World Cup 2014: Greece v Cote d’Ivoire

GRE 2 – 1 CIV: A night of high drama in Fortaleza as the stubborn Greeks edged out the Côte d’Ivoire in a dogged contest that was settled on a moment of controversy. I thought the Greeks were terrific tonight – Andreas Samaris and Georgios Karagounis made a real difference to their attacking play and with the constant running of talented forward Lazaros Christodoulopoulos they managed to creative opportunities every time they moved the ball forward and made a nervous Côte d’Ivoire back four look even shakier. But the real match winners for the Greeks were the two centre backs. Defending in a manner that would befit the brave three hundred at Thermopylae they were almost impenetrable all night, and for me they have one of the best defenders in the tournament so far in Kostas Manolas. The young Olympiacos defender is the nephew of legendary Greek defender Stelios Manolas who won over seventy caps for his country and is the most decorated defender in the history of Greek football. At this rate his nephew will give him a run for his money. Kostas has formed a solid partnership with Borussia Dortmund’s Sokratis Papastathopoulos that proved to be the cornerstone for the Greek win tonight. Soaking up lots of pressure the Greeks were excellent on the counter attack and took a deserved lead after Andreas Samaris capitalised on a horrendous Chiek Tiote error. Wilfried Bony came off the bench in the second half to draw the Côte d’Ivoire level which was the signal for coach Sabri Lamouchi to substitute two attacking players for defensive midfielders in an attempt to protect the point they needed to qualify. Lamouchi’s negative tactics backfired when his last substitute Giovanni Sio tangled legs with Giorgios Samaras and gave away the penalty. It was a harsh decision but also understandable as it was a clumsy challenge that Samaras took advantage of to win his side the penalty. Samaras dusted himself off and blasted the ball past Côte d’Ivoire keeper Barry to send his side into the Second Round. Remarkable stuff!

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