Overview – Greece vs Nigeria
It is Greece’s only second participation in the FIFA World Cups after their debut in 1994. They had bowed out of their last tournament from group stage after a miserable run of performance. Greece lost all three of their group matches and failed to put the ball in back of the net. Their all 23 players of the squad, including the three goalkeepers, participated in their three games which is very rare for a team exiting at the group stage. Incidentally, two of these defeats came against Argentina and Nigeria who happen to be their group mates in this World Cup also.
Nigeria, on the contrary, have a more respectable record in the World Cups. Super Eagles also made their debut in the 1994 World Cup like Greece but qualified for the second round also. This exceptional performance was followed by another Round of 16 qualification in the 1998 tournament. On a negative note, Nigeria failed to progress through the group stage in the 2002 World Cup and then failed to qualify for the 2006 edition.
Both Nigeria and Greece had suffered defeats in their opening matches of the 2010 World Cup against Argentina and South Korea, respectively. Nigeria, however, must have been encouraged by the fact that they had kept the strong Argentinean attacking prowess quite for most of the match whereas Greece never turned up against the energetic South Koreans. Win in this match was extremely vital for both of these sides to extend their stay in the tournament beyond the group stage. Nigeria were the pre-match favourites on bases of having established players who play week in week out in the more competitive leagues.
Things were not lot looking good for Greece from start of the match and many must be expecting to see Greece’s fifth consecutive loss at this level and thinking if ever Greeks will be able to score a goal in the World Cup. Nigeria had control on the match, there was productive distribution of passes from the Nigerian midfielders and Greeks were mostly chasing shadows. Super Eagles ended a drought of their own of failing to score in their last four World Cup matches when Kalu Uche’s cross-cum-shot flied straight in to the Greek goal.
There was little change of attitude from the Greek side after trailing opponents by a goal and shadows of early exit from the World Cup looming. Sani Kaita then came to rescue when he insanely tried to kick his studs on the Greek midfielder Vasilis Torosidis who made the most of this opportunity and got Kaita sent off. This incident turned the match upside down. Greece took advantage of an extra man on the ground and substituted a defender for bringing on striker Giorgios Samaras.
Just before the half time, Dimitris Salpingidis scored first goal for Greece in the World Cups. Greece continued pressure on the 10-man Nigeria in the second half. Vasilis Torosidis made another lasting contribution when he picked a fumble from goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, the Nigerian hero from the Argentina game, to score. Greece completed a 2-1 win and the first victory in this World Cup after the winner had gone behind.
Although Nigeria’s exit from the tournament is not yet confirmed even after suffering defeats in both opening matches but odds are seriously against them. There is still a mathematical possibility for them to qualify for the knock out stage. Nigeria will face South Korea in their last group match which they will need to win and hope that Argentina also come out victorious against Greece. South Korea, on the other hand, are in a stronger position and may like to settle for a single point from this match. Draw in either of these matches will end Nigeria’s campaign in this World Cup.
Despite this win, Greece have a daunting test ahead of them as they face title favourites Argentina in their last group match. Greece will need a better result than South Korea from the last round of group matches i.e. if South Korea loses, a draw for Greece will enough for them to progress through to the Round of 16 and if South Korea end up sharing a point with Nigeria then Greece will have to pull out a huge shock of winning against Argentina.