Katsouranis Greece referee Japan
Greece captain Konstantinos Katsouranis is shown a red card, 19 JuneReuters

Japan failed to unlock a stubborn Greece defence despite playing with a man advantage for over a half, as the two sides eventually settled for a dour 0-0 draw in their FIFA World Cup 2014 Group C match on Thursday in Natal.

The Japanese were given a big fillip in their quest for a much-needed win to pull level with the Ivory Coast after Greece captain Konstantinos Katsouranis was given a second yellow card and his marching orders for a late tackle on Japan captain Makoto Hasebe.

Greece had never really started before that red card in the 38th minute, but with a man down, and adversity staring them in their face, the Europeans stepped up a gear, even if it was nowhere near enough to warrant a victory.

Japan, who had suffered a 2-1 defeat to the Ivory Coast in their first match of Group C, were a little put off after the sending off, and took quite a while to use the advantage to good effect, by which time, the clock had wound down considerably with the game eventually petering out to a draw.

"We needed to win this game at all costs and that was what we trained for all week," Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni said. "We ended up with the players switching their individual positions a lot. By doing that, we hoped to get an edge both in defence and attack once the Greeks went a man down.

"In addition, we tried to attack a lot down the flanks. In the end we were partly able to manage this, but we needed to be more decisive in front of goal. In the second half we had maybe 70 percent or more of the ball and we also created chances.

"But unfortunately we weren't able to put the finishing touch to our moves. We need to keep playing well and win our next game."

For Greece, it is at least an improvement from their poor display against Colombia in their first game, and even if the desired result might not have been achieved, the fact that the Euro 2004 champions came away with a point, despite being down to ten men for the entire second half, and some, will be seen as a positive sign.

"We struggled to even get close to the Japanese box, particularly in the first half," Greece coach Fernando Santos said. "That's why I feel we played really well in the second 45 minutes. We thought Japan might change their style and play more long balls, rather than always playing short passes."

The team happiest with the draw are Colombia, whose place in the last 16 was confirmed. Colombia have six points from two games after their narrow win over the Ivory Coast, while the African side are second on three points, two ahead of Japan and Greece.