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World Cup: Greece Secures Maiden Trip to Second Round

Uruguay's Diego Godin (3) scores his side's first goal during the group D World Cup soccer match between Italy and Uruguay at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Tuesday, June 24, 2014.
Uruguay's Diego Godin (3) scores his side's first goal during the group D World Cup soccer match between Italy and Uruguay at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Tuesday, June 24, 2014.

Greece assured itself a spot in the second round of the World Cup for the first time ever, beating Ivory Coast, 2-1, in dramatic style Tuesday.

Greek striker Giorgios Samaras converted a penalty kick one minute into stoppage time, sending Greece to the round of 16, also known as the knockout round.

In the Group C match in Fortaleza, Brazil, the Ivorians were seconds away from entering the knockout round after Wilfried Bony's equalizer in the 74th minute would have provided the point they needed. But Ivory Coast's Giovanni Sio tripped Samara in the box, setting up Samara's kick that guaranteed Greece a meeting with Costa Rica on Sunday.

Greece placed second in Group C with four points, one in front of Ivory Coast and three more than Japan. Colombia, which on Tuesday eliminated Japan, 4-1 in Cuiaba, finished first in Group C with nine points after winning all three of its group games. Striker Jackson Martinez led Colombia to victory Tuesday with two goals.

Greek 'joy'

Until Tuesday, Greece had not scored in this year's World Cup.

"It means a lot for the team, and I hope we gave a lot of joy to the Greeks back home," said Samaras. "We are very happy and gave our answers on the pitch. I thought we controlled the game; they didn't have many chances."

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Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi said after the game that his contract had expired and would not be renewed.

"I'm deeply disappointed for the players," Lamouchi said. "They deserved much better than what happened tonight. It was very cruel."

Uruguay also advanced to the round of 16 Tuesday by eliminating four-time champion Italy, 1-0, in a game marred by controversy.

Uruguay's Diego Godin scored the only goal of the Group D match in Natal in the 81st minute off a corner kick.

FIFA, the governing body of the World Cup, is investigating an incident that occurred shortly before Godin scored. Television replays showed Uruguay's Luis Suarez appearing to bite Italy's Giorgio Chiellini in the shoulder. Italian players complained to the referee to no avail, and Chiellini pulled down his shirt to display the apparent bite marks.

Suarez controversy

If confirmed, it would be the third biting incident involving Suarez, so he faces possible suspension.

Suarez was not penalized during the match, but his previous biting incidents in club play drew lengthy suspensions.

"It was ridiculous not to send Suarez off," Chiellini told Italian station Rai TV. "It is clear-cut, and then there was the obvious dive [by Suarez] afterwards because he knew very well that he did something that he shouldn't have done."

Suarez dismissed the incident.

"Those are situations that happen on the pitch," he said. "We were both just there inside the area. He shoved me with his shoulder, and my eye got [bruised] also."

At the time of Godin's goal, Italy was playing with 10 men after Claudio Marchisio was shown a straight red card for a hard foul on Uruguay's Egidio Rios in the 59th minute.

The loss eliminated Italy from the tournament. After the game, Italy's coach Cesare Prandelli and the country's football federation president, Giancarlo Abete, announced their resignations.

In Tuesday's other Group D match, Costa Rica and England played to a scoreless draw in Belo Horizonte. Costa Rica had already clinched first place in the group after upsetting Uruguay and Italy.

Costa Rica finished with seven points in Group D, followed by Uruguay with six, Italy with three and England with one.

Wednesday's World Cup action features four games. In Group F, Nigeria plays Argentina in Porto Alegre and Iran faces Bosnia-Herzegovina in Salvador. In Group E, Honduras and Switzerland clash in Manaus, and Ecuador takes on France in Rio de Janeiro.

Iran, Switzerland, Honduras, Ecuador, France and Nigeria are still bidding to make the knockout round. Argentina has secured a spot, and Bosnia-Herzegovina has been eliminated from contention.

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Some information for this report comes from AP, AFP and Reuters.