Nigeria-Greece Preview

Published Jun. 15, 2010 5:55 p.m. ET

Scoring its first World Cup goal may not be much of a consolation if Greece suffers another early tournament exit. Nigeria is also trying to avoid an untimely elimination in South Africa.

The winless Group B rivals meet for the first time at the World Cup in 16 years Thursday in Bloemfontein.

Known for its disciplined defensive play, Greece committed a costly error that led to a goal in the 7th minute of a 2-0 loss to South Korea in the World Cup opener for both teams Saturday.

The defeat left the Greeks scrambling for answers as they managed two shots on goal.

"We really have to get our act together," said coach Otto Rehhagel, who guided Greece to a surprise title at the 2004 European Championship by implementing stringent defensive play and organization. "We've got to improve a couple of things and be brave and courageous enough."

While defensive struggles were evident Saturday, Greece hasn't managed a goal in four World Cup games. The team was outscored 10-0 while losing every match in 1994, falling 2-0 to Nigeria.

Another scoreless effort against the Super Eagles could mean elimination from this tournament after Greece managed one goal while going 0-3 at Euro 2008.


"To be honest, there can be no transformation in five days, not for any team," defender Vasilis Torosidis said. "What we need to be is very stubborn and to show this on the pitch. Even if we don't win, we won't be disappointed as long as we play well."

Captain Giorgos Karagounis is one player Greece needs to play well, especially offensively. The midfielder, who was part of the 2004 title-winning team, was removed at halftime Saturday due to ineffectiveness.

Greece, though, could get a boost with the expected return of 6-foot-5 central defender Vangelis Moras, who missed the opener with a nagging groin injury.

Nigeria is facing elimination at the group stage for a second consecutive World Cup appearance after going 0-2-1 in 2002.

The Super Eagles fell 1-0 to Argentina on Saturday, as Vincent Enyeama kept the game from getting out of hand by making six saves to earn man of the match honors.

"We're not going to kill ourselves. We have two more games to play," Enyeama said. "We thank God the score was a little encouraging."

Nigeria, though, will need to generate more offense after getting one shot on goal against Argentina.

Obafemi Martins, who had the lone shot, could be in the lineup after being used as a reserve. The forward has 17 goals in 32 games for his homeland, including a clutch tally with 9 minutes left to secure a 3-2 win over Kenya in the final World Cup qualifier to earn Nigeria a trip to South Africa.

A loss by either team would mean certain elimination. However, a tie would keep both alive heading into the final matches Tuesday, when Nigeria faces South Korea and Greece meets Argentina.