Fortaleza: Greece coach Fernando Santos hailed his team’s last-gasp qualification for the World Cup knockout stage with a 2-1 win over Ivory Coast on Tuesday as a result of their rediscovered focus that was lacking earlier in the tournament.
The Greeks, who hit the woodwork three times in the game and were seconds away from elimination, were awarded a stoppage time penalty with Giorgos Samaras keeping a cool head to convert and send them to the last 16 for the first time in three attempts.
“The first message I want to pass onto my players is that we need to focus and we need a lot of attention,” said the Portuguese. “I am not one to celebrate like mad when we win but I also do not feel depressed when we lose.”
“I think in reality the best team on the pitch won today...a fair victory. In the first matches we lacked focus. We didn’t have our main weapon which is to remain focused.”
Santos said his players had stuck to their guns, even when Ivory Coast cancelled out their lead in the 74th minute. The Africans would have advanced with a draw were it not for Samaras’s last-gasp spot-kick.
“I told my players that this wasn’t a match without tomorrow, this was a game with a tomorrow. ”
Greece will now face Group D winners Costa Ricain the last 16.
Greece: Orestis Karnezis (Panaglotis Glykos, 24th); Vassilis Torosidis, Sokratis Papasthathopoulos, Kostas Manolas, Jose Holebas; Giorgos Karagounis (Theofanis Gekas, 78th), Yannis Maniatis, Lazaros Christodoulopoulos, Panagiotis Kone (Andreas Samaris, 12th), Dimitris Salpingidis, Giorgos Samaras
Ivory Coast: Boubacar Barry; Serge Aurier, Kolo Toure, Souleyman Bamba, Arthur Boka; Cheick Ismael Tiote (Wilfried Bony, 61st), Geoffroy Serey Die, Yaya Toure, Salomon Kalou; Gervinho (Giovanni Sio, 83rd), Didier Drogba (Ismael Diomande, 78th)
Man of the Match: Giorgos Samaras
Referee: Carlos Vera (Ecuador)