Greece vs Côte d'Ivoire World Cup 2014: Giorgios Samaras is Greek hero with late penalty to secure knockout place

Greece 2 Ivory Coast 1

Greece made history in Fortaleza yesterday by qualifying for the World Cup’s round of 16 for the first time in a dramatic finale at the expense of Ivory Coast.

Georgios Samaras’s injury-time penalty earned them a 2-1 victory just as Ivory Coast looked poised to take their own historic step into the next round. It was a controversial penalty too, as Samaras seemed to clip his own heel as he went to ground, rather than be fouled by Giovanni Sio.

Greece had looked poised to miss out when Swansea City’s Wilfried Bony came off the bench and equalised with 16 minutes remaining, drilling a first-time shot from Gervinho’s cutback.

Instead Samaras’s intervention means they jumped from the foot of Group C into second place and can look forward to a last-16 tie against Costa Rica. It was deserved on the balance of play given they struck the goalframe three times.

It was a slow-burning contest, though when Greece broke for the first time after 33 minutes, they nearly scored. Samaras fed Jose Holebas, breaking crossfield from his left-back station, and he struck an excellent, rising 20-yard shot that rebounded off the crossbar.

At that stage Greece coach Fernando Santos had already had to make two enforced changes as first Panagiotis Kone and then goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis left the field because of injuries, with Andreas Samaris and Panagiotis Glykos coming on in their place. It would be the first of those substitutes, Olympiakos midfielder Samaris, who struck the opening goal after 42 minutes.

It stemmed from their opponents’ sloppiness  as Cheick Tioté played an underhit ball to Serey Die and Samaris nipped in and feed Samaras, who returned the ball for the substitute to drive a powerful shot past Boubacar Barry. It was only Greece’s third-ever World Cup goal but, chasing qualification themselves, they almost had another. Lazaros Christodoulopoulos meandered through but shot wide, Dimitrios Salpingidis drew a tipover save from Barry and then the veteran Georgios Karagounis rattled the crossbar from 30 yards.

As expected, Yaya Touré and his brother Kolo both started the game despite the death last week of their brother Ibrahim and the whole Ivorian team wore black armbands as a mark of respect. Yet in the heat of Fortaleza their play was sluggish, a problem underlined when Yaya Touré powered past two challenges but overplayed his pass to Didier Drogba  who was running clear.

Greece: Karnezis (Glykos, 24); Torosidis, Papastathopoulos, Manolas, Holebas; Christodoulopoulos, Maniatis, Karagounis; Kone (Samaris, 12), Salpingidis, Samaras.

Ivory Coast: Barry; Aurier, K Touré, Bamba, Boka; Die, Tioté (Bony, 61); Kalou, Y Touré, Gervinho (Sio, 83); Drogba (Diamande, 78).

Referee: C Vera (Ecuador).

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