Greece advanced to the FIFA World Cup knockout stages for the first time in their history on Tuesday evening by beating Ivory Coast 2-1.
Andreas Samaris opened the scoring with a sweet effort and gave the Piratiko a half-time lead. Wilfried Bony pegged them back in the second half, but Georgios Samaras' 93rd-minute penalty ensured it was to be one more European side in the round of 16.
Formations and XIs
Greece played their most attacking formation of the tournament so far, and while that's not saying an awful lot, their 4-2-3-1 made a concerted offensive effort.
Ivory Coast continued with their 4-2-3-1 too, playing Yaya Toure as a No. 10 behind Didier Drogba. Kolo Toure came into the defence in place of the suspended Didier Zokora. Gervinho and Salomon Kalou swapped wings throughout.
Greece pressed higher than they have done all tournament, appearing a genuine 4-4-1-1 out of possession with Panagiotis Kone playing as a very defensive No. 10.
Georgios Samaras led the line and worked to close down deep-lying ball players, and Kone followed him. Giannis Maniatis' midfield line wasn't far behind, squishing the play to reduce space for Yaya Toure and co. to work.
It occasionally resulted in one pass through to Gervinho, and he was off, challenging the last man, but more often than not, it stifled the Elephants and paid off in the offensive phase too.
In just the second minute, CIV were caught on the ball committing men forward, and Jose Holebas was able to slip into the space behind Serge Aurier.
That became a repetitive source of attacking promise, with Holebas continuing to roar forward, released from his questionable defensive shackles.
Playing It Perfectly
Taking the lead through Samaris only encouraged Greece to do what they do best: Revert to a low block and sit deep, soaking up pressure.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Kostas Manolas were superb, mopping up pressure and feeding their wingers with one pass to create quick counter-attacks.
With Georgios Samaras up front, their usual left-wing conduit was gone, but Lazaros Christodoulopoulos stepped up and combined with Holebas superbly, surging forward at pace.
Much of their work was done down the left, then once Ivory Coast had filtered over to swamp the area, one pass central would free up a midfielder surging forward. They did it over and over—building down the left then switching it to the runner—and Georgios Karagounis hit the bar with a long shot as a result.
When CIV equalised, Theofanis Gekas was sent on to create a 4-4-2, lessening the load on Samaras and freeing him up off the ball. The pressure in the last 10 minutes finally told, as Giovanni Sio gave away the winning penalty.
Greece put in a very interesting display—hence the focus on them—and Fernando Santos proved his tactical nous in responding to the events of the game.
It was the most attacking we've seen the Piratiko play, and they didn't relent even when forced into two first-half substitutions—a building block, perhaps, for them to use in their quest for more expansive football.
As the game became stretched, the Ivory Coast sent Aurier further and further forward to influence the final third but failed to cover the space he left. Cheick Tiote had a very poor game in coverage.
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