Those who watched the late game on Saturday will know that Japan threatened to put Ivory Coast to bed in the first half of their opening game before a quickfire double after the break turned the game on its head, and it seems certain to me that they’ll once again create chances against a Greece outfit whose confidence must be at a low. Keisuke Honda was the man responsible for Japan’s strike against the Ivory Coast, but it’s Shinji Okazaki who catches my eye given the lasting impression he’s made on many a Bundesliga judge with his performances for Mainz. However, I’d like to see him returned to the middle instead of asked to cut in from the right. Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda – the pair capable of setting the tone for the Blue Samurai – have both been bullish in their responses to last week’s defeat and you’d have to think the spirit in their camp is much better than Fernando Santos’s men.
The Portuguese coach may be forced to recall the experienced Giorgos Karagounis to his starting line-up in the hope that they can have more of a say in midfield, where Japan look sharper and more technically able under the guidance of Alberto Zaccheroni, and that says much about the lack of options at his disposal. Giorgios Samaras has promised that Greece will again seek to attack – in contrast to the approach which has brought them so much success – and that may again be their undoing against a side who are more gifted on paper, and who played well enough for an hour against the Ivory Coast to suggest that they can win again here.
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 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).
Japan to win to nil is available at +285 with most firms, which I feel has a good bit of value. However, at odds-against Japan look a solid bet that can’t be turned down.