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Jun 24, 2014

Samaras: Greece worthy winners

Greece's Georgios Samaras converted a stoppage time penalty to send his team to the Round of 16.

Greece may have just sneaked into the knockout stage with a last-gasp penalty, but goal scorer Georgios Samaras said he believes his team outplayed the Ivory Coast throughout their Group C decider on Tuesday.

With the score even at 1, the African side looked to be going through to the knockout stages as group runners-up, but Greece grabbed victory after Samaras was felled in the box by Ivory Coast substitute Giovanni Sio.

Samaras, overjoyed by the victory, said he couldn't supply any details about the final play.

"I don't remember anything during the penalty," he said. "I wanted to give happiness to all our people back home. We are proud for what we did. I hope we give some joy to our people back home."

Georgios Samaras earned the deciding penalty for Greece and then slotted home the winner.

Besides scoring their first two goals of the World Cup, Greece also hit the woodwork three times.

"We played better than Ivory Coast," Samaras said. "We had opportunities to finish this match after 1-0, but we never stopped believing that we can qualify until the last minute. We are proud for this team and I hope all of Greece are proud of us."

Greece coach Fernando Santos agreed with his player that "the best team won."

"In terms of the passion of the players and intelligence, we should consider that a fair victory," Santos said. "In this match, we showed what we are worth and this was a very fair and just victory."

Greece advance to play Costa Rica in the knockout stage.

"I told them that this wasn't a match with no tomorrow," Santos said. "I saw a tomorrow and Samaras was the best player to take the penalty kick. He practiced them in training and I think that was good fate.

"We're going to look carefully at Costa Rica. We need to be very focused because they passed in the 'Group of Death.' They are first in their group and we must channel all our efforts to beat Costa Rica. We have to find the right measures to win the game."

Greece has been lambasted for over a decade for playing so-called "negative" football -- the defensive strategy that led them to glory at Euro 2004, but Santos ignored his critics.

"All I can do is laugh," he said. "Football has two aspects: one is to defend and one is to attack. Our team has their own characteristics. We have shown that we can play offensively. We played well on the counter-attack."

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