Vuvuzela Rating: 3.5 The First Bee of Spring
After a disappointing start for both teams, both Nigeria and Greece needed to kick start their tournament if either were going to progress from Group B. The game started at a slow pace, with both sides looking tentative, which was understandable in the circumstances. It took 14 minutes before either side had a shot on target. It came when Kostas Katsouranis tried to lob Vincent Enyeama from the half-way line, the most ambitious event since Kerry Katona announced she was running the London marathon.
It was Nigeria that broke the deadlock after 15 minutes, and it was another goal that came from a set piece. Kalu Uche stepped up to curl a free-kick into the box and every Greek defender, including goalkeeper Alexandros Tzorvas did their best to get out of its path, subsequently it found its way into the back of the net. It is fair to say that Greece looked as defensively strong as a chocolate teapot during a heat wave in the opening stages. Nigeria continued to press forward, looking to capitalise on their advantage with Yakubu and Kaita showing good movement and creating chances. The one glimmer of hope the Greeks had was the opportunity to score from a set play, with the delivery of captain Karagounis proving difficult to deal with when he got the chance to put a ball in.
After half an hour the game exploded into life, thanks to a controversial incident, the Nigerian midfielder Kaita seemingly pressing the self destruct button for his side. He kicked out at Torosidis after the ball had gone out of play for a harmless throw in and the referee promptly showed him a red card. Tom Daly is now rumoured to be interested in training with Torosidis after seeing his swan dive straight onto the turf. Unsurprisingly this buoyed the Greeks and they looked to claw their way back into the game. After numerous attempts to beat Vincent Enyeama they finally found the back of the net when Salpingidis smashed a shot which deflected off a defender and completely wrong-footed the despairing ‘keeper. That was a real sucker punch for Nigeria and they looked totally despondent as they trooped off the field.
Both sides clearly weren’t about to settle for a draw out of this one as they both looked to take control of the game and score the vital third goal. On the hour mark there was a real chance for both sides, firstly Greece surged forward and once again Enyeama made a fantastic save from Fanis Gekas. Just as the ball was scrambled clear Nigeria broke forward with Yakubu going clean through on goal but he saw his shot saved by Tzorvas, the rebound breaking to Odiah who proceeded to scuff the ball wide of an open goal. It seemed nether side wanted to actually take the lead!
In the pinball game that ensued Greece looked more likely to score, with Enyeama denying Jesus look-a-like Giorgos Samaras with a save that could sell Kodak cameras the world over. The Nigerian ‘keeper appearing to make a hand signal that resembled a signature as he looked straight down the camera lens. A decision he may have come to regret moments later when he fumbled a straight drive from Tziolis and Torosidis reacted quickest to tap into the empty net and give Greece a vital 2-1 lead. The Greek supporters behind the goal taunting him in the minutes that followed with comparisons to England’s latest butterfingers Robert Green. The goalkeeper looked very embarrassed after that blunder and he dug a hole in his 6 yard area and proceeded to bury his head in it for the remaining 20 minutes of the game.
Nigerian attacks were now becomes less and less frequent, with Greece content to try and attack on the break as their opposition were forced to try and find a way back into the game, Yakubu in particular becoming extremely frustrated with the lack of quality in the final third. In the end the game simply fizzled out as both sides became a little resigned to their fate and Greece making their extra man count in the middle of the park.
Nigeria will look back on this game with a feeling of what could have been, new public enemy number one Sani Kaita will face a lot of criticism for his outrageously stupid challenge on the half hour when it looked like Nigeria would win the game at a canter. Greece can be happy with their first win at the World Cup but face the difficult task of trying to get a positive result against in-form Argentina if they are to progress into the last 16.
Match Statistics (Powered by Optajoke)
32 – Long haired striker Giorgos Samaras has not shaved his beard in 32 days in an attempt to become more noticed within the squad. Scruffy.
10,000 – Sani Kaita will make an estimated 10,000 apologies in TV and radio interviews over the next 7 days. Sorry.
0 – The agent of Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama has seen inquiries about his clients availability drop from 25 to 0. Mistake.