from the edge of the box which Eiji Kawashima parried away at full stretch.
Yoshito Okubo should have put Japan ahead after 68 minutes when a sublime Hotaru Yamaguchi pass set Atsuto Uchida free in the box but he could only blast the defender’s square ball into the crowd from close range.