FRANKFURT, June 19 (Reuters) - Substitute Masashi Oguro pounced with 14 minutes to go to give Japan a 1-0 win over Greece on Sunday and keep the Asian champions in contention at the Confederations Cup.
Japan had looked set to pay a high price for bad finishing,
with strikers Atsushi Yanagisawa and Keiji Tamada guilty of a
series of appalling misses in a one-sided game.
But Zico's team showed patience as well as masterly
technique and they took the lead when Oguro ran on to a pass
from Shunsuke Nakamura and tucked the ball past Antonis
Angelos Haristeas brought one good save from keeper
Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi with six minutes to go but otherwise Japan
were untroubled by a disappointing Greece display.
"We were asleep today," said Greece's German coach Otto
Rehhagel. "You couldn't win a pot of flowers playing like that."
Victory gives Japan three points from two Group B matches,
while Greece are left without points.
Brazil and Mexico, with three points each, were due to meet
in the late game in Hanover.
"It's very satisfying to beat the European champions," said
Japan coach Zico. "We created a lot of chances quite easily."
Japan's midfield carved through the Greek defence with the
same panache shown by Brazil in their 3-0 win over the European
champions on Thursday.
Japan do not possess a centre-forward of the calibre of
Greece, missing the influential Theodoros Zagorakis in
midfield, stuck to a clear gameplan at the start, launching high
balls up for Haristeas and Zisis Vryzas.
That tactic had caused Japan problems in their 2-1 defeat by
Mexico but they defended much better this time and were soon
troubling Greece on the counter-attack.
Tamada was too eager to shoot after being put into space on
the edge of the area in the eighth minute and five minutes later
he blasted wide from an even better position on the right.
Kaji Akira sent a fierce shot into the side netting in the
19th minute and two minutes later Tamada shot tamely wide after
popping up on the left.
Greece abandoned all thoughts of attacking themselves for
the remainder of the half and concentrated instead on trying to
blunt their opponents in midfield.
They were almost entirely unsuccessful, as Nakamura and
Hidetoshi Nakata ripped through their defences.
Tamada was set running on goal with another precise pass
from Nakamura but his shot was well wide.
A couple of minutes later, it was Nakata setting up
Yanagisawa with a clever ball but the forward's chip was weakly
struck and Angelos Basinas was able to clear.
Chances continued to come thick and fast for Japan in the
second half, with Greece remaining utterly bemused as to how to
cope with their precise passing.
Oguro came on for Tamada in the 64th minute and he showed a
far cooler head than his colleague when exchanging passes with
Nakamura before supplying a calm finish under pressure.