They said it was “do or die” for Japan against Greece, well they didn’t do much, yet they still cling to life in this tournament even if their prospects going in to the final group game don’t look good. They need to beat the group’s strongest side Colombia and then hope the Greeks do them a favor against the Ivory Coast.

Whilst unlikely, it’s not impossible: Colombia don’t have much to play for, having already qualified while Greece are still capable of grinding out a result against their seemingly superior African opponents. If that game finishes in a draw, then Japan will still have a chance if they win by two clear goals.

OK, we maybe clutching at straws here … it certainly seems like a tall order and many have already written them off. Since the World Cup became a 32-team tournament in 1998, only Turkey in 2002 have gone through to the Second Round having recorded just one point from their opening two games. History would appear to be against the Samurai Blue, but the players are refusing to throw in the towel just yet.

“We still have one match and there is the possibility we could get through,” says Inter defender Yuto Nagatomo. “All we have to do is believe and achieve it, we will believe and play our way.”

Teammate Shinji Kagawa is also trying to stay positive, telling reporters, “We need to turn things around mentally. We didn’t get a result in the two games and everyone is concerned about it, but as long as there is a chance we are not going to give up.”

If Japan are to succeed they will need their two key players – Shinji Kagawa (as long as he starts) and Keisuke Honda – to perform much better than they have done up until now. The AC Milan attacker wants to see his side give everything in one final push.

“Colombia have already qualified, yet for us this will be like a final. We will be playing for our lives … We need to iron out our flaws in our next match and pick up what will be a very important victory,” Honda told

Bullish words, though we heard similar comments before the Greece encounter and we know how that one turned out. This group of players have talked a good game throughout the competition, but have thus far failed to deliver. In what has been arguably the most exciting First Round at a World Cup for decades, Japan simply haven’t turned up, producing two listless displays.

Their fans are owed a performance, something like the attacking brand of football they showed against the likes of Italy, Holland and Belgium last year. If they are to go out playing that way then so be it: at least they will have left an impression on the tournament. For the supporters here in Japan it’ll make that early start to Wednesday morning that much more bearable.

–Matthew Hernon

Image: FIFA World Cup/Facebook