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Last-gasp goal sees Ivory Coast crash out of World Cup
Greece starting XI : Karnezis, Maniatis, Manolas, Samaras, Kone, Karagounis, Salpingidis, Torosidis, Lazaros, Sokratis, Cholevas.
Cote D’Ivoire starting XI : Barry; Aurier, Kolo Touré, Bamba, Boka; Die, Tioté, Yaya Touré; Kalou, Gervinho, Drogba.
The widely held view that Greece is a team that doesn’t score many goals had proved to be true so far in Brazil. In their first two games however, they had not only been unable to find the back of the net but had also been unable to build on the defensive stability that won them Euro 2004.
The opening day of the group saw Colombia beat Greece comfortably in a 3-0 win and although they were able to earn a point in a tame scoreless draw against Japan, the likes of Drogba, Bony, Gervinho, Kalou and Yaya Touré should have been confident of breaking the deadlock first after their recent performances.
The Ivorians still had it all to play for as securing a place in the round of 16 could have either seen them top Group C or crash out in third place depending on their game and the result of Japan vs. Colombia being played at the same time. The Greek camp was well aware that Tuesday’s match was a must-win affair.
Kolo Touré started his first game of the tournament alongside his brother Yaya only a few days following the news that their third brother Ibrahim had lost his battle to cancer. Kolo and Yaya had not left the Ivorian camp since his passing.
The game had few clear goal scoring opportunities in the first half an hour, however when José Holebas laced the ball powerfully against the crossbar the game began to open up.
Only a few minutes before half time, Newcastle’s Cheick Tioté gave the ball away with a poor touch which left his defenders no time to recover and gifted Greece their first goal of the tournament.
The lead gave Greece the necessary confidence to keep testing Copa in the second half. Former Internazionale, Benfica and Fulham midfielder Karagounis shot from distance and hit the crossbar twice but was unable to find a second goal.
With the Ivory Coast desperate to secure at least a draw, Ivory Coast manager Sabry Lamouchi substituted midfielder Tioté for Swansea target man Wilfried Bony to play alongside Didier Drogba. The risky substitution was rewarded in the 74th minute when a clever pass sent Gervinho inside his fullback and squared it for Bony to finish.
Knowing that a draw would be enough, the Elephants were satisfied sitting deep and trying to catch Greece on the counterattack. A few late runs were well worked but fruitless in the end. Sadly for them as well, a poorly timed challenge in the penalty box from substitute Giovanni Sio allowed Celtic forward Samaras to take a make-or-break injury time penalty deep into injury time. The forward converted it confidently and allowed Greece to overtake the Ivory Coast in Group C.