Already facing a steep uphill battle in Group C, Greece lost their captain in the first half of Thursday's fixture against Japan.
In the 38th minute, Konstantinos Katsouranis flew in with a late tackle in the midfield and was shown his second yellow card of the match. LiveFootball on Twitter provided a look at the tackle that earned the 34-year-old veteran his marching orders:
While the tackle wasn't especially heinous, it was poorly timed—and an especially poor decision from Katsouranis, since the midfielder was already on a yellow and had support in defense. World Soccer Talk gave its opinion on the matter:
According to WhoScored.com, this is nothing new for Katsouranis. However, it is something that his country has never faced in the World Cup before, per ESPN Stats and Info:
Konstantinos Katsouranis: Has been sent off for the 3rd time in his last 16 appearances for club and country #gre— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) June 19, 2014
Kostas Katsouranis is the first Greek player ever sent off in a #WorldCup— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 19, 2014
Infostrada Sports provided a recent historical look at the foul:
Unfortunately for Greece's leader and engine in the midfield, this could very well be his swan song, according to ZonalMarking.net's Michael Cox, who reminisced on the captain's marvelous performance during the Greeks' title run at Euro 2004:
Probably the last we'll see of Katsouranis. Was great at Euro 2004— Michael Cox (@Zonal_Marking) June 19, 2014
While Katsouranis has noticeably declined over the last couple of years, you never want to see a player go out like this.
Of course, if any team is capable of having success with 10 men, it's probably Greece, a team known for often playing far above their talent level and exceeding expectations. Without Katsouranis, they won't change their style. They will continue to hang in the back, defend like mad and play for a tie.
As one fan noted, it wasn't a bad strategy:
Greece looked better parking the bus with 10 than 11. Won't be surprised if they win 1-0.— Athas Zafiris (@ArtSapphire) June 19, 2014
Still, sitting behind Colombia (six points) and Ivory Coast (three points), Fernando Santos' side is going to need more than two draws. If the Greeks have any ambition of advancing out of the group, they will have to push forward and get some goals at some point.
That was already extremely difficult for them in the first place. Without Katsouranis, it becomes an even tougher task.