After a disappointing showing against the Ivory Coast in Recife, Japan need to bounce back with a victory against Greece this Friday to keep alive their hopes of making it to the knockout stages.
In order to do that they need to up the tempo, be more adventurous and most importantly retain the ball far better than they did in their opening clash.
“It’s not a shock that we lost,” said AC Milan midfielder Keisuke Honda. “The thing that shocks me is that we lost because we couldn’t play to our strengths. Possession is our strength and we need to keep hold of the ball and not give it away too easily.
“Putting pressure on our opponents straightaway after losing the ball is our philosophy. In the last game, we lost the ball too easily and that meant we spent a lot of energy trying to get it back.”
Another problem, according to Mainz attacker Shinji Okazaki, was that Japan were constantly “reacting to the opponent rather than taking the initiative.” For a side that usually plays with an open attacking style of football, it was a surprise to see how tentative they were.
In a must-win game they certainly can’t afford to be so cautious against Greece. The European side, who usually adopt a conservative approach, lost their opener 3-0 so a draw will effectively be no good for them either.
“We were never really in control of the game against Cote d’Ivoire,” Man Utd midfielder Shinji Kagawa told AFP. “Greece will attack us because they lost too. We have no option but to attack.”
It should make for a nervy, but entertaining game. After such poor displays in the first match, it is a great chance for key players like Kagawa, Honda and Okazaki to show the world why they are so highly thought of in this country.
Image of Shinji Kagawa: FIFA World Cup/Facebook