AFC Champions League

Natal: Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni expressed his frustration at the Asian champions' inability to convert their possession into goals as the Asian champions were held 0-0 by ten-man Greece at the Estadio das Dunas on Thursday.

Zaccheroni surprisingly left influential attackers Shinji Kagawa and Yasuhito Endo out of the starting 11 before bringing them on after the interval in an effort to make the most of the numerical advantage following the 38th minute sending off of Greece captain Kostas Kastouranis for a second bookable offence.
But a Japan side boasting the attacking talents of the mercurial Kagawa, 2009 AFC Player of the Year Endo, Shinji Okazaki, top scorer in the Asian World Cup qualifiers, and man-of-the-match Keisuke Honda, could not penetrate a resolute Greece, who also had chances of their own to break the deadlock with Eiji Kawashima doing well to deny efforts from Vasilis Torosidis and Theofanis Gekas.
"We needed to win this game at all costs and that was what we trained for all week," Zaccheroni reflected after the stalemate that guaranteed Colombia's place in the knockout stage following the South Americans' 2-1 win over Cote d'Ivoire in the earlier Group C fixture in Brasilia.
"We ended up with the players switching their individual positions a lot. By doing that, we hoped to get an edge both in defence and attack once the Greeks went a man down," continued the Italian.
"In addition, we tried to attack a lot down the flanks. In the end we were partly able to manage this, but we needed to be more decisive in front of goal. In the second half we had maybe 70 per cent or more of the ball and we also created chances. But unfortunately we weren't able to put the finishing touch to our moves. We need to keep playing well and win our next game."
Greece coach Fernando Santos, meanwhile, was pleased with the way his side performed in the second half, particularly after struggling in the opening period against a Japan side that dominated possession.
"We struggled to even get close to the Japanese box, particularly in the first half. That's why I feel we played really well in the second 45 minutes," the Portuguese tactician said.
"We thought Japan might change their style and play more long balls, rather than always playing short passes.
"We now need to win our next game because Côte d'Ivoire have three points and we've just one. We need to find a way to put the Ivoirians under pressure. I hope that everything turns out like EURO 2004, when Greece also needed to win their last [group] game and ended up going through"


Photo: AFP

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