When Greece's Kostas Katsouranis was sent off late in the first half, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Japan would finally get the breakthrough goal they'd been in search of the entire first half.
Instead, they just kept burning through chances, and Greece somehow kept them at bay for a 0-0 tie.
The Japan chances were plentiful and, sometimes, easy. There were at least two -- maybe more, it was hard to keep count -- shots at an open net from inside the box. Several free kicks and crosses. Just nothing could make it to the back of the net.
Credit Greece, of course, who fought like hell with only 10 men for the majority of the game. They, too, had a couple chances wasted.
Now both sides must win to stay alive. Colombia is through in Group C, but Japan, Greece, and the Ivory Coast are alive. An Ivory Coast win over Greece would push them through, but everything else will likely come down to goal differential.
The result Thursday will not sit well with Japan. It's a game they should have won.
FINAL: Japan 0 - Greece 0
92' -- Japan almost scored, etc.
89' -- A few more good chances for Japan but they just can't break through.
88' -- Greece sneaks a decent chance in, but Japan counters and earns a free kick just outside the box.
85' -- They did the whole almost score thing again.
84' -- JAPAN IS RUNNING OUT OF TIME AND THEY HAVE FORGOTTEN TO SCORE
79' -- Okay I'm going to share this meme with you.
The thing is, Japan has 'passed'. They've just missed the wide open goal a couple times.
77' -- Hey Japan almost scored but didn't. Again.
74' -- Japan still looking for that breakthrough goal, while Greece is just trying to hang on. Should be a fun 15 minutes.
71' -- Another chance for Japan misses wide. Right on the doorstep, too.
68' -- Unbelievable chance wasted by Japan. The angles were tough, but Yoshito Okubo sent the ground cross about eight miles into the air, rather than like 8 feet into the net.
65' -- Just kind of a mess on both ends, there. Honda had a pretty good chance lined up, but the cross hit him in the face. Japan eventually won a free kick.
60' -- Just a wave of corners for Greece, and Theofanis Gekas almost sneaks a header inside the post. Japan finally regains possession after four straight Greece corners.
58' -- Greece puts together a pretty solid attack -- just as I imply they're laying back -- and earn a corner.
56' -- Japan dominating possession but nothing to show for it. Greece just trying to hang on, it seems, content with a draw. They have like 40 minutes left.
46' -- Greece tries a quick blast from midfield to start the half. It was pretty awesome but not really close at all.
Halftime: It's going to be a tough road for Greece, but they're hanging in there. Japan has certainly had more chances, but the Greek side has looked somewhat rejuvenated since Katsouranis was sent off. Still, it will be difficult to keep Japan at bay in the second half down a man.
40' -- Greece gets a chance, though, as Vasilis Torosidis delivers a wicked strike that's turned away by Japan keeper Eiji Kawashima.
38' -- Well this may change things. Greece's Kostas Katsouranis gets his second yellow card in short order after a hard challenge, so he has been sent off. Greece will have to play the remainder of the game with 10 men.
29' -- Japan in control, but struggling to get in a great position to score. Keisuke Honda's free kick tested Greece keeper Orestis Karnezis, though.
21' -- Much better strike from Osako here, but not quite enough bend on the shot -- though there was a good bit of bend.
19' -- Decent chance at the top of the box for Yuya Osako, but the shot lacks pace.
17' -- While open, it's also a bit sloppy. Been kind of a midfield hand-fight for the last few minutes.
11' -- Wide open game so far, but not a ton of opportunities. But both sides seem most interested in attacking. Which is good news for us partial observers.
5' -- Couple decent runs on both ends, but nothing to show for it.
1'-- Hey, we're underway. Here's this guy.
5:45 p.m. ET: Ah yes, the ever-important battle to see who can stay alive, and whose World Cup, for all intents and purposes, is over. Colombia are clear ahead in Group C after their victory over the Ivory Coast Thursday, and the winner here will have a decent shot, themselves, of moving through.
Here are the lineups.
Japan: Kawashima, Konno, Uchida, Yoshida Nagatomo, Yamaguchi, Hasebe, Osako, Honda, Okubo, Okazaki
Greece: Karnezis, Holebas, Sokratis, Manolas, Torosidis, Katsouranis, Maniatis, Kone, Samaras, Mitroglou, Fetfatzidis
Greece vs. Japan (Group C) | Kickoff: 6/19, 6 p.m. ET | Stadium: Dunas, Natal
Match Preview: With both teams coming off losses, it will likely take a decisive result from one side to stay in the hunt for a spot in the knockout stage.
Japan lost narrowly to Ivory Coast in its first match after getting on the board first. They will face a Greece side that was shredded by Colombia, and Japan hopes to replicate that offensive success. They have the ability, with Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa looking to mirror the success enjoyed by Colombia's attackers.
Greece's only realistic hope in moving to the knockout stage would be a win over Japan and then Ivory Coast -- a tall task, to be sure. Of course there are other ways, but they're behind the eight ball after the 3-0 beating delivered by Colombia.