Oguro strikes as Japan eliminate Greece

Associated Press

Frankfurt, June 19:

Substitute Masashi Oguro’s goal in the 76th minute lifted Asian champion Japan to a 1-0 victory on Sunday over European champion Greece in the Confederations Cup. Oguro, who came on in the 66th, took a through ball from Shunsuke Nakamura and slipped it past Greek goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis from 10 yards. The victory gave Japan three points in Group B, and puts it in the chase for a semi-final place with Brazil and Mexico. The loss eliminated Greece from semi-final contention in the eight-team tuneup for the 2006 World Cup. Greece was beaten 3-0 by Brazil on Thursday. Greece is also coming off a loss to Ukraine in WC qualifying, hurting its chances of reaching next year’s world championship. Germany and Argentina reached the Confederations Cup semi-finals on Saturday in Group A. Germany defeated Tunisia 3-0, and Argentina beat Australia 4-2.

The first 15 minutes were even with Greece’s more measured play against up-tempo, attacking Japan. Both teams had trouble keeping the ball. Possession was equal in the first half, but Japan always looked more dangerous on the break and had the edge in the first half in shots on goal — 4-1. Greece played without two key defenders — Michalis Kapsis was out with a hamstring injury, and Giourkas Seitaridis was sidelined with a knee injury. The Greeks were also without captain Theodoros Zagorakis, who played on Saturday with club team Bologna. Japan’s best scoring chances in the first half came in the 39th when Keiji Tamada broke down the right side, dribbled into the area and then, from 14 meters, shot wide to the right of exposed goalkeeper Nikopolidis. Three minutes later, the other striker, Atsushi Yanagisawa, chipped the ball over Nikopolidis, but Takis Fissas headed the ball off the line.

The Greeks came out stronger in the second half, putting more pressure on Japan but failed to break through. Japan seemed better on attack after Masashi Oguro came on in the 66th for Tamada.