FINAL: Greece 2, Ivory Coast 1
Greece's Georgios Samaras buried a penalty kick in the 92nd minute, giving his side a decisive 2-1 lead that ultimately saw it through to the knockout stages. Had Greece not scored, the Ivory Coast was poised to advance by virtue of the draw, but instead, Samaras' goal propelled Greece to its first-ever knockout match.
It will face Costa Rica, the surprising Group D winner.
Samaras was looking for a late game-winner when sub Giovanni Sio played Samaras' foot instead of the centering pass, forcing the ref to call the late penalty. Samaras lined up and confidently drilled the ball to his right as Boubacar Barry laid on his back knowing full well that the Ivory Coast's World Cup dreams were dashed.
Greece, which hadn't scored a World Cup goal in two prior games, actually took a 1-0 lead into halftime thanks to a costly turnover from Ivory Coast midfielder Cheick Tiote. Andreas Samaris scored off the break and it looked like Greece might be able to advance with just one goal in the tournament. But Wilfried Bony scored an equalizer in the 74th minute, which would've been enough for the Ivory Coast. Gervinho played a wonderful centering pass as Bony knocked it past Greece's keeper.
Into stoppage time we went, both teams fighting for one last decisive goal when Samaras' foot got kicked as he was preparing for a last-gasp shot. The penalty and subsequent 2-1 win sends Greece into the Round of 16 where it will take on Costa Rica, which soared through Group D's heavyweights. Don't expect much scoring as both teams reached this stage because of their respective lockdown defenses.
93' -- GOAL!!!! SAMARAS!!!! HE FINISHES THE PENALTY KICK, AND IF RESULTS HOLD, GREECE WILL ADVANCE!!!
92' -- PENALTY COMING AGAINST IVORY COAST!! Samaras gets kicked by Sio who drops in the box. If he makes it and results hold, Greece will advance.
86' -- Salpingidis crosses it two feet in front of goal, and it somehow goes through the legs of Aurier, who barely misses knocking it into the back of his own net. Huge relief for Ivory Coast.
85' -- Ivory Coast nearly with some insurance off a corner kick from Toure but Glykos handles it on goal line.
SUB: Gervinho out, Giovanni Sio in at striker. Gervinho, not Drogba, has been the most important player for Les Elephants this World Cup.
81' -- Gervinho still attacking as Greece is forced to press forward with less men back.
Greece looks absolutely dejected. Envisioned advancing for about 30 minutes.
SUBS: Gekas on for Karagounis, Diomande on for Drogba.
Bony's equalizer off the assist from Gervinho:
If result holds, the Ivory Coast will advance.
73' -- GOAL!!!!! BONY!!! Gervinho finds Wilfried Bony for a perfect pass in the middle, who finds the net with a one-touch tap in.
73' -- Bamba nearly heads in a goal off the near post. Great corner from Ivory Coast, and its looking increasingly more dangerous.
69' -- Play opening up substantially for Greece. Yellow card for Serey Die as Greece was on the run out.
68' -- KARAGOUNIS blasts one from 10, maybe 15 yards outside of the box and it hits the upper crossbar. Ivory Coast very, very lucky. Second crossbar for Greece.
67' -- Good work from Kalou, who cuts in between two Greek defenders on the left edge of the box but still can't put it on net.
65' -- Greece getting a ton of chances on the counter attack as the Ivory Coast is in full-on attack mode. It needs a goal to continue its World Cup hopes.
SUB: Tiote out, Wilfried Bony in.
62' -- Greece earns a great set piece chance just outside the box off counter.
It's not just that Greece has so many men back. It's that their defenders block angles and communiciate, leaving next-to-nothing for the Ivory Coast's strikers to work with. No room for Kalou or Toure whatsoever.
GROUP C UPDATE: Colombia up 2-1 over Japan. Greece advances with a win and a Japan loss or draw.
58' -- Huge save from Barry on Salpingidis. Ball deflected just over bar for ultimately harmless corner.
55' -- Manolas with a vital tackle as he kicks Salomon Kalou's attempt away.
53' -- Christodoulopoulos toe pokes a shot to the left of the goal. Would've been a massive dagger had it found the net.
Ivory Coast was down 1-0 to Japan in opener before Drogba was subbed on and the team scored twice in five minutes.
49' -- Nine men back for Greece. Drogba, Tiote and Gervinho pressing from all angles. Gonna be a lot of this for the next forty minutes.
47' -- Drogba barrels into Glykos trying to get his head on a cross. Foul on the Ivory Coast star and danger averted, if you're Greece.
46' -- Greece plays a short corner and gets the ball in a dangerous area for a Salpingidis header. Another corner coming but it gets headed away by the Ivory Coast defense.
HALFTIME: Greece 1, Ivory Coast 0
As it stands right now, Greece would advance to the knockout stages after scoring just one goal in the World Cup. It's also halftime of Japan-Colombia and the two sides are even at 1-1. The Ivory Coast has three points, while Greece and Japan each have one. Colombia is atop the group with six.
If Greece wins and Japan loses or draws, Greece -- yes, that Greece -- is into the knockout rounds.
It could be 2-0 in favor of Greece but a blast from Jose Holebas bounced off the crossbar, saving the Ivory Coast from an early deficit. Alas, less than 10 minutes later, Cheick Tiote gave it away with a careless touch in Greece's attacking third, fueling a two-on-one break. Andreas Samaris, a sub who came on just 12 minutes into the game, buried the chance past Boubacar Barry.
