The Ivory Coast had its heart broken when Greece earned a controversial penalty kick in injury time and won 2-1 to advance to the Round of 16 for the first time in World Cup history.
Giorgos Samaras was the hero for Greece, stepping up to the spot after the penalty was called and slamming home a shot over Boubacar Barry to send his side to the knockout round.
Before then, Ivory Coast looked like it was finally going to live up to expectations and move past the group stage. Wilfried Bony’s marker for Les Elephants in the 74th minute cancelled out an Andreas Samaris strike in the first half, and a draw would’ve been enough to see Ivory Coast through.
Was it a penalty? The latest controversial call at the World Cup has sent the Ivory Coast home. Samaras made the most of his chance, and became a national hero.
Man of the match
Giorgos Samaras. Earned the penalty, then scored the winner from the spot seconds before full time. He’s also earned free drinks and dinners for life in Athens.
It was a good day for…
Counter-punching. Greece played the counterattack game to perfection, and legitimately had one of its best performances at a World Cup because of it. The Greeks hit three posts along with their two goals, and did deserve the win, despite the controversial circumstances.
It was a bad day for…
Great Expectations. Three World Cups for Ivory Coast. Three times touted as one of the best African sides in the tournament. Three times out at the group phase. The Ivorians again didn’t live up to expectations, but this exit may be the worst of them all.
Before Samaras’ strike, Greece had never taken a penalty kick in the World Cup, and the Ivory Coast has never faced one.
What this means
The Greeks are through to the Round of 16, in their best showing in a major tournament since winning Euro 2004. They face the underdog darlings from Costa Rica in the Round of 16 on Sunday (CBC TV, cbc.ca/fifaworldcup, 4 p.m. ET).
Les Elephants finally were dealt a good group draw in the World Cup, and they still couldn’t find a way to progress. They needed their best showing against Greece, and didn’t get it.