Tuesday, in Fortaleza, Brazil, the Greek National Football Team came from behind to beat their Ivory Coast opponents 2-1 in stoppage time and advance as the second team in Group C at the World Cup. They will be meeting Costa Rica in the Round of 16.
Meanwhile, in Cuiaba Japan and Colombia were meeting and the South Americans were just too much for the Asians to handle. The 4-1 scoreline in favor of Colombia was a fair indicator of the difference between the teams, but Japan played a good tough game and had several chances to score. Their one diving header goal was also pretty.
The Cuiaba match was cleaner than most, requiring only two yellow cards, and it was even at half time 1-1. The Colombian goal was off a penalty while the Japanese one was off the run of play. In the second half, the deciding goal was scored by Colombia at the 55th minute and their last two, seven minutes apart (82nd and 89th), were scored when the game was already settled.
The Ivory Coast was the story in the late double header today. They only needed a tie to progress and they were playing against a team that has historically relied on defense to win games, not offense. The tough back and forth match pitted a Greek team on the offensive who seemed to have two ideas only, shoot from long range or cross to their taller strikers. The Ivorians countered by playing all of their considerably experienced players from the get go. Yaya Toure, Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Gervinho were put to play together and they produced some good plays.
When the Greek goal came, it was ironically on a counter off an Ivory Coast blunder pass in defense, after they had been pushing for a late goal before the first half ended. But it was midfielder Andreas Samaris on a break into the box off that interception who put the Greeks ahead at the 42nd minute to go into the locker rooms up 1-0.
The Ivorians came out determined in the second half and built some great chances but it was the Greeks with a long range shot that hit the crossbar, and with an awkward cross which hit a post, that had the better chances until the 74th minute. At that point a great play that saw several Ivorians pass the ball forward in quick succession saw Gervinho enter the box on the left side. He faked a shot before passing to his right for Wilfried Bony to put the ball away for the tie.
The game was again the Ivory Coast’s to lose and with the thought in mind that they could keep the Greeks at bay for about 15 minutes Drogba and Gervinho were taken out at the 78th and 82nd minutes respectively. Only the Ivorians, inexplicably did not kill the clock, instead they went all out on offense trying to score the killing goal and leaving their defense vulnerable.
On two back-to-back occasions Greek counterattacks found their players outnumbering the Ivorian defenders. On the second of those, a seven on five, Georgios Samaras drew a foul, being struck down in the box just as he was about to put the ball away for the Greek lead. The ensuing penalty, featured Samaras setting the ball up on the spot as some of the Ivorians were just returning to their side from their offensive foray. The Greek striker then coolly placed the ball to the right side of the goal to put the game away and ensure the Greek’s progression.