This was a heartbreaker.
Ivory Coast were playing Greece today in Group C action; elsewhere, first-place Colombia were laying a simultaneous smackdown on Japan, which meant that the winner of this match would advance to the Round of 16 with the South Americans. Ivory Coast would also go through with a draw.
Greece hadn't scored in their first two group matches, losing 3-0 to Colombia, and drawing Japan 0-0, so it was a surprise when Andreas Samaris scored first just before half. Ivory Coast, however, kept pushing, and in the 74th minute, Ivorian substitute Wilfried Bony scored the all-important equalizer. Nine minutes later, Giovanni Sio was subbed on for Gervinho. And nine minutes after that, disaster.
Greece looked more lively this match than they have in any match ever, probably, and so they continued to probe for a winning goal. In the second of three stoppage-time minutes, José Holebas got to the Ivorian end line and pulled a ball back to the middle of the box, where Georgios Samaras was lying in wait, all alone. He pulled back to shoot the ball, and as he started to kick, Sio stepped in. Samaras clipped his leg, and fell down. Clear penalty.
(Yes, this was definitely a clear penalty. There is no context within the sport of soccer in which this is not a clear penalty.)
Samaras took and sunk the ensuing penalty kick, and Greece, improbably, have advanced to the knockout rounds.
The result brings with it a variety of emotions. It was an incredible ending, and for Ivorian fans, horrific. The tournament just got that much better, but with the attacking, exciting Ivory Coast going home instead of the dry, plodding, Greece, it may have gotten that much worse. Either way, in a World Cup already being called the best ever for its wild finishes, this may be the craziest, and most tragic, yet.