Panagiotis Kone

At halftime: Colombia even with Japan, Ivory Coast falls behind Greece — FOLLOW LIVE

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Colombia is one step closer to securing first place in Group C, while a goal just before halftime Fortaleza has Greece on the verge of its first World Cup knockout round. Thanks to substitute Andreas Samaris, the former European champions take a 1-0 lead into intermission against the Ivory Coast, while an early penalty conversion by the group leaders was pulled back by Japan, leaving it 1-1 in Cuiabá.

There’s your halftime update on Group C’s final matches:

[ MORE Soccerly: Follow Japan-Colombia | Greece-Ivory Coast ]

Japan 0-1 Colombia

Goals:

17′ – On a ball sent into Japan’s right channel, Yasuyuki Konno takes out Adrián Ramos just inside the penalty box. After the official points to the spot, Juan Cuadrado blasts the opener into the middle of goal, giving the group leaders a 1-0 lead.

45+1′ – After a half spent in control of the ball, Japan finally breaks through. Seconds before the whistle, Shinji Okazaki heads a cross inside David Opina’s left post, revitalizing his team’s chances of reaching the knockout round.

Other moments:

10′ – This is as lively as Japan’s been all tournament, with the running of Yoshita Okubo testing José Pekerman’s changed back line. Off a long ball played over the back line, that defense is left chasing as Okubo weaves around the penalty area. The striker’s shot is scuffed wide, but Japan’s direct play’s making early process after initial pressure from Colombia.

26′ – Japan’s continues to dominate the ball, but Ospina’s been relatively untested. In the middle of the half, that changes when a right-footed shot by Shinji Kagawa from just beyond the arc forces a dive to the lower-left corner. Pushing the try out for a corner, Ospina responds to the Samurai Blue’s second shot on target, but Japan are out-shooting the favorites 8-1.

42′ – Colombia’s best open play chance sees Ramos break into the right of the area alone, though his pass back to the middle of the box is shanked wide by Jason Martínez.

Question for the second half:

  • Will Pekerman rue his changes? – Probably not, given first place is likely theirs, but a Colombia team that made eight changes to its starting XI is leaving its defense to do all the work. Will the Cafeteros take more control in the second half, or will Pekerman’s bench given Japan a path to the second round?

Greece 1-0 Ivory Coast

Goals: 

42′ – Greece’s second chance brings the upset into view. Off an errant pass from Chieck Tioté, Greece creates a turnover in the Ivorian half, one that eventually sends Samaris in on Barry. Coming out to close down the angles, the Ivorian keeper goes to ground too soon, allowing the Greek substitute to chip into the empty net for the opening goal.

Other moments:

12′ – Panagiotis Kone’s day is done. Aftergoing to down in the 10th minute, the Greece midfielder gingerly walks to the sidelines, where Andreas Samaris is ready to come on. Fernando Santos’s first substitution is an unexpected one.

20′ – Could another Greek player go down? Limping around the penalty area, goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis gets all the time he needs to shake off his knock. Four minutes later, Panagiotis Glykos is on. As the Ivory Coast slowly start to figure out the Greek defense, Santos is forced to use his second sub.

33′ – Off an Ivorian corner, Greece breaks on the counter, eventually generating a chance for José Holebas at the edge of the area. His blast goes off Barry’s crossbar, denying the game’s first good chance. Just past the half-hour mark, the teams have combined for three goals, only one of which has gone on target.

 

Question(s) for the second half:

  • Can the Ivorians break them down? – Moments before Greece’s goal, Salomon Kalou was able to get some space to create in the left of the penalty area. It was one of the few times in the half the Ivorians actually threatened. Though they controlled play, les Elephants weren’t able to threaten either of Greece’s keepers. Does 45 minutes give them enough time to restore their second round hopes?

Colombia has little trouble seeing Greece off, 3-0

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It wasn’t as thrilling as Netherlands’ 5-1 victory over Spain, and it wasn’t quite as pretty as Chile beating Australia 3-1, but watching Colombia beat Greece 3-0 on Saturday was still quite fun. Colombia’s back line will likely not be able to stop the top teams at the World Cup, but their offense certainly had no trouble slicing through Greece’s vaunted defense.

In the pre-match press conference, Fernando Santos insisted that defending was not the most important element of the Greece national team. Good thing, too, because after just five minutes, Colombia had taken the lead.

Juan Cuadrado, showing all the pace that prompted Fiorentina fans to dub the winger “Vespa”, zipped up the right to latch on to a through-ball. Cuadrao then sent a low cross into the area, looking, it seemed, for James Rodríguez. But the midfielder pulled off the perfect dummy, confusing the Greek defenders and, possibly his own teammate Pablo Armero. Armero got a touch to the ball, but had little power behind it. No matter – it deflected off Kostas Manolas and began rolling toward the back of the net. Greece goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis could only watch in horror as the ball crossed the line.

Greece had no choice but to get forward in defiance of all stereotypes thrown at them since 2004. To almost everyone’s surprise, they very nearly equalized immediately – possibly because Colombia were still pondering the choreography of the full-squad dance party they’d hosted after the goal. But Georgios Samaras sent his shot wide, and Colombia escaped.

