BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa (AP) — Now that Greece has scored a goal and won a match, this World Cup is a success.
The Greeks claimed their first World Cup win by rallying to beat 10-man Nigeria 2-1 in Group B on Thursday. Vassilis Torosidis poked home a loose ball in the 71st minute after a mistake from Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama to make history for Greece, which had lost all four previous World Cup matches, including three in 1994.
"We badly wanted this, because we'd never even scored a goal in the World Cup before," Dimitris Salpingidis said. "I can't say whether we'll make it out of the group. But I can say that we'll leave with our heads held high."
To advance to the second round, the Greeks almost certainly must get at least a draw with powerful Argentina on Tuesday; the Argentines routed South Korea 4-1 Thursday and the Koreans took Greece 2-0 earlier in the tournament. A difficult assignment for sure.
So they are reveling in this victory.
"Of course it would have been a shame to go home without a point, so we're very pleased to have scored points here," Greece coach Otto Rehhagel said.
Nigeria opened the scoring in the 16th minute at Free State Stadium when Kalu Uche's curling free kick from 35 yards deceived everyone, particularly goalkeeper Alexandros Tzorvas, who moved the wrong way.
But the game changed in the 33rd minute when Nigeria midfielder Sani Kaita was shown a straight red card for kicking Torosidis.
"Yeah, of course it's of big importance," Nigeria coach Lars Lagerback said of the ejection. "Everybody who knows anything about football knows if you're playing with 10 men on this level it's much more difficult to win a game."
Salpingidis equalized in the 44th minute with a deflected shot before Torosidis' winner.
The win was hailed by Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, who delayed a news conference at an EU summit in Brussels to watch the game.
"The boys made us proud," Papandreou said. "At a time when Greece has had a lot of bad press recently (due to the debt crisis), I think it was a very important revival for all of us."
Nigeria broke through first when Uche's free kick sailed over the heads of Costas Katsouranis and Nigeria's Peter Odemwingie and into the far corner of the net — with Tzorvas completely fooled.
Odemwingie, who had won the free kick, appeared to pull his head out of the way to allow Uche's curling effort to carry on to the Greece net.
But with Nigeria in control, Kaita's undisciplined move handed Greece its best chance of breaking its World Cup losing streak.
Kaita was sent off by Colombian referee Oscar Ruiz after he kicked out at Torosidis and caught the Greece striker on the upper thigh after the ball went out of bounds.
"I think the sending off played a big part in the game," Nigeria captain Joseph Yobo said. "We were controlling the game before the sending off."
Greece pressed and made its advantage pay off a minute before halftime when Salpingidis' shot deflected off the unlucky Lukman Haruna and into his own net.
Enyeama, who won his second successive man of the match award despite the mistake on the winning goal, then made a string of saves in the second half. But when he fumbled a low shot from Alexandros Tziolis and Torosidis pounced on the loose ball for the crucial goal, Nigeria's chances for advancement just about disappeared.
"It looks like even if we win the next one, we're not going to qualify, so practically we are out of the tournament," Nigeria captain Joseph Yobo said.