World Cup: Tragedy for Ivory Coast as Greece progress after last minute drama
PUBLISHED: 08:21 25 June 2014 | UPDATED: 08:21 25 June 2014
It was winner takes all between Ivory Coast and Greece last night in the final Group C game inside Fortaleza's Estádio Castelão.
Colombia, playing Japan in the other game, were already through, but second place was up for grabs, with the Ivorians on three points and Japan and Greece both on one.
A cagey opening half hour wasn’t helped by injuries to two Greek players. Kone was substituted with what looked like a hamstring injury after just eight minutes, while keeper Karnezis didn’t last much longer, and was replaced by Glykos after 24.
But the drama began just before half time, when, on 42 minutes, Samaris, on for Kone, capitalised on a Tiote mistake, confidently finishing past goalkeeper Barry to give Greece the advantage.
As it stood at half time, they were heading through, as Japan were drawing 1-1 with the impressive Colombia.
The second half saw an energised Ivory Coast, desperate for an equaliser that would see them through to the last 16.
They brought on Swansea City’s Wilfried Bony on the hour mark and the stocky striker took just 14 minutes to score the goal that he hoped would be enough to see his country progress.
With Colombia now 2-1 up, Ivory Coast looked set to meet Costa Rica in the last 16, though they would live to regret their complacency in the last third that saw chances squandered in the last 20 minutes.
After a long-range Karagounis strike dipped and swerved onto the crossbar, and Colombia compounded their victory with a further two goals, tragedy struck for Ivory Coast in the 90th minute when Sio, perhaps accidently, brought down Samaras in the book as he looked to get a first time shot off.
As unfortunate as it may have been, it was a clear penalty, which the referee had no hesitation in giving.
Step up Samaras, the forward known to most as being relaxed, or probably too relaxed.
His demeanour would assist him in what was the most high-pressure penalty he will ever take though, as he confidently dispatched the spot kick to send his team-mates, bench, fans and country into raptures.
The Ivory Coast players were visibly distraught, and with no time to recover, the final whistle was blown to confirm a last-16 tie that no-one would have predicted.
The Greeks will meet Costa Rica at 9pm on Sunday in Arena Pernambuco.