Greece did it again, but this time in the World Cup! With an incredible performance from the beginning till the end, the Greek National Team beat starful Ivory Coast and advanced to the final 16. Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure failed to impress, while unheard of Andreas Samaris and Kostas Manolas played like superstars.
Fernando Santos started with a predictable lineup, having Orestis Karnezis protect the goalposts, while Kostas Manolas and Sokratis Papastathopoulos took over the center of the defense. On the right side, Vasilios Torosidis kept his eye on Gervinho, his teammate on AC Roma and Jose Cholebas covered the left side. In the middle, endurance leader Yannis Maniatis as a defensive midfielder, and by his side, Panayotis Kone and Giorgios Karagounis. For Karagounis this could have been his last game with the Greek National team as he is 37 years old. The wingers were Lazaros Christodoulopoulos on the left and Dimitrios Salpingidis on the right. Yiorgios Samaras in his natural position as a striker showed that this is where he should be and not in the center as he is used sometimes.
Greece started off willing to break the goalless streak and score early in the game. At the same time, Ivory Coast didn’t seem to worry about protecting the tie and looked to breach Karnezis’ goal. However the first two major incidents of the game were the injuries of Orestis Karnezis and Panayotis Kone, leaving Fernando Santos with just one substitution for the remaining 65′.
After a breakaway chance with Jose Holebas’ shot to the bar and a powerful free kick by Yorgios Karagounis which was blocked by Ivory Coast’s keeper Barry, newly subbed Andreas Samaris played the one-two with Yiorgios Samaras who finely chipped the ball and let it roll in the net.
As the 2nd half began, both teams, seemed to look for more goals, as Greece knew that Japan was still in the game at that point against Colombia (they eventually lost 4-1) while Ivory Coast needed at least a tie to qualify. This resulted in chances from both sides, notably another shot from distance to bar from Yiorgios Karagounis and Lazaros Christodoulopoulos’ swirl to the left of the goal after an impressive run.
At 74′, Gervinho found the space on the left and assisted the ball to Wilfried Bony who didn’t miss and equalized for Ivory Coast.
All of Greek players’ legs were on fire in the last 15′ of the game, hoping for the one goal that would give them the 2nd spot in the group. Where Italy earlier today failed, Greece did excellent. They kept focused and were rewarded after Yorgios Samaras won a penalty in the 93rd minute’ of the game and one minute before the end.
Having to represent a whole nation and knowing that if he missed, his team would be out, Yiorgios Samaras grabbed the ball, walked slowly towards the box, placed the ball on the white spot and calmly hit it with his inside of the foot. The ball rested Barry’s net and Greece were now up 2-1 with less than a minute to go.
Ivory Coast had no time to unfold another attack and the final whistle of the referee saw all Greek players coming together like a family celebrating one of our nation’s most important victories in football.
Next game for Greece is on Sunday against Costa Rica. As always, you ‘ll be able to follow it live on Greek Reporter.