Argentines in ominous form as they go clear at top of Group B with 4-1 win at Soccer City.
|Greece is the word: Karagounis and Ninis celebrate the country’s first World Cup win [GALLO/GETTY]|
A moment of red mist from Nigeria’s Sani Kaita opened the door for Greece to seal the first World Cup finals win in their history with a 2-1 win in Group B – and send an African nation’s hopes plummeting in a tournament where the continent’s sides have failed to shine.
The result – which also saw Greece score their first goals in the World Cup finals – kept alive their chances of progressing to the second round, although they face leaders Argentina in their final group match.
Kaita was sent off in the 33rd minute with Nigeria already a goal ahead, for kicking out at Vassilis Torosidis when the ball was out of play.
A Kalu Uche free-kick had given Nigeria the lead in the 16th minute and the Super Eagles were playing with the grace and power that had made them one of Africa’s great hopes in the continent’s first World Cup.
“We started the game well, controlled the game, got the goal and then had a sending off. That caused us problems, especially in the first half,” Nigeria coach Lars Lagerback said after the match.
With Kaita off the pitch, Greece coach Otto Rehhagel replaced defensive midfielder Socratis Papastathopoulos with striker Giorgos Samaras, who minutes later had a shot cleared off the line.
Dimitris Salpingidis etched his name into Greek record books by scoring his country’s first ever World Cup goal with a 44th minute strike that deflected off Nigeria midfielder Haruna Lukman before flying into the net.
Salpingidis had previously scored the winner in the World Cup playoff against Ukraine to take his country to South Africa.
Torosidis pounced in the 71st minute as Nigeria were running out of steam.
It was not all one-way traffic though and, until the last quarter, Nigeria always looked like they might grab a goal on the counter-attack.
In one thrilling episode while the game was still tied, Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama superbly saved a point-blank shot by Greek striker Fanis Gekas.
The Super Eagles raced forward as the Greeks were still holding their heads only for substitute Chinedu Obasi to miss an open goal.
With their usual defensive approach abandoned, Greece went close again through Samaras before Torosidis stabbed home the second after Enyeama had spilled a low Alexandros Tziolis shot.
Greece had lost all four of their previous World Cup games without scoring.
Greece’s win puts them on three points with South Korea who earlier lost 4-1 to table-topping Argentina on Thursday, while Nigeria have no points from two games.