As Colombia slowed down, taking for granted that they had control of the match, Greece pushed harder and harder. But despite being able to slip easily enough behind the cafeteros defense, Greece just couldn’t put their shots on target. The best shot of the half came just before the whistle, when Panagiotis Kone pounced on a loose ball to put in a sharp shot. David Ospina pushed it aside, however, and Colombia went into the second half up 1-0.

After the restart, the Pirate Ship continued its leisurely path toward goal, but were soon undone once more by Colombia. In the 58th minute, James whipped in a corner, and Abel Aguilar got a touch. Teófilo Gutiérrez, totally unmarked, got a toe on it, chipping the ball over Karnezis to put Colombia up 2-0.

Greece had a terrific chance to equalize five minutes later, with Colombia’s defense completely caught out. Giannis Fetfatzidis, whose fresh legs replaced the aging limbs of Dimitris Salpingidis shortly before Colombia’s second goal, was free at the far post. He headed on to Theofanis Gekas who, despite being less than twenty feet out, smacked his header against the crossbar.

Gekas reward was to be replaced moments later by Kostas Mitroglou.

The changes mattered little for Greece, however. Instead, Colombia put in an insurance goal just before the final whistle – and a lovely one at that. James slipped easily through two Greek defenders to get on the end of a backheeled pass. Karnezis got a hand to it, but could only help it along into the back of the net.

Should Ivory Coast and Japan make even greater fools of Greece, that extra goal could come in handy for determining Group C’s rankings come the end of this round.

[ MORE: Soccerly covers the World Cup ]

LINEUPS

Columbia: Ospina; Zuniga, Zapata, Yepes, Armero (Arias 73); Sanchez, Aguilar; Rodriguez, Cuadrado, Ibarbo; Gutierrez (Martinez 75)

Goals: Armero 5′; Gutierrez 58′; Rodriguez 90′

Greece: Kamezis; Manolas, Torosidis, Papastathopolous, Holebas; Maniatis, Kone (Karagounis 78), Katsouranis; Salpingidis (Fetfatzidis 57), Gekas (Mitroglou 63), Samaras

At halftime: Colombia lead Greece 1-0 (FOLLOW LIVE)

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Story of the half: Colombia’s early goal forced Greece to abandon any lingering plans of putting ten men behind the ball. And after los cafeteros took their foot off the gas a bit, Greece were able to threaten – although their finishing certainly leaves something to be desired. Still, the Pirate Ship was at least being steered in the right direction.

Let’s be honest, though – the real story of that half was Colombia’s goal celebration.

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Goals:

5′: An absolutely lovely goal from…Pablo Armero? That’s right, the Napoli left-back who spent half a season on loan at West Ham is the one that opened Colombia’s World Cup account. The blistering pace of Juan Cuadrado saw him past the Greece defense, allowing the Fiorentina man to slip a low cross inside the area. A fantastic dummy from James Rodríguez allowed Armero to make contact. He didn’t hit the ball very hard, but it took a deflection off Kostas Manolas and slowly trickled its way into the back of the net.

Other key moments:

3′: Greece make a break for it! Not even five minutes have passed and they’re across the halfway line, which may well be some sort of record.

5′: Giannis Maniatis has a go, but David Ospina is there

5′: GOAL

6′: Greece very nearly equalize immediately, but Giorgos Samaras manages to place his shot just wide. That sure cut short the Colombians’ dancing.

17: A perfect challenge from Sokratis is all that prevents Colombia from getting what certainly would’ve been a second goal, after Juan Cuadrado and Teófilo Gutiérrez exchange passes to get them inside the area.

18′: James sends in a shot from distance, but Orestis Karnezis had no trouble collecting

26′: Yellow card shown to Colombia’s Carlos Sanchez for a foul on Giorgos Samaras, who executed a lovely barrel roll.

27′:  Vasilis Torosidis gets his head on the end of a well-delivered free kick, but it flies just wide.

37′: James tries what well might have been a spectacular volley – if only it hadn’t ended up in the 20th row.

45′: The best effort for Greece comes from Panagiotis Kone, who jumps on a loose ball, sending in a sharp shot that Ospina has to palm away.

LINEUPS

Columbia: Ospina; Zuniga, Zapata, Yepes, Armero; Sanchez, Aguilar; Rodriguez, Cuadrado, Ibarbo; Gutierrez

Goals: Armero 5′

Greece: Kamezis; Manolas, Torosidis, Papastathopolous, Holebas; Maniatis, Kone, Katsouranis; Salpingidis, Gekas, Samaras

Question(s) for the second half:

  • Can Greece keep up with Colombia? – At 29, Samaras is the youngest of Greece’s front line. Dimitris Salpingidis is 32, Theofanis Gekas and Kostas Katsouranis are 34. After just 20 minutes, they already looked as though they were wilting. Of course, they do have Kostas Mitroglou on the bench.
  • Will Colombia be able to get back in control? – Greece may have been wilting, but after Colombia took their foot off the gas, they fought back, getting themselves into dangerous positions behind the cafeteros defense. Colombia will need to do more to truly convince.