Greece players celebrate the winning goal against Ivory Coast, 24 JuneReuters

A last-gasp penalty from the nerveless Georgios Samaras put Greece through to the round of 16 of the FIFA World Cup 2014, with the Ivory Coast suffering heartbreak in the dying seconds of the game.

With Colombia thumping Japan in the other Group C game in Cuiaba, Ivory Coast looked on their way to the knockout rounds after Wilfried