After five attempts, Greece has arrived on the world stage thanks to a thrilling 2-1 win over Nigeria!

A first half equaliser by Dimitris Salpingidis and a late goal by Vassilis Torosidis catapulted Greece into contention to progress from the difficult Group B at the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Greece came from a goal down to ultimately defeat the Super Eagles at Bloemfontein with a superior display in which their highly-fancied African opponents never really looked to be in contention against the 2004 European Champions.

Greece dominated all areas of the match registering a whopping 27 shots on goal with 56% of the ball.

Kalu Uche gave Nigeria the shock lead after an embarrassing blunder by goal keeper Alexandros Tzorvas. The Greek custodian was distracted by the run of Nigerian Peter Odemwingie, as the ball sailed through the Greek defence untouched.

The goal however spurred the Greeks into action, as Otto Rehhagle’s men went immediately in search of an equaliser. But a straight red card for Nigerian Sani Kaita just after the half-hour changed the complexion of the match.

Kaita stupidly lashed out at Torosidis who was retrieving the ball for a throw in. He kicked the Greek defender in the right thigh, leaving the referee no alternative but to produce the red card and reduce Nigeria to ten men for the remainder of the match.

Greece completely dominated henceforth, and it was a case of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ Greece would find the back of the net.

Salpingidis has Costas Katsouranis to thank for the assist which led to Greece’s first ever World Cup goal in the 44th minute after a period of total dominance. Salpingidis blasted the ball into the back of the net from 20 yards, with the assistance of a small deflection. Furious celebrations on and off the pitch took place as the roar of the Greek fans in the stands drowned out the vouvouzela horns.

In the second half both sides had chances to retake the lead. Captain Giorgios Karagounis, Sotiris Kyrgiakos and Fanis Gekas all went close for Greece who were in complete control of the match.

At the other end of the pitch, a spectacular one handed save by custodian Tzorvas spared Greece’s blushes, as he dived to his right to keep out a one-on-one opportunity from a counter attack.

Nigeria’s goal keeper Enyeama again showed his class, in denying Samaras’s header from a short corner after a stretched dive to his left, but the goal keeper of the tournament to date would have to take the blame for the Greek winner after he spilled Alexandros Tziolis’s long-range shot into the path of Torosidis, who buried the chance in the 71st minute.

Greece would hold on to the slender lead and register a famous victory, as the Greek South African community, together with Hellene travellers from Europe celebrated in the Free State Stadium. The scenes would be mirrored around the world, especially in Melbourne where Greeks descended upon traditionally Hellenic strips in Lonsdale Street and Oakleigh’s Eaton Mall.

A satisfied Rehhagel told reporters after the match, “Unfortunately, the game started just like the last one and we went a goal down. My team needed quite some time to recover. We were dominant after the red card, but there are plenty of examples where the team with the extra man goes on to lose.”
“However, we reacted well to conceding the first goal, showed tremendous passion and belief, and turned the game around,” he continued.

But Rehhagle indicated the next match will be very difficult, telling reporters, “Argentina are world-class, they’re clearly better than us. We still have a chance, but it’ll be very hard. We’re the underdogs against Argentina, that’s for sure, but we’ll give it our best shot. For now, we’ll just enjoy the fact we’ve beaten Nigeria.”

Scorer of the winning goal, Torosidis, said “I don’t care what happens now. I’m just delighted for the team, and for the fans who never stopped believing in us.”
For Nigeria, this was their seventh consecutive World Cup match without victory, and they must now beat Korea Republic on Tuesday in Durban and hope Argentina can beat a Greece side right back in the running in Group B’s other remaining game. Greece will be hoping for a draw in the first match and a draw or win against Argentina will see Greece into the round of 16.