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Jun 22, 2014

Greece vs. Ivory Coast: 50-50 Challenge

GreeceGreece
Ivory CoastIvory Coast
2
1
FT
Match 38
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Our expert bloggers will give their thoughts ahead of each game, so as Greece take on Ivory Coast in Group C, Chris Paraskevas (Greece) and Sam Crocker (Ivory Coast) are your guides.

What's at stake?

Chris Paraskevas: This is it for Greece: win or bust. They'll have to hope for a favour from Colombia (or Japan, for that matter) because if the Samurai Blue beat the already qualified South Americans, it's going to be almost impossible for the Greeks to qualify. Fernando Santos and his team at Euro 2012 were in a very similar position heading into the final group game against Russia. Giorgos Karagounis scored the winning goal and sent them through to the knockout stage, and he will likely return to the starting lineup here. A good omen perhaps?

As far as salvaging something from this campaign at a minimum, it would be a positive if Greece avoided defeat and scored a goal to restore some pride. They have a very poor World Cup record to date.

Konstantinos Manolas needs to excel in defence if Greece are to have any hope of beating the Elephants.

Sam Crocker: Essentially, qualification. A win for Ivory Coast would definitely see them through, and a draw might do, assuming Japan don't beat Colombia, but the way the group games have gone so far, they won't be counting on anything. In some ways this might be their toughest game, as they'll be up against a Greek side who know exactly what they need. With Colombia already through, they might slack off against Japan, so Ivory Coast need to get the job done against arguably the weakest side in the group.

- Final Group Games: All the possible permutations

X factor

CP: Kostas Manolas. The centre-back had a breakout season with Olympiakos (filled with highs and lows) and has arrived as one of the youngest members of this squad. In his first two games, he has been outstanding, with his performance against Japan a particular highlight. The 23-year-old is sure to attract big suitors, particularly if he excels against Ivory Coast. He possesses pace and strength, and Greece will need those qualities in spades if they are to match up to the African side.

SC: This is a game built for Yaya Toure, who has yet to fully step up in this World Cup. He has been going through the motions. Despite concerns over his fitness, the Manchester City powerhouse will be the man Les Elephants look to as the big game player. However, in light of the very sad news of the death of his brother, Ibrahim Toure, whether Yaya will play a full role in the game is not yet known. If he is physically and emotionally fit, Toure could have the potential to be the difference.

Fear factor

CP: Gervinho. It's unfortunate for Greece that he has resurrected his career somewhat at Roma, where he was impressive in 2013-14. That form has been carried into this tournament, in which he has scored two excellent goals already. His direct running style and willingness to test the goalkeeper could decide this game, as Greece can still be difficult to break down.

SC: Sokratis Papastathopoulos. Although the Colombia game was disappointing, they made a Japan attack look very impotent against them and will be more than capable of nullifying Wilfried Bony, who has been relatively non-existent in attack, his solitary goal aside. If they stop Ivory Coast from scoring and nick one from a set piece, Greece could advance from Group C.

Key battle

CP: Manolas vs. Gervinho. These are arguably the form players for each side, and it'll be a simple case of defence against attack here. Gervinho is his team's biggest threat of a goal, and Manolas is often Greece's last line of defence. He'll need to take it upon himself to snuff out any openings the forward looks to create. It should be a fascinating battle.

Gervinho scored the Ivory Coast's winner against Japan.
Gervinho has transferred his club form for Roma onto the international stage for Ivory Coast.

SC: If he continues on the right flank, Ioannis Fetfatzidis will have to keep an eye on Arthur Boka's run from left-back. Boka has been gone relatively unnoticed so far this tournament, despite some impressive performances. The focus has been on Serge Aurier on the other side, but Boka could cause harm. Equally, should he commit himself too far forward, there is a counter opportunity that Greece will no doubt want to exploit.

Prediction

CP: Greece 1-0 Ivory Coast. I opted for heart over head in the previous two predictions -- why stop now? Karagounis to score the winner, a la Euro 2012, and Greece to qualify for the round of 16.

SC: Ivory Coast to win 2-1. Although I can see Greece scoring in this match -- most likely from a set piece -- I think Ivory Coast will have enough about them to outscore their opponents and guarantee a spot in the round of 16.

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