Greece vs Côte d'Ivoire World Cup 2014: 'We never stopped fighting,' says match-winner Georgios Samaras

Greece 2 Ivory Coast 1

They were famously champions of Europe ten years ago but until yesterday the World Cup had never been kind to Greece. That all changed with their last-gasp victory over Group C rivals Ivory Coast in Fortaleza yesterday when, according to match-winner Georgios Samaras, their fighting spirit saw them through. “We never stop believing and we fight till the very last second,” said the Celtic striker.

Greece need a victory against the African side to jump from fourth place to second in the group and they got it through Samaras’s injury-time penalty kick which restored their lead after Wilfried Bony had cancelled out Andreas Samaris’s first-half goal. It seemed a questionable penalty – Samaras appeared to kick Giovanni Sio rather than the other way round before going to ground – but it was struck with impressive cool given that he had not actually scored an international goal for two years and two days.

And the striker believed Greece deserved their luck as, with Japan losing to Colombia in the group’s other game, they progressed to the round of 16 for the first time. “I felt that we pretty much controlled the game today,” he said. “Our defence did a great job and we scored at the right times. To be honest we should have killed the game off when it was 1-0, but we hit the woodwork three times.”

 

Greece had only ever found the net in one World Cup match prior to yesterday but they certainly created the better chances and coach Fernando Santos hailed his side’s recovery after an opening 3-0 defeat by Colombia and subsequent goalless draw with Japan. “In the first two matches we weren't focused, which is usually our great strength. We showed we know how to attack too. I told the players this morning this would not be our last match.”

While Santos can now start planning for Sunday’s round of 16 meeting with Costa Rica in Recife, his Ivory Coast counterpart Sabri Lamouchi announced his departure from his role after the defeat. “My contract ended at this World Cup,” he said. “It won't be renewed and you can understand why. It makes sense given we came up short at the Africa Cup of Nations and at the World Cup. I gave it my all for two years but my time with Côte d'Ivoire comes to an end tonight unfortunately.”

The Elephants were just seconds from advancing to the knockout stage for the first time themselves, and Lamouchi – who gave Didier Drogba his first start of Brazil 2014 – admitted it was a bitter defeat. “It was a cruel way to lose, but the Greeks did enough to win. We were one minute away from a famous result but the small details are what decide games at this level. I'm very disappointed and frustrated.”

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