First win, first goals and the sun shines on Greeks

By Nick Mulvenney

DURBAN (Reuters) - What a difference a win makes. A Greece camp that could have passed for a funeral party earlier this week was transformed on Friday after a 2-1 victory over Nigeria kept their World Cup campaign alive.

Dimitris Salpingidis, who scored his country's first World Cup goal to set them on their way to their first World Cup win on Thursday, bounced out of the team's luxury seaside hotel, all smiles and handshakes, to share the mood with reporters.

The Greeks, European champions in 2004, were lambasted back home after a 2-0 loss to South Korea in their Group B opener last Saturday, with one newspaper suggesting the team should be brought home to avoid further embarrassment.

In Bloemfontein, a much improved performance saw them come from behind to secure victory after Nigeria's Sani Kaita was sent off for shoving and kicking out at Vassilis Torosidis.

"We proved that we could play well," said Salpingidis. "We were very good for the whole game, especially after the dismissal of Kaita.


"We took a lot of criticism after the Korea game, some of which was justified, but we must not forget what a good team South Korea is," he added.

"We weren't looking to answer the critics, it was just something for us, and for the fans. We don't do this for people who hate us, we do this for the majority who support us whether we win or lose."

It was the second time Salpingidis had scored an important goal for his country after he netted the decisive score in the playoff victory over Ukraine that secured their ticket to South Africa.

"I haven't scored many goals for the national team but the goal against Ukraine and the goal yesterday were the most important of my career," the 28-year-old said.

"They were both crucial goals. One got us here in the first place and the other kept us alive and opened the way for Greece's first World Cup victory."

The bad news for Greece is that their final group match is against South American powerhouse Argentina in Polokwane next Tuesday.

"There's no pressure on us, we played a completely different match against Nigeria," Salpingidis said.

"We talked a lot about the mistakes we made in the first match and how not to repeat them. We are very happy to have won, it was our first, and we still have hopes of getting through. We will do our best against Argentina to qualify."

(Editing by Jon Bramley)