Georgios Samaras
Georgios Samaras

Fortaleza (Brazil):  Greece rode on Georgios Samaras’ injury-time penalty to pull off a sensational 2-1 win over Ivory Coast and reach the second round of the World Cup for the first time, while Colombia mantained its unbeaten record and spanked Japan 4-1 to drew curtains on Asia’s challenge in the event.

Greece were awarded a late penalty after Samaras was adjudged to have been tripped in the area by substitute Giovanni Sio, and the lanky striker calmly slotted in the spot kick in the 91st minute to take his side into knockout stage.

It was heart break for Ivory Coast as a draw would have been enough for them to advance to the next stage. Greece, who were at the bottom of Group C before the game began, finished second in the group behind Colombia.

In other matches of the day, Uruguay advanced to the round of 16 from Group D after knocking Italy out of the competition with a 1-0 victory in Natal, while Costa Rica topped Group D after a goalless draw against England in Belo Horizonte.

But the game between Uruguay and Italy in Natal was marred by controversies and none other than striker Luis Suarez took the centrestage.

Suarez was at the centre of yet another biting controversy after appearing to sink his teeth into Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder moments before Diego Godin’s scored the winner for Uruguay with a header.

For the third time in his career, Suarez is facing potential punishment for appearing to bite a rival player after FIFA has ordered an inquiry into the yesterday’s incident.

Meanwhile, fully aware that only a win can keep their hopes alive Greece started brightly and took the lead just before half-time through young Andreas Samaris who pounced on a defensive error to slot the ball home.

But Wilfried Bony equalised for Ivory Coast in the 74th minute from close range and it looked like the goal would put the Africans through until the late drama.

Earlier in Natal, Uruguay captain Godin’s late strike against 10-man Italy sent his team into the last 16 and knocked European giants out of the tournament in the opening stages for the second time running.

Godin’s goal off a corner in the 81st minute was enough for the 2010 semifinalist to progress in the competition after a fiercely fought battle against the Italians in a match witnessing flared tempers and rough tackles.

The result meant Uruguay finished second in Group D behind Costa Rica, who drew 0-0 with England.

Both teams, knowing the importance of the game, started cautiously. Italy had the better of the possession in the first 45 minutes but they failed to attack the opposition goal consistently.

The half also saw plenty of rough tackles including the one involving Mario Balotelli, who was shown a yellow card for the second time in the group stages after a hard challenge against midfielder Alvaro Perreira. The Italian stiker’s form and behaviour on the field led to Marco Parolo replacing him at the break.

Uruguay star forward Suarez, who took the field despite concerns over his fitness, kept himself in the game with couple of shots on target. The Italians, however, defended well to keep their opponents at bay.

Action heated up further in the second half. The Italians were down to 10-men in the 59th when midfielder Claudio Marchisio was handed a red card for a nasty tackle on Egidio Arevalo.

Uruguay expectedly stepped up the pressure on the vulnerable 10-man Italy but failed to find the breakthrough with the clock ticking past the 80th minute mark.

Knowing very well that a draw would sent them out of the tournament, Uruguay pressed hard for the winner and finally managed to break the resolute Italian defence when Godin rose above his markers to find the net in the 81st minute with a powerful header past goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon from a corner.

Later in the day, Jackson Martinez scored twice to help Colombia beat Japan 4-1 and register their third consecutive win.

The match made World Cup history when Farid Mondragan beat Roger Milla’s record as the oldest player at any finals tournament. The Columbian goalkeeper came on as a substitute for the last six minutes at the age of 43 years and three days.

Colombia will play Uruguay in the round of 16 at Rio de Janeiro’s historic Estadio do Maracana on Saturday, while Greece will face Costa Rica in the second round on Sunday at Recife.

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Free Press Journal