Fortaleza, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - The Ivory Coast pressed the self- destruct button at the Estadio Castelao on Tuesday, conceding a late penalty to bow out of the competition behind a 2-1 loss to Greece.
The Elephants appeared to on the verge of securing their first-ever spot in the knockout round of the World Cup after Andreas Samaris and Wilfried Bony exchanged goals on either side of halftime, but Greece was handed a lifeline in stoppage time when Giovanni Sio committed a poor foul in the penalty area.
Giorgios Samaras stepped up for the ensuing attempt and converted with great aplomb, sending the Greeks through to the round of 16 where they will meet Costa Rica on Sunday.
"The best team won; the one with the best strategy, most desire and most chances on the night," Greece coach Fernando Santos said. "We scored twice and hit the bar three times. The win was deserved and we showed what we can do. In the first two matches we weren't focused, which is usually our great strength. We showed we know how to attack too. I told the players this morning this would not be our last match. We are very happy and know that everyone in Greece is delighted."
Greece nearly took the lead in the 33rd minute when Samaras sprinted clear of the Ivory Coast defense to release Jose Holebas, but the defender rifled his shot off the woodwork.
But the Greeks would not be denied as Samaras capitalized on a giveaway from Cheick Tiote to put Samaris through on goal, and the Olympiakos midfielder did not spurn the chance, firing a shot past Boubacar Barry at the far post.
Greece continued to apply pressure and nearly doubled its advantage in the 68th minute when Giorgos Karagounis collected a pass from Lazaros Christodoulopoulos and slammed a shot off the crossbar from outside the penalty area.
It looked to be a pivotal miss as the Ivory Coast leveled the score in the 74th minute when Bony's well-worked passing sequence with Gervinho allowed the Swansea City striker to slot a first-time finish past Greek goalkeeper Panagiotis Glykos.
There appeared to be no way back for Greece, but Samaras had a late attempt at goal interrupted by Sio's clumsy challenge. Referee Carlos Vera awarded a penalty and Samaras converted to Barry's left to help the Greeks to a surprise second-place finish in Group C.