Ten-man Greece held Japan to a 0-0 draw that will suit neither side in a Group C match which ended with boos ringing around the Dunas arena and sent Colombia into the last 16 of the World Cup on Thursday.
Japan's Keisuke Honda (R) takes on the Greek defence during the Group C World Cup match between Japan and Greece at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil. (AP Photo)
Both sides were looking to get their campaigns back on track after losing their opening encounters but Greece will be the happier after playing for 52 minutes without skipper Kostas Katsouranis, who was sent off for two yellow card offences.
Japan dominated possession but were unable to make the most of the chances they created against a Greek defence which once again looked like the one that conceded four goals in 10 qualifying matches for Brazil.
The Asian champions, who opened their campaign with a 2-1 defeat to Ivory Coast, stayed true to the attacking style that made them the first country to qualify for Brazil but will need to beat Colombia in their final match to have a chance of progressing.
Colombia top Group C with six points from their first two games ahead of Ivory Coast with three. Japan face the Colombians on Tuesday in Cuiaba, when Greece meet the African team in Fortaleza.
Greece, who lost their opener 3-0 to Colombia, hassled and harried the Japanese to stay in the match after Katsouranis was dismissed in the 38th minute for taking Japan captain Makoto Hasebe's legs away from underneath him.
It was Greece who came closest to opening the scoring in the remaining minutes before halftime, though, when Vassilis Torosidis launched a thunderbolt of a shot from the edge of the box which Eiji Kawashima parried away at full stretch.
Yoshito Okubo should have put Japan ahead after 68 minutes when a sublime Hotaru Yamaguchi pass set Atsuto Uchida free in the box but he could only blast the defender's square ball into the crowd from close range.
Here are the highlights of the match: