Thai hedgehog: Greece to beat Japan

CHIANG MAI - A hedgehog on Thursday predicted Greece will come out the winner in a crucial World Cup match against Japan as the Blue Samurai players favour offensive weapons to bounce back after their Ivory Coast defeat.

The Chiang Mai Night Safari organised an event to join the Fifa tournament phenomenon by putting two plates of food in front of the Greece and Japan flag for a hedgehog to eat in a pre-match prediction.

The animal went for the one for Greece instead of the Asian favourite Japan.

In Itu in the Brazilian state of San Paulo, Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni said he had tried to improve Japan defensively but players believe attack will be their best way out of Group C.

"Japanese players have very good technique and the agility to play fast football," goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima told FIFA.com. "This is the way of football that is comfortable and natural to us."

Since the arrival of the Italian coach, the Blue Samurai have tried to add some Serie A style defensive impenetrability to their attacking flair but so far without success.

Ominously they conceded three against Zambia in their last warm-up game and never looked like defending the lead Keisuke Honda gave them against the Ivory Coast.

"For four years now we have focused on attack," Kawashima added, "We want to keep the ball and move it forward, using all of our technical ability to score goals. This is how we will play."

Whether Zaccheroni agrees with his players, that an inability to defend well makes all-out attack their best tactic, remains to be seen. It did not seem that way in the immediate aftermath of the opening defeat.

"Defensively, we were not effective, we gave them far too much space. They were allowed too much freedom to play and we lacked speed which is usually our big strength," he said.

Japan can console themselves with the fact that Greece had an even worse start to the tournament than they did, losing 3-0 to group leaders Colombia in Belo Horizonte.

And if Japan are a team with a reputation for attacking that is trying to defend more effectively, then Greece are a side famed for defending which is trying to become more open in attack.

"I know that everyone expected Greece to have 11 men behind the ball and defend and give everything to keep a clean sheet," Greek striker Georgios Samaras told FIFA.com.

"But I think what they saw was a team that likes to attack and that tries always to create chances. We went out to win against Colombia, and that philosophy will not change. We just hope it brings a better result for us because Japan is now a must-win match."

The match will kick off at 5am on Friday and the loser will bow out of the tournament.

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