For 77 breathtaking minutes, millions of Greek fans across the globe were enthralled with the spectacular goalkeeping heroics of Alexander the Great.
But even the incredible acrobatics of Alexandros Tzorvas, who turned in one of the finest goalkeeping performances in recent World Cup history, could not stop Diego Maradona’s high-powered Argentines, who consistently came at the underdog Greeks in waves.
Finally, with just 13 minutes remaining in regulation, defender Martin DeMichelis finally broke the scoreless deadlock, breaking hearts from downtown Athens to Toronto’s Danforth Avenue in the process.
DeMichelis collected a rebound from his own header off a corner kick and ripped a shot into the top corner past a helpless Tzorvas, the spark that ignited the powerful Argentines to a 2-0 victory over Greece Tuesday night at Peter Mokaba Stadium.
Martin Palermo added a second Argentine goal in the 89th minute, sending an overjoyed Maradona leaping for joy into the arms of one of his assistant coaches.
The impressive win propels Argentina into the Round of 16, where they will face Mexico in Johannesburg’s Soccer City on June 27.
The loss, meanwhile, ended the tournament for a Greek team that should take consolation in the fact that it recorded its first-ever World Cup victory earlier in South Africa, a 2-1 decision over Nigeria.
It’s still early, but the Argentines easily are the class of South Africa 2010 at this point, winning all three of their games and outscoring the opposition 7-1.
Highlights of Tuesday’s Group B match that saw Argentina beat Greece at Peter Mokaba Stadium.
18 – Argentina carve out their first chance when Sergio Aguero sprints into the box, testing keeper Alexandros Tzorvas, who palms the shot wide
19 – Tzorvas punches a stinging Juan Sebastian Veron shot from 25 metres over the crossbar
30 – YELLOW CARD – Greece’s Kostas Katsouranis is booked for a foul on Aguero
39 – Greece’s offensive moves become a bit bolder with Giorgos Samaras just missing to find Katsouranis with a clever through ball in the box.
45 – Tzorvas makes a double save denying first Maxi Rodriguez from close range and then tipping a curled Lionel Messi shot over the bar.
45+2 HALFTIME – Greece have keeper Tzorvas to thank for a goalless first half, as Argentina pile on the pressure in search for a breakthrough.
46 – SUBSTITUTION – Greece defender Nikos Spyropoulos comes on for playmaker Giorgos Karagounis
48 – Samaras comes agonising close for Greece when he picks up a deep Katsouranis cross to fire a left-footed shot just wide
54 – SUBSTITUTION – Greece’s Sotiris Ninis is hastily brought on for injured Katsouranis
55 – SUBSTITUTION – Greece make their third change with injured Vassilis Torosidis making way for Christos Patsatzoglou
69 – Messi whips a free kick that Tzorvas parries
77 – SUBSTITUTION – Argentina’s Javier Pastore comes on for Sergio Aguero
77 GOAL – ARGENTINA 1 GREECE 0 – Defender Martin Demichelis takes advantage of a goalmouth scramble to fire in from close range.
80 – SUBSTITUTION – Argentina’s Martin Palermo comes on for Diego Milito
86 – Messi is unlucky not to double the Argentine lead when his shot flies off the post
89 – GOAL – ARGENTINA 2 GREECE 0 – Palermo taps in from close range after the Greek keeper Tzorvas punches away a Messi shot
90+2 – FULL TIME – ARGENTINA 2 GREECE 0