You wonder what Shaibu Amodu thought of it all. Just before the 2002 World Cup he had been sacked as Nigeria's manager and watched the Super Eagles deliver a dreadful, low-flying performance, in which they finished bottom of their group. Eight years later, Amodu again steered Nigeria to the World Cup, again he was fired and again Nigeria are last.
But for the stupidity of Sani Kaita yesterday, who aimed a kick at Vasileios Torosidis when Nigeria were a goal up against Greece and looking comfortable, Amodu's replacement, the former Sweden manager, Lars Lagerback, might not have been facing so many difficult questions in Bloemfontein last night. The questions coming from Lagos will be even more pointed.
Once Ike Uche's free-kick, that both Peter Odemwingie and Konstantinos Katsouranis went for and missed, had somehow finished in the back of Alexandros Tzorvas's goal, that should have been that – for Greece and their 71-year-old manager, Otto Rehhagel.
Since winning the European Championship in Lisbon six years ago, the tactics Rehhagel used to perfection in 2004 – defending ruggedly and counter-attacking from set pieces – have been ruthlessly exposed and Greece had been faring no better in South Africa.
The instant Kaita was dismissed, however, Rehhagel seized his opportunity and threw on another striker in Georgios Samaras. Nevertheless, in Vincent Enyeama they were facing the man who, whatever else Nigeria have failed to achieve, can claim to be one of the goalkeepers of the tournament.
He brilliantly denied first Dimitrios Salpingidis and then turned away a flying header from Samaras while, in between, Lukman Haruna cleared off the line. However, when Enyeama was beaten, the shots that did it carried a deal of fortune.
First, Salpingidis delivered a fierce effort that deflected off Haruna and left his keeper stranded to become the first Greek to score in a World Cup. Then, in the middle of his second-half heroics, Enyeama became the latest victim of the Jabulani ball.
The 22nd shot aimed at his goal came from the boot of Alexandros Tziolis. It would not ordinarily have caused him much trouble but Bloemfontein is at altitude and the ball moved late, spilt out of Enyeama's gloves and was gobbled up by Torosidis, who ensured that the first World Cup staged in Africa would continue to be a wretched experience for Africans.
Greece (5-3-2): Tzorvas; Vyntra, Papadopoulos, Kyrgiakos, Torosidis, Papastathopoulos (Samaras, 37); Tziolis, Katsouranis, Karagounis; Gekas (Ninis, 79), Salpigidis.
Nigeria (4-2-3-1): Enyeama; Odiah, Yobo, Shittu, Taiwo (Echiejile, 55; Afolabi, 79); Etuhu, Lukman; Kaita, Odemwingie (Obasi, h-t) Uche; Yakubu.
Referee O Ruiz (Colombia).Reuse content