Either Cote d'Ivoire or Greece or potentially both will play their final match of this year's World Cup at the Estadio Castelao on Tuesday. The equation is simple for the Africans, win and they are through to the last 16 for the first time; lose or draw and they must hope that Colombia avoid defeat against Japan. For Greece the situation is rather more complicated, with their future resting entirely on their ability to win only a second finals match in nine attempts.
Cote d'Ivoire must bounce back from a 2-1 loss at the hands of Colombia last time out, though their opening match success over Japan suggests that they have the firepower to overcome the Europeans. Greece have yet to even find the net in the competition thus far. After losing 3-0 against the South Americans as the curtain lifted on their tournament, they responded with a typically gritty scoreless draw against the Samurai Blue, having seen Kostas Katsouranis dismissed with the veteran of 113 caps subsequently banned for this encounter.
Head coach Fernando Santos, who will step down at the end of the competition, has seen Kostas Manolas and Kostas Mitroglou, who was withdrawn in the first half of the Japan clash, train apart from the group owing to minor injury problems, but both are expected to be fit to feature in this encounter, though the latter could well be dropped. The wizened figure of Giorgos Karagounis is expected to win his 138th cap in this clash, probably from the start of the game for the first time at this competition.
Meanwhile, a shadow has been cast over the camp of the African side owing to the death of the Ibrahim Toure, younger brother of Yaya and Kolo, on Friday. Both men will carry on in the competition and will be eager to honour their sibling by securing progress through to the knockout stages. No dramatic alterations are expected in Sabri Lamouchi’s starting XI, although it is possible that Yaya Toure will occupy a more defensive role, allowing Salomon Kalou to come into the team in a more offensive position.
This will be the first ever meeting between Greece and Ivory Coast.
Greece’s previous World Cup games against African opposition were both against Nigeria, losing in 1994 (0-2) and winning in 2010 (2-1).
Greece have only won one of their 8 games at World Cup (Lost-6).
Greece have failed to score in seven of their eight World Cup games while their clean sheet last time out against Japan was their first ever at a World Cup.
Ivory Coast have conceded two or more goals in five of their eight World Cup matches.
Gervinho is the first Ivory Coast player to score in consecutive World Cup matches.
Eight of Ivory Coast’s 12 goals at the World Cup have been scored after the 60th minute of games.
The Ivorians have scored in seven of their eight World Cup games.
Five of Ivory Coast’s last nine World Cup goals have been headers.