World Cup

Greece earns first World Cup victory

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Greece earned its first World Cup win Thursday, coming from behind to beat 10-man Nigeria 2-1 in Group B.

Vassilis Torosidis scored the winning goal in the 71st minute after a mistake from Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama to make history for Greece, which had lost all four of its previous World Cup matches.

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Enyeama fumbled a low shot from Alexandros Tziolis and Torosidis pounced on the loose ball for the crucial goal.

"Of course it would have been a shame to return to Greece without a win and without a point so I'm very happy with this result," Greece coach Otto Rehhagel said. "We did concede a goal, but we were able to stand up against it and we were able to get the game under control."

Nigeria had taken the lead in the 16th minute at Free State Stadium when Kalu Uche's curling free kick from 35 meters (yards) deceived everyone and dropped into the corner of the Greece net.

But the game changed in the 33rd when Nigeria midfielder Sani Kaita was shown a straight red card for kicking Torosidis on the touchline.

Dimitris Salpingidis equalized in the 44th with a shot that deflected off Lukman Haruna and left Enyeama with no chance.

"I think the sending off played a big part in the game," Nigeria captain Joseph Yobo said. "We were controlling the game before the sending off.

"It looks like even if we win the next one (game), we're not going to qualify, so practically we are out of the tournament," he said.

Greece and Nigeria both made changes to their lineups after opening game losses left both in desperate need of a victory to kick-start their campaigns.

Sat., Jun. 12
South Korea 2-0 Greece | Recap
Argentina 1-0 Nigeria | Recap
Thu., Jun. 17
Argentina 4-1 South Korea | Recap
Greece 2-1 Nigeria | Recap
Tue., Jun. 22
Nigeria 2-2 South Korea | Recap
Greece 0-2 Argentina | Recap

"We badly wanted this, because we'd never even scored a goal in the World Cup before," Salpingidis said. "I can't say whether we'll make it out the group. But I can say that we'll leave with our heads held high."

Nigeria broke through first when Uche's free kick sailed over the heads of Costas Katsouranis and Peter Odemwingie and into the far corner of the net - with Greece goalkeeper Alexandros Tzorvas completely confused.

Odemwingie, who had won the free kick, appeared to pull his head out of the way to allow Uche's effort to carry on toward the Greece goal.

But with Nigeria in control, Kaita's moment of madness handed Greece its best chance of breaking its World Cup losing streak.

Kaita was sent off by Colombian referee Oscar Ruiz after he kicked Torosidis and caught the Greece forward on the upper thigh after the ball had gone out for a throw in.

"Yeah, of course it's of big importance," Nigeria coach Lars Lagerback said of the sending off. "Everybody who knows anything about football knows if you're playing with 10 men on this level it's much more difficult to win a game."

Greece piled the pressure on the 10 men straight after the sending off, with Rehhagel bringing on striker Georgios Samaras in the 37th.

Salpingidis was denied by the knee of Enyeama when through on goal in the 39th, and Samaras then went close with a close-range flick from a corner that was cleared off the line by Haruna.

Enyeama, who won his second successive man of the match award, pulled of a string of saves in the second half as Greece attacked Nigeria's goal.

Greece's win was hailed by Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, who delayed a news conference at an EU summit in Brussels to watch the game.

"The boys made us proud," Papandreou said. "At a time when Greece has had a lot of bad press recently (due to the debt crisis), I think it was a very important revival for all of us."

The result almost certainly eliminates Nigeria from the competition. It is now the only team in Group B without a point, and without a win.

"We can make excuses and the sending off was a part of it," Yobo said, "but I thought that we should have done a bit better."


Greece: Alexandros Tzorvas, Alexandros Tziolis, Avraam Papadopoulos, Giorgos Karagounis, Loukas Vyntra, Dimitris Salpingidis, Vassilis Torosidis, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Fanis Gekas (Sotiris Ninis 79), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Georgios Samaras, 37), Costas Katsouranis.

Nigeria: Vincent Enyeama, Joseph Yobo, Taye Taiwo (Elderson Echiejile, 55, Rabiu Afolabi, 77), Danny Shittu, Yakubu Ayegbeni, Peter Odemwingie (Chinedu Obasi, 45) Kalu Uche, Sani Kaita, Lukman Haruna, Chidi Odiah, Dickson Etuhu.

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