Samaris and Samaras send the Ivory Coast packing

Samaris and Samaras send the Ivory Coast packing

Greece fought through two injuries to key players Panagiotis Kone and Orestis Karnezis to claim a last-gasp victory over the Ivory Coast and qualification to the Second Round of the World Cup, where they’ll take on runaway leaders of Group D Costa Rica. Having led for most of the game, the Greeks were penned back by an excellent Wilfried Bony finish, before a Georgios Samaras penalty in injury time sent the Ivorians packing, and the Greeks into a historic fourth World Cup match.

Story of the Game

The Ivory Coast started the brighter, with their key man Didier Drogba creating the first real chance of the game in his first start. The former Chelsea man charged down the middle with the ball, squaring to the in-form Gervinho, who didn’t control the ball very well and the Greeks managed to hack the ball clear. It was clear even at this early stage that Greece were very happy to soak up any pressure the Ivory Coast threw their way, and attack fleetingly on the counter. This game plan was perhaps expected, especially as Greece couldn’t afford to lose – or even draw – as such a result would send the Ivory Coast through at their expense.

Unfortunately for Greece, their next contribution to the game wasn’t a devastating counter or some outstanding defending; instead, Panagiotis Kone found himself down in the centre circle after injuring his hamstring, meaning the coach, Fernando Santos, had to make an early change. On came Andreas Samaris of Olympiakos to bolster the midfield, and maybe even become a super-sub in the process. As the injury break happened, news filtered through to Fortaleza that Colombia had taken the lead over Japan through a Cuadrado penalty – making qualification for both teams a little more likely.

Minutes later, insult was added to injury as Orestis Karnezis suffered an injury to his back and, despite attempting to carry on, had to be replaced by backup goalkeeper Panagiotis Glykos. Fernando Santos had already been forced into making two of his three substitutions early – leaving Greece at, potentially, a massive disadvantage in terms of fitness levels and changing the game as it went on, with 70 minutes still left to play. The Ivory Coast looked in prime position to take advantage of this, Yaya Toure slipping Didier Drogba in almost immediately after Glykos’ arrival on the pitch but slightly overhitting the pass, making an attempt at goal too much for Drogba.

Then, Greece sprung into life. Jose Holebas broke from his left back position down the middle, playing a neat one-two with Georgios Samaras before hammering a shot against Boubacar Barry’s bar. It was an incredible move and a very powerful drive, with the crossbar probably still shaking well into half time. Boubacar Barry, incidentally, was beaten by the strike, looking on in horror as it just evaded the net. It might have still been 0-0, but minutes later, Greece were to take the lead. A similar move to the Holebas chance, a swift gear change through the middle, allowed Andreas Samaris to play a one-two with Georgios Samaras – oddly similar, right – before clipping the ball low this time, just past Barry in the Ivory Coast net. Really, this represented a deserved lead for Greece who, despite two injuries, had held the Ivory Coast at arm’s length all night.

With the goal on the stroke of half time, neither team had chance to add or detract from the lead, meaning that anything had to wait until the second half. Incidentally, Japan had equalised also on the stroke of half time, making the Ivory Coast’s qualification situation a little grimmer than they’d first realised.

Greece withstood a lot of early second half pressure with Didier Drogba clattering Panagiotis Glykos before Cheick Tiote tested the substitute goalkeeper from distance. The Ivory Coast, realising they had to change up their style to bring things back into their own hands, threw on Swansea man Wilfried Bony for the aforementioned Cheick Tiote, with Bony having the impact needed. After a quick spell of Greek pressure – Karagounis firing a free kick into the Ivorian wall before Torosidis volleyed wide, and Karagounis again going close with a bullet strike into the crossbar – the Ivory Coast moved back forward, Roma forward Gervinho threading a pinpoint ball onto Bony’s foot, which the striker slotted neatly beyond PAOK goalkeeper Glykos to level affairs, and take the Ivory Coast back into a seemingly unassailable qualification place – with Japan by now getting thumped by Colombia.

