In the 44th minute Dimitrios Salpingidis gave the Greek’s their first ever goal in the World Cup, and Vasilis Torosidis netted the country’s first ever win in the tournament in the 71st – but not before enough drama that would have satisfied even Sophocles.
Greece looked to be on its way to its second loss and another tragic run in the World Cup when Kalu Uche opened scoring for Nigeria in the 16th minute. Greek keeper Alexandros Tzorvas anticipated a redirecting header on the flighted ball, but when that touch never came, he found himself going one way and the ball the other – into the back of his net.
After never scoring in its previous matches at the World Cup finals, the Greeks were on another disaster run directly out of the group stage. Then, the 33rd minute hit, and the game changed. In a rash moment, Nigeria’s Kaita was shown a red card for raking Torosidis across the leg with his cleat after the two jostled out of bounds for the ball.
Four minutes later, the Greeks made an early sub, exchanging a defender for an attacker, and the offensive switch paid off in the 44th when Salpingidis watched his deflected shot spin its way into the back corner of the net.
Once on the brink of another humiliation, the Greeks went into the locker room level on goals, plus one on men and bounds ahead in momentum.
The ensuing half was arguably one of the most exciting in the tournament thus far – something few would have predicted from the Nigeria-Greece clash.
Goalkeeper Enyeama again looked to be Nigeria’s savior. After an unsure header dropped the ball straight to the feet of wide-open Gekas, Enyeama came up with a stellar, point-blank save from just about six yards out. Seconds later 10-man Nigeria broke on a counter attack. Tzorvas responded with a strong, left-handed safe of his own at the other end, and Nigeria’s Ogbuke was unable to put the deflected ball into the open net.
Enyeama kept things level in the 69th, sprawling toward a header destined to find a home just inside the back post with a huge save – his sixth of the game and 12th of the tournament. However, the Greeks punished him when he mishandled and skipping shot, and Torosidis tucked away the rebound for the game winner.
What’s the ripple effect in Group B? Although Greece will undoubtedly be in celebration tonight, they still have a massive chore in getting points from Argentina if they hope to qualify for the knock-out stage. Nigeria, conversely, will be in despair tonight, but still look the favorite to go through the group behind Argentina.
Argentina currently sit with six points and a guaranteed spot in the next round. Greece, South Korea and Nigeria all lie level with three points. With only a game remaining and Nigeria and South Korea playing each other, Greece must get points from Argentina. It isn’t impossible, but they’ll need a bit of luck in addition to being on top of their game after Argentina’s dismantling of South Korea earlier today. That 1-4 defeat for the South Koreans mentioned, Nigeria can simply tie the Koreans and advance. They’d be level on points, but the heavy loss to Argentina would knock the Koreans out on goal differential.
But some things do remain assured. Greece and Nigeria produced one of the more entertaining games of the tournament, and the Greeks’ first ever win in the World Cup finals has pushed all Group B decisions to the final day.