Greece fails to reach semis

FRANKFURT – Substitute Masashi Oguro’s goal in the 76th minute lifted Asian champion Japan to a 1-0 victory Sunday over European champion Greece in the Confederations Cup. Greece was eliminated from semifinal contention in the eight-team tuneup for the 2006 World Cup after Mexico upset Brazil 1-0 in Sunday’s other game. Japan’s victory gave it three points in Group B, and puts it in the chase with Brazil, also on three points, for a semifinal place. They meet tomorrow. Mexico, which leads the group with with six points, is already through to the semis. «Japan was a class better today. We were lucky we didn’t lose by more,» Greece coach Otto Rehhagel said. Greece played without two key injured 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. «I didn’t want to believe it, it’s not like us, but we didn’t win one fight for the ball, not against Japan, not against Brazil,» Rehhagel said. In its opening game, Greece was beaten 3-0 by Brazil. «It was important for us to beat the European champions, but more important to show the ability of the Japanese players,» Japan’s Brazilian coach, Zico, said. «We played a good match, but I wish we had scored more – we had so many chances,» he added. Japan’s inability to convert chances has been a problem. During its successful World Cup qualifying campaign, Japan won 10 of 11 matches – five times by 1-0. «It’s not technique, it’s a psychological problem. Japanese players are too hectic in front of the goal,» Zico said. Oguro, who came on in the 66th, took a through ball from Shunsuke Nakamura and slipped it past Greek goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis from 10 meters. 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, although Japan always looked more dangerous on the break. Japan’s best scoring chance 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 keeper Nikopolidis. The Greeks came out stronger in the second half, putting more pressure on Japan but failing to break through. Japan seemed better on attack after Masashi Oguro came on in the 66th for Tamada. Germany and Argentina reached the Confederations Cup semifinals on Saturday in Group A when Germany defeated Tunisia 3-0 and Argentina beat Australia 4-2. (AP)

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