It wasn’t to be though. With all the action taking place in the Colombia-Japan game, Greece had the last say of the night. Georgios Samaras was in a dangerous position in the box, and received the ball, turning to shoot, before being clipped by Ivorian substitute, Giovanni Sio of FC Basel. Samaras stepped up for the penalty himself, as Boubacar Barry did everything to heap the pressure on Samaras – the future of both nations in the competition was to be decided on this spot kick. Samaras made no mistake from the spot, in doing so ending a personal goal drought for his nation which stretched back to the Germany game in Euro 2012’s Quarter Final – approximately 1400 minutes.

Scenes ensued, Greece celebrating qualification jubilantly as the Ivory Coast were inconsolable, Boubacar Barry lying in his goal inconsolable for minutes after the penalty was taken. Ultimately, though, it was a deserved victory for Greece who had strived very hard for the win and had earned it. Samaris and Samaras were the heroes, while Greece will still hope for the fitness of Kone and Karnezis in future rounds. Costa Rica await in the Second Round, which is an eminently winnable game if Greece turn up – the future looks bright for the Euro 2004 winners.

Player Ratings (out of 10)

Orestis Karnezis – 6: Had a decent 20 minutes before being forced off.
Vasilis Torosidis – 7: Defended well and also looked relatively dangerous going forward, too.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos – 7: Another excellent performance by Sokratis, which we’ve come to expect from the Dortmund centre back.
Kostas Manolas – 6: Worked well alongside Sokratis, will be pleased with his showing.
Jose Holebas – 7: Excellent display by the German born full back, typified by his dash and bash against the bar.
Lazaros Christodoulopoulos – 6: Was found wanting a little bit going forward but not a bad performance by any means.
Giannis Maniatis – 6: As with Christodoulopoulos, might need to improve going forward against Costa Rica.
Giorgos Karagounis – 7: Rattled the bar in the second half and his advancing years didn’t even begin to show late on. Excellent.
Panagiotis Kone – 5: Was unfortunate to go off injured so early.
Dimitris Salpingidis – 6: Worked well on the break.
Georgios Samaras – 8: Sealed the deal with an excellent last gasp penalty, and also assisted several opportunities throughout the game.
Andreas Samaris – 7: Came on early for Kone and opened the scoring with a fine goal.
Panagiotis Glykos – 7: Made some key stops and was unlucky with Bony’s effort.
Fanis Gekas – 6: Came on late and made all the impact he could.

Ivory Coast
Boubacar Barry – 6: Was distraught by the late penalty but had a reasonable game, all things considered.
Serge Aurier – 7: Didn’t get caught out of position so much for once, and laid on several opportunities for the strikers.
Sol Bamba – 6: Allowed Greece in behind a lot, but did his level best to keep things tight late in the game.
Kolo Toure – 6: Defended very well, admirably so.
Arthur Boka – 6: Boka’s final ball was nowhere near its usual level, wasn’t taken to task so much defensively.
Cheick Tiote – 5: Wasteful – no need to shoot from range so much with the attacking talent in front of him.
Serey Die – 6: Another good midfield performance by Serey Die.
Gervinho – 7: An excellent performance by the Roma forward, setting up a goal.
Yaya Toure – 6: Did quite well circumstances permitting, final ball lacking however.
Salomon Kalou – 5: Was pretty much useless.
Didier Drogba – 6: Didn’t have any of the final product we’ve come to expect from Drogba.
Wilfried Bony – 7: Came on and made a near instant impact with a very good goal.
Ismael Diomande – 6: Had little time to make an impact.
Giovanni Sio – 4: Gave away a needless penalty minutes after coming on.

Man of the Match

Georgios Samaras. The Greece striker will be well-known to British football fans, the former Manchester City and Celtic man having spent almost a decade in Britain. He was impressive against the Ivory Coast, laying on a goal for near-namesake Andreas Samaris, before steel-nervedly burying a penalty in the final minute to send his side through to the Second Round.

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