World Cup 2014

Greece 2, Ivory Coast 1: 2014 FIFA World Cup | Group C Match Recap

Greece celebrate their win over Ivory Coast

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Greece shocked Ivory Coast with a penalty-kick winner at the death of their Group C finale Tuesday at Estadio Castelão in Fortaleza, giving them a 2-1 win and first-ever trip to the World Cup knockout rounds.

Georgios Samaras slammed home the spot-kick winner in the third minute of second-half stoppage time, which, along with a first-half strike by Andreas Samaris, broke the hearts of Ivory Coast, who were on the verge of celebrating their first knockout-stage berth with a near 1-1 draw.

It was a 74th-minute goal by Wilfried Bony that nearly gave Les Éléphants and their golden generation of African soccer stars headlined by Didier Drogba and Yaya Touré enough to advance.

As it is, Greece are now facing a Round of 16 matchup with Group D winner Costa Rica on Sunday in Recife.

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PENALTY … OR NOT: The winning act came when Ivory Coast defender Giovanni Sio appeared to clip Samaras in the box as he ran onto a cross in the second minute of stoppage time. The Celtic forward made no mistake with his penalty, driving it past goalkeeper Boubacar Berry for the winner.

ONE LEGEND TO ANOTHER: Ivory Coast’s winner started with midfielder and national-team talisman Touré played a long pass to longtime Les Éléphants forward Gervinho, who crossed to Bony for the cool finish. Berry also had a very unique way of celebrating. 

GREECE ON THE ATTACK: Much was made of Greece’s, well, let’s just say defensive strategy in their first two games, resulting in no goals in a loss to Colombia and draw against Japan. But they came out with relatively reckless abandon in the first half against the Ivory Coast, firing off four shots with three on goal. It paid off, albeit on a bad Ivory Coast giveaway in midfield, when possession fell to Samaras, who fed Samaris for the 42nd-minute goal.

TWO FORCED CHANGES: Greece had to make two changes before halftime due to injuries. First, in the 12th minute, midfielder Panagiotis Kone’s balky hamstring gave out, giving way to Samaris. Then, in the 20th minute, goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis went down away from action and had to be replaced four minutes later for Panagiotis Glykos.

PLAYING WITH HEAVY HEARTS: Touré and his brother Kolo Touré, a defender who also plays for the Les Éléphants, were in the starting XI despite mourning the loss of their brother Ibrahim, who lost his battle with cancer Thursday at the age of 28. Yaya also made headlines when he suggested that his club, Manchester City, wouldn’t allow him to visit his brother after the Premier League season as the club underwent a postseason tour in Abu Dhabi.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Samaras, Greece. The rangy forward’s 10th goal for Greece will likely be considered one of the biggest in the national team’s history.