Going tough for Super Eagles


Vassilis Torosidis scored Greece’s winner as they beat Nigeria 2-1 to seal their first ever World Cup victory and keep alive their chances of progressing from Group B yesterday.
Torosidis pounced in the 71st minute after Dimitris Salpingidis’s first half strike had cancelled out a Kalu Uche freekick for Nigeria, who also had Sani Kaita sent off.
Greece’s win puts them on three points with South Korea who earlier lost 4-1 to table-topping Argentina on Thursday, while Nigeria have no points from two games.
Nigeria grabbed the lead on 16 minutes when Uche’s 35 metre freekick floated past everyone including stricken goalkeeper Alexandros Tzorvas and nestled in the net.
The African side were in control until a moment of madness in the 33rd minute saw Kaita red carded for foolishly kicking out at Torosidis — the midfielder remorsefully walking off with his shirt over his head.
The game turned immediately in Greece’s favour. Coach Otto Rehhagel replaced defensive midfielder Socratis Papastathopoulos with striker Giorgos Samaras, who minutes later had a shot cleared off the line. Then came an equaliser.
Salpingidis etched his name into Greek record books by scoring his country’s first ever World Cup goal with a 44th minute strike that wickedly deflected off Nigeria midfielder Haruna Lukman before flying into the net.
Salpingidis, who celebrated jubilantly with the whole Greek squad, had previously scored the winner in the World Cup playoff against Ukraine to take his country to South Africa.
The second half started at frantic pace.
Greek striker Fanis Gekas was superbly denied by goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, while at the other end substitute Chinedu Obasi missed an open goal after a swift Nigeria counter-attack.
With their usual defensive approach firmly abandoned, Greece went close again through Samaras before Torosidis stabbed home a second after Enyeama had spilled a low Alexandros Tziolis shot. Greece had lost all four of their previous World Cup games without scoring.
l In the other match, Argentina played like potential world champions as they demolished South Korea 4-1 with an outstanding all-round display highlighted by a hat-trick from Gonzalo Higuain at Soccer City yesterday.
The victory, following their impressive opening 1-0 win over Nigeria on Saturday, virtually guaranteed their place in the second round as they tightened their grip at the top of Group B.
Higuain’s hat-trick, the first at these finals, comprised two headers plus a tap-in and, while he basked in the spotlight afterwards, every man played a part in an excellent performance.
World Player of the Year Lionel Messi and his attacking midfield sidekick Carlos Tevez were again inspirational.
“Korea were never capable of controlling us,” said Argentina coach Diego Maradona. “Of course, they scored but they were never able to dominate any part of the match.
“I have 23 top players and they are all ready to put on the jersey and work on the pitch and that makes you happy and then you have peace of mind,” he added.
Argentina, seeking a third title after triumphs in 1978 and 1986, could take heart from the performance of substitute Nicolas Burdisso who was outstanding in defence after replacing the injured Walter Samuel in the first half.
Argentina’s display, choreographed by their increasingly theatrical coach, was well worth the entrance fee and is a show no-one should miss in the weeks ahead.
The only serious mistake came just before halftime when defender Martin Demichelis, who otherwise had a fine game, failed to control a simple ball from which Korea scored.