FORTALEZA: A last minute penalty by Georgios Samaras gave Greece a place in the second round of the World Cup finals for the first time after a 2-1 win over Ivory Coast yesterday.
Samaras’s penalty robbed the African side of the place in the last 16 as they had fought back to level at 1-1 through Wilfried Bony and were in sight of the point they required to go through.
Greece took the lead in the first-half through Andreas Samaris and Samaras’s late winner ensured they accompanied group winners Colombia, who thrashed Japan 4-1, into the knockout stages.
Greece again showed they play best when the odds are stacked against them as they overcame having to replace two key players including goalkeeper Orestis Karlezis inside the first 25 minutes.
A sluggish Ivory Coast side were caught napping on several occasions including one superb sortie by Greek defender Jose Holebas.
He took the ball out from inside his own penalty area, passed to Giorgios Samaras, and then ran onto the veteran former Celtic forward’s pass to let fly with a fierce effort which came crashing back off the bar.
Greek veteran who was to be smiling at the end and looking forward to another big game before he finally hangs up his boots while Drogba bows out.
Meanwhile, Jackson Martinez scored twice as Colombia beat Japan 4-1 to end World Cup Group C with three straight wins and send the Asian champions packing from the tournament with just a single point.
The match made World Cup history when Farid Mondragan beat Roger Milla’s record as the oldest player at any finals tournament. The goalkeeper came on as a substitute for the last six minutes at the age of 43 years and three days.
Colombia already had the game sealed.
Disaster struck for Japan after 15 minutes when Yasuyuki Konna chopped down Adrian Ramos in the penalty area.
Portuguese referee Pedro Proenca pointed to the spot and Fiorentina striker Juan Cuadrado confidently fired the kick past Japanese goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima.
AC Milan’s Keisuke Honda curled a left-footed free kick over the wall but the ball went just wide of the Colombian goal.
German-based striker Shinji Okazaki tried an overhead kick after 35 minutes but his effort went spectacularly high. However, he met with better fortune in time added on in the first-half with a fine diving header.
After 55 minutes, substitute Rodriguez found Martinez in space on the edge of the penalty area and the Porto striker powered a low angled shot into the corner.
Even then, Japan did not give up. Honda fired a powerful long range free kick at Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina. Defender Yasuyuki Konno also beat the Colombia defence with a shot from the edge of the area that Ospina covered.
But Martinez added a second and Rodriguez tormented the Japanese defence before scoring to seal victory.AFP