Samaras breaks Ivory Coast hearts
- 24 June 2014 23:00
- Posted by @markbooth_mcfc
Yaya Toure’s Ivory Coast are out of the FIFA World Cup after a cruel 2-1 defeat to Greece.
Andreas Samaris blew Group C wide open with the opening goal for Greece after 42 minutes, before Wilfried Bony levelled the match with 15 minutes to go.
Ivory Coast were playing out time and looked set to book their place in the Round of 16 until Giovanni Sio was adjudged to have brought down ex-City striker Georgios Samaras in the penalty area in the very last minute.
The 29-year old was the coolest man on the field, picking himself up to fire his country through to the knockout stages.
City’s top Barclays Premier league goalscorer for 2013/14 played all 90 minutes in Fortaleza.
Toure began the night playing just off Didier Drogba in an advanced midfield position where he was able to influence the game in his typically talismanic fashion, floating between the lines, using his strength and deft touches to unsettle the famously obdurate Greek backline.
Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi confirmed that Yaya had been playing with physical discomfort after their defeat to Colombia but called upon his vice-captain to play through the pain barrier once more to help his side secure a place in the knockout stages for the first time.
Ex-Blue Kolo Toure made his first start of the tournament in place of the suspended Didier Zokora and so too did record goalscorer Drogba, who took the captain’s armband, replacing Swansea hitman Wilfried Bony.
The Toure brothers were taking to the field four days after the tragic loss of their brother and the team wore black armbands to remember Ibrahim.
Les Éléphants went into the match knowing that a win over the former European champions would see them through to the last 16, while a draw may have been enough, depending on the result in the game between Colombia and Japan.
A tetchy, fragmented first 30 minutes were to be expected with so much at stake for both teams.
Greece were first to get a clear sight of goal after half an hour when Samaras played Cholevas through and the defender was unfortunate to see his fizzing strike come back off the crossbar with Boubacar Barry in the Ivory Coast goal beaten all ends up.
It was a warning shot that Lamouchi’s men failed to heed as they conceded in the 42nd minute after an individual error from Cheikh Tiote.
The Newcastle midfielder gave the ball away inside his own half and Andreas Samaris was the man on hand to slide the ball under Barry from close range after a one-two with Samaras.
Yaya embarked on a brilliant, trademark run immediately after the goal, evading a couple of challenges as he danced into the penalty area but his shot was blocked and Greece retained their lead going into the break.
As it stood at half-time, with the score 1-1 in the night’s other game, it was Greece on their way to the knockout rounds, despite the fact that they’d scored just one goal.
Toure dropped a fraction deeper when the second half kicked off in a bid to further exert his influence and give his side a foothold in the midfield battleground.
"Bony was introduced to play alongside Drogba with half an hour to play as Lamouchi sensed time running out for his charges to save their 2014 World Cup campaign."
...Ivory Coast v Japan: Match report...
Ivory Coast were piling forward with increasing desperation but there always seemed to be a defender on hand to throw a leg into the line of fire to frustrate them and Greece struck the bar themselves on a rare counter-attack when Georgios Karagounis let fly with a thunderbolt after 65 minutes.
After 74 minutes their frustration was at an end and it was the substitute Bony who slotted home Gervinho’s cross to level the match and surely put his team back into Group C’s runners-up slot.
But there was a cruel, late twist in store as, in the dying seconds of the game, the referee awarded a penalty for a foul by Sio on Samaras.
The former City striker took it himself, and he made no mistake, firing it beyond the despairing reach of Barry to send Greece through to the knockout stages.
Fernando Santos's men will face Costa Rica in the second round.
They go through with Colombia, who finished as the group's runaway leaders on nine points, thanks to their 3-1 win over Japan.
That set up an all-South American clash against Uruguay.