This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends…
For a half hour, this game could be fairly described as ho-hum. Greece left their guts and pluck at the hotel, presumably showing up for a game of red rover or bingo instead of the footy. Nigeria had put themselves in front, and it seemed like the Greeks would need 14 men (at least 4 of whom interested in playing) to bother to mount much of a threat.
Turns out they just needed Nigeria to lose a guy.
I feel bad for Sani Kaita. He’s a feisty defensive midfielder, and in a dispute over a throw-in, he kicked at Vasilis Torosidis. To me, it looked like he clipped Torosidis’s hip, making it a straight red. It wasn’t a hard kick, and I can’t even be sure at this moment he connected, but it was definitely a high kick after play at Torosidis. Kaita’s refusal to argue (and subsequent anguish) were signs he knew what he did. And what he did was put Nigeria on the ropes for qualification. That’s a tough pill to swallow.
Apparently the sight of a red card clued the Greeks into the fact that they should be playing soccer. They added an attacking player to the pitch and proceeded to put Nigerian keeper Vincent Enyeama through the paces. Time after time, Enyeama (and sometimes his back line) batted away Grecian strikes until, finally, one deflected off a defender and left Enyeama helpless. That was the first Greek goal in about 400 minutes of World Cup play (fact, not exaggeration), and it set the stage for them to claim their first win.
Just as Enyeama was making Arsene Wenger think maybe he’d found his man in goal, a low, long shot came into the keeper’s legs. He got down to block it, but didn’t collect, and served it up for Torosidis, who punched it home. With that, Nigeria completed a stunning collapse — surely anyone who watched the first 30 mins would never believe you if you told them the final score. The red didn’t just hamper the Nigerian attack, it single-handedly brought Greece’s to life. Even for a red card, that was a shocking turn in play.
With their first World Cup win under their belt, the Greeks will be feeling good today. But to advance for sure, they’d still have to beat Argentina, and that’s asking too much. Assuming Greece loses that game, South Korea sits in the driver’s seat to qualify. Nigeria aren’t out of it, but they’ll need to thump South Korea and hope everyone finishes 1-2 behind the Maradonians and they can advance on goal diff.
The second round has been GREAT so far. See, haters? The Jabulani told you not to worry.