Greece edged ten-man Nigeria 2-1 in a pulsating contest in Mangaung/Bloemfontein to revive their chances of reaching the Round of 16.
It all looked like being so different for the Super Eagles, who opened the scoring in the 16th minute through Kalu Uche, but a straight red card for Sani Kaita just after the half-hour swung the balance in the favour of the Europeans, who duly secured their first-ever victory in a FIFA World Cup™ match thanks to goals from Dimitrios Salpingidis and Vasileios Torosidis. The result left Greece third in Group B, level on points with second-placed Korea Republic. Nigeria remain pointless and will now have to beat the South Koreans in their final first-phase outing to have any chance of advancing.
Uche's goal was the first in the tournament to come direct from a free-kick, though his 35-yard effort from the left flank was intended centre. Greece goalkeeper Alexandros Tzorvas was distracted by the run of Peter Odemwingie, though, and let the ball go past him untouched. The game changed in the 33rd minute, though, with Kaita's sending-off for kicking out at Torosidis after the ball had run out on the sideline. Sensing the opportunity, Greece coach Otto Rehhagel brought on Georgios Samaras to increase their attacking options. The Europeans duly began to dominate the proceedings and split open the Nigeria defence soon after, but goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, who impressed in their 1-0 loss to Argentina, denied an unmarked Salpingidis from ten yards.
Six minutes later, Enyeama was beaten, but midfielder Lukman Haruna saved Samaras's flicked, close-range shot from crossing the line. However, Haruna was not so fortunate in the 44th minute as Konstantinos Katsouranis laid the ball off to Salpingidis, whose blast from 20 yards deflected off the young Monaco midfielder and into the back of the net.
The second half began where the first left off, and Georgios Karagounis found himself with a free header near the penalty spot, but the captain could not keep his attempt down. The two goalkeepers took turns playing hero then, with Tzorvas tipping over Uche's delicate cross from the left side of the box when it seemed like it might sneak under his bar. Enyeama spared Joseph Yobo's blushes after a poor clearance, with a diving save from Theofanis Gekas's header in the 59th minute.
From that chance, the west Africans broke back the other way immediately, and Yakubu Ayegbeni saw his shot denied spectacularly by the outstretched left hand of the Greece keeper. Half-time substitute Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi missed the rebound with the goal at his mercy. Enyeama again showed all of his ability in denying Samaras's header from a short corner after a stretched dive to his left, but the Hapoel Tel-Aviv man would have to take the blame for the Greek winner after he spilled Alexandros Tziolis's long-range shot into the path of Torosidis, who buried the chance in the 71st minute.
The game, however, remained wide open and Enyeama, who has arguably been the goalkeeper of the tournament thus far and was named Budweiser Man of the Match today, made another top-drawer save from Karagounis six minutes after his mistake. For Nigeria, this was their seventh FIFA World Cup match without victory, and they must now beat Korea Republic on Tuesday in Durban and hope Argentina can beat a Greece side right back in the running in Group B's other remaining game.