World Cup goals and entertainment were back on the agenda in Group C, making up for the misdemeanours in Group D.
Greece 2-1 Ivory Coast
There was late drama in Fortaleza as Greece snatched a victory from the jaws of World Cup elimination to advance to the knock-out rounds for the first time in their history.
After a mere 24 minutes injuries forced Greece to make two substitutions and it was one of the subs, Andreas Samaris who stole the ball from Cheick Tiote to race through on goal and score Hellas’ first goal of the 2014 World Cup.
Earlier Jose Holebas cleared a corner and raced the length of the pitch to crash a thunderous effort off the crossbar.
In the second half Giorgios Karagounis, who made his 139th cap, also took a coat of paint off the crossbar, with a spectacular long-range effort following another precise Greek counter-attack.
Wilfried Bony, though, made Ethniki pay for their misses as he equalised after Gervinho squared. The Greeks responded with heavy attacks but they were kept at bay by Kolo Toure et al, as the Ivory Coast seemed near certain winners.
This all changed in the second minute of injury-time as Giorgios Samaras was fouled in the penalty area and converted the resultant spot-kick himself—his first goal in national colours for two years to seal Greece’s place in the last-16 and cue mass plate-smashing celebrations.
Japan 1-4 Colombia
Los Cafeteros underlined their World Cup credentials with a clinical demolition of Japan.
Even without the injured Radamel Falcao, forwards Juan Cuadrado, James Rodriguez and Jackson Martinez all showcased their considerable talents.
Cuadrado added to his three assists from the first two games by opening the scoring courtesy of a penalty after Yasuyuki Konna brought down Adrian Ramos.
Cuadrado’s form should come as no surprise as the flying winger scored six and assisted four goals in Fiorentina’s last seven Serie A matches.
Shinji Okazaki equalised for the Blue Samurai but this only prompted Colombia to turn on the style in the second half. Martinez helped himself to a brace and Rodriguez added a wonderful fourth late on—his third goal of the World Cup.
FINAL GROUP C STANDINGS
SECOND ROUND FIXTURES
– Colombia vs Uruguay – Saturday 28th June (9pm GMT)
– Greece vs Costa Rica – Sunday 29th June (9pm GMT)