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World Cup Red Card Brings Nigeria's Super Eagles Down

Published on Saturday 19th June 2010 World Cup Red Card Brings Nigeria's Super Eagles Down

Nigeria's 2010 FIFA World Cup hopes hang by a thread after a second successive defeat in Group B on Thursday, this time against Greece in Bloemfontein.

The 2-1 loss leaves the Super Eagles needing to beat South Korea in their pool game, at the same time hoping that Argentina despatch the Greeks. This would leave Nigeria, the Koreans and Greece all on three points. Should that happen, Nigeria should have the superior goal difference of the three.

It may have been oh so different had it not been for a silly red card in today's match. In an encounter with Vassilis Torosidis in the 33rd minute, Sani Kaita saw red and lashed out with a crude stamp on the Greek's thigh. Until then Nigeria had controlled the match well, but when they went down to 10 men, Greece capitalised.

Nigeria had taken the lead on 16 minutes when a free kick by Kalu Uche from 40 yards floated over a group of players and straight into the net, as Greek keeper Alexandros Tzorvas misjudged the flight of the ball.

It was a deserved lead for the Super Eagles, who had looked sharp in the early stages while Greece were ponderous and wasteful in possession.

But after Keita's sending off, Greece's coach Otto Rehhagel went on the attack, withdrew midfielder Socratis Papastathopoulos and replaced him with striker Georgios Samaras.

What followed was a Greek siege on the Nigerian goal for the remainder of the match.

The European side drew level a minute before halftime, scoring their first goal in a FIFA World Cup finals match when Dimitris Salpingidis fired in a shot that deflected off Haruna Lukman and beat the brilliant Vincent Enyeama in the Nigerian goal.

The second half was all Greece. Were it not for Enyeama, they might have been out of sight midway through the period.

Nigeria were trying to hit Greece on the break and should have been ahead again when Yakubu forced a miraculous save from Tzorvas, and the ball rebounded to Chinedu Obasi, who had the simplest of tap-ins but didn't get close to putting the ball on target.

The Super Eagles were made to pay just minutes later when Torosidis tapped home the rebound after Enyeama uncharacterically spilled Alexandros Tziolis' shot into his path. Three Greek players looked to be in an offside position when the initial shot by Tziolis was taken, but the referee and his assistant allowed play to proceed.

Enyeama saved his side on three more occasions before the end as Nigeria, tired from playing for almost an hour with 10 men, were unable to summon up the energy for an equaliser before the end.

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