Ivory Coast and Greece arrive in Fortaleza with both sides having an opportunity to advance into the knockout stages (4pm ET/1pm PT kickoff). Ivory Coast comes into the match after losing a close affair with Colombia 2-1 and defeating Japan in comeback fashion by the same scoreline. Greece has had a disappointing campaign so far. They were demolished in Belo Horizonte by the Colombians and desperately clung to a 0-0 draw against Japan in a match that saw their captain red carded early on. With so much at stake for both teams it should be a tightly contested affair.
Projected Lineup – Barry; Aurier, Zokora, Bamba, Boka; Tioté, Serey Die; Kalou, Y Touré (C), Gervinho; Bony.
Tuesday will be a somber moment for the Ivorians as they take the pitch. This might be the last time the Ivory Coast’s “Golden Generation” graces the worlds grandest stage. Somber will also be the mood of Yaya Touré who is playing his first match since he lost his brother Ibrahim Touré. The match also could mark the last game in the international career of Didier Drogba. All of these reasons are more than enough extra motivation that should see the Elephants into the next round. They have arguably been the second best team in the group through two games. A win and they are guaranteed a date with presumably Costa Rica. The Ivorians can also advance with a draw and a Japan loss or draw.
Projected Lineup – Karnezis; Torosidis, Sokratis, Manolas, Holebas; Maniatis, Kone, Karagounis (C), Salpingidis; Samaras, Gekas.
Despite Greece’s lackluster displays in the first two matches, the Ethniki still have a chance to progress in the tournament. If the Greeks muster a win against the Ivorians, they will advance barring a victory for the Japanese against Colombia. Unfortunately for the Greeks, winning will require them to score a goal, something they have yet to do in this World Cup. The Greeks are also going to be without their captain Kostas Katsouranis who was sent off in the first half against Japan for two stupid challenges. While the challenge at hand seems daunting, these same Greeks found themselves in the same situation two years ago at Euro 2012. They responded by beating Russia and earned a berth in the quarter finals. Historically this is a side that tends to defy expectations and the odds.
I see this match as a match in which the Greeks need to be flexible with their tactics. They need to attack the Ivorians as a win is the only positive result for them. Ivory Coast will see this as the moment where their “golden generation” finally lives up to it’s potential at the World Cup. Yaya Touré will have a memorable day against a suspect Greek midfield. The Elephants will break through the Greek defense on a set piece and should comfortably come out on top.