If you thought Greece was defensive before, watch how it nurses a precarious one-goal lead. For the Ivory Coast, it's 45 minutes away from botching a golden opportunity to advance for the first time in its history.
45' -- Four minutes of stoppage time added.
The Samaris goal:
That goal will force Greece into a defensive posture, making life even more challenging for the Ivory Coast. That's Greece's first goal of the World Cup.
42'-- GOAL!!!!!! SAMARIS!!! A bad turnover from the Ivory Coast in the midfield and Samaris buries it in the middle of the goal!
40' -- Huge step from Samaris to thwart an Ivory Coast attack. Kalou and Toure attacking relentlessly.
How close we were to a Greece goal:
36' -- Drogba with a yellow card after a strong, 50-50 challenge. Don't think he should've been awarded that. Had ball before body.
35' -- Karagounis smashes a free kick just outside the box and Barry corrals it with no trouble at all. Two significant chances for Greece.
33' -- Defender Holebas ALMOST gives Greece the lead as he blasts a shot off the crossbar, the result of an excellent Greek transition. Would've changed entire dynamic of the game. SO, so close.
32' -- Broadcast notes that the Ivory Coast doesn't have to leave its defensive position. Can likely advance with draw, thus Greece must come out of its shell.
29' -- Ton of interruptions to this game from the two Greek injuries. Hurts the flow of the game from the Ivory Coast's perspective. Greece doing everything it can to mess with Les Elephantes' midfielders.
24' -- Greek keeper Karnezis is coming out with an apparent back injury and Panagiotis Glykos will come on to mine the net. Two subs used just 24 minutes into Tuesday's match.
23' -- Toure leads Drogba a bit too much and the ball's out for a goal kick.
GROUP C UPDATE: Colombia takes the early 1-0 lead over Japan, which helps the Ivory Coast.
18' -- And now GK Karnezis is being worked on by trainers. Awful development if his back isn't healthy. Greece already used up one sub.
16' -- Salpingidis flicks one across the goal mouth, but it's a bit high. Still have to appreciate that Greece is going for this.
13' -- Great save by Karnezis off a Toure cross. ... And Greece nearly takes the lead on a 50-50 ball by Salpingidis against Barry. Ivory Coast's keeper wins the challenge and we're still 0-0.
12' -- And Kone walks off gingerly as Andreas Samaris comes on. Bittersweet moment for him.
10' -- Karagounis with a poor touch in the back, and he boots it out as midfielder Kone is down with an injury.
9' -- Corner coming for the Ivory Coast as Drogba leads Gervinho on the break and Greece kicks it pass the baseline. Poor effort from Kalou and Greece clears it.
Reminder, if the Ivory Coast advances, it will in all likelihood face Costa Rica in the Round of 16.
5' -- Good defensive work from Drogba as he heads away a free kick from Greece early on. Question is, how long can Drogba stay on the field?
2' -- Already Boubacar Barry is tested in goal as Greece shows a dangerous cross. Different approach from them.
1' -- We're off in the final Group C battle, and of course, Colombia and Japan are playing simultaneously.
PREGAME: It's pretty simple for the Ivory Coast. All it needs to do to guarantee its first ever knockout stage appearance is win, although scoring a goal against Greece won't be easy. Didier Drogba will make his first start of this World Cup on Tuesday.
Greece should be stretched thinner than it wants as it will only advance with a win and a Japan loss. That being said, Greece hasn't scored all tournament. With everything to play for, will it resort to its defensive mandate and hope to steal a goal or play more aggressively with men on both sides of the ball?
Ivory Coast starters: Barry, Aurier, Toure, Bamba, Boka, Tiote, Serey, Kalou, Toure, Gervinho, Drogba
Greece starters: Karnezis, Torosidis, Manolas, Papastathopoulos, Cholevas, Maniatis, Karagounis, Christodoulopoulos, Kone, Salpingidis, Samaras
Ivory Coast vs. Greece (Group C) | Kickoff: 6/24, 4 p.m. ET | Stadium: Castelao
Match Preview: Thanks to its 2-1 win over Japan, the Ivory Coast has three points heading into its final group match against Greece and can control its own destiny. If Les Elephantes win, they will advance, no questions asked. However a draw against Greece and it would need Japan to draw or lose to Colombia or it could come down to goal differential. Better not to rely on any other scenarios and simply win, if you're Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure or Gervinho.
Greece hasn't scored a goal in two World Cup games after dropping its opener 3-0 to Colombia and then drawing Japan 0-0 to earn a point. Making matters more difficult for Fernando Santos' side is that it will be without captain and defensive midfielder Konstantinos Katsouranis, who was booked for a red card against Japan. Greece will likely open with its usual conservative approach, but it will need to open up and utilize space as a win is the only chance it has of advancing. Striker Kostas Mitroglou is expected to be healthy after missing the second half against Japan, and he'll pair with Theofanis Gekas up top to try and notch the team's first goal.
Brothers Yaya and Kolo Toure have vowed to play on Tuesday despite the death of their 28-year-old brother, Ibrahim, who died of cancer last week.
"It's tough to talk about football when you get news like that. It seems inappropriate somehow," Ivory Coast manager Sabri Lamouchi said. A defender, Kolo Toure is expected to get the start. Perhaps Lamouchi will start Drogba as well as he spurred the Ivory Coast's comeback win against Japan as a second half sub.
If the Ivory Coast wins, it will be its first trip to the knockout rounds ever. If everything goes right for Greece and it wins (and Japan loses), it would also mark its first trip to the knockout rounds. Either way, there's a good chance we're going to see history tomorrow.