Monday, November 29, 1999

Greece grab first ever World Cup win

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Greece came back from a goal down to beat Nigeria 2-1 in the World Cup on Thursday after the African team had to play with 10 men for almost two thirds of the Group B game.Vassilis Torosidis scored Greece's winner in the 71st minute to seal their first ever World Cup victory and keep alive their chances of progressing.Torosidis pounced after Dimitris Salpingidis's first half strike had cancelled out a Kalu Uche free kick for Nigeria, who also had Sani Kaita sent off."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.Argentina lead the group with six points from two games after beating South Korea 4-1 earlier on Thursday. Greece and South Korea both have three points while Nigeria are still without a point after two games.Nigeria could still qualify if they beat South Korea in their final group match and Argentina defeat Greece."The positive thing is that if Argentina win their game we still have a chance to qualify," Lagerback said.Greece coach Otto Rehhagel also said he was happy his team had kept alive hopes of progressing."We are going to take on Argentina, a world class team. They will clearly be better than us and we have got to see how to cope with them," he told reporters."We all know the Argentine team is of extraordinary quality."STICKEN GOALKEEPERNigeria grabbed the lead on 16 minutes when Uche's 35 metre freekick floated past everyone including stricken goalkeeper Alexandros Tzorvas and nestled in the net.The African side were in control until a moment of madness in the 33rd minute saw Kaita red carded for foolishly kicking out at Torosidis - the midfielder remorsefully walking off with his shirt over his head."I couldn't see what happened from my position, what I heard they said he kicked him with the underside of his shoe. I see the Greek player laying, holding his head, so I really don't know. It looks very strange," Nigeria coach Lagerback said.The game turned immediately in Greece's favour. Coach Otto Rehhagel replaced defensive midfielder Socratis Papastathopoulos with striker Giorgos Samaras, who minutes later had a shot cleared off the line. Then came an equaliser.Salpingidis etched his name into Greek record books by scoring his country's first ever World Cup goal with a 44th minute strike that wickedly deflected off Nigeria midfielder Haruna Lukman before flying into the net.Salpingidis, who celebrated jubilantly with the whole Greek squad, had previously scored the winner in the World Cup playoff against Ukraine to take his country to South Africa.The second half started at frantic pace. Greek striker Fanis Gekas was superbly denied by goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, while at the other end substitute Chinedu Obasi missed an open goal after a swift Nigeria counter-attack.With their usual defensive approach firmly abandoned, Greece went close again through Samaras before Torosidis stabbed home a second after Enyeama had spilled a low Alexandros Tziolis shot.Greece had lost all four of their previous World Cup games without scoring.(Editing by Nigel Hunt)(For more news on Reuters India, click
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