While the afternoon’s first Group B fixture between Argentina and South Korea was an exciting prospect, it was hard to raise much enthusiasm for its other contest. Nigeria showed a lack of quality against Argentina and would have been hammered if not for the heroics of Vincent Enyeama in goal, who played as if he had stuck his house keys on anyone but Messi winning the Golden Boot.
Greece had a dour 90 minutes against South Korea and were little better here, but this was a much better game than expected, if only for all the wrong reasons. Nigeria were one up and cruising inside 15 minutes, Kalu Uche swinging in a freekick from the left that went straight through the mass of players in the box, the keeper rooted to the spot as the ball sailed past him.
Their opponents had been every bit as bad as in their opening game. Leaden in possession and bereft of pace from front to back, Greece were never going to get themselves back into the game. Luckily Nigeria did most of the work for them.
Torosidis had the ball on the wing and Sani Kaita came over to tackle at the expense of a throw. As Torosidis picked the ball up Kaita inexplicably flicked a boot out, catching the Greek just above the knee. The referee had very little choice, and sent Kaita off. For the second time in 24 hours the vuvuzelas had been silenced, an African player earning a straight red.
This let Greece right back into the game, and they even upped the tempo slightly as they enjoyed the bulk of possession, but still they required a helping hand to draw level just before halftime. Torosidis will claim the goal but it appeared to be going off target until a wicked deflection off Lukman Haruna took the ball past the wrong-footed Vincent Enyeama in goal.
Nigeria struggled to stay in the game in the second half, fashioning just one clear-cut chance, Ogbuki Obasi somehow firing wide of an open goal from six yards. It was as close as Nigeria would come to winning the game and there was a sense of inevitability that Greece would go on to win. But still they needed help, and once again Nigeria obliged.
How unfortunate that it was their best player, and arguably the best goalkeeper of the tournament thusfar, that gave Greece their win. Alexandros Tziolis shot from distance and the ball bounced off the side of Enyeama’s glove, eerily similar to Rob Green’s error for England last week. The ball fell straight to Torosidis who tapped home to give his side a barely-deserved win.
Nigeria can still qualify for the second round but they need Argentina to hammer Greece for them, which doesn’t look unlikely, and need to beat South Korea themselves, which does. As thoughtless, as careless, as needless as the sending off was, it was hard not to feel sympathy for Sani Kaita as he sat in the dressing room and watched his side’s prospects unravel before his eyes.
As for Greece they will wonder how on earth they won the game but will not particularly care. These were the country’s first two goals at the World Cup, and they go into their final game against Nigeria knowing that a little bit of luck can change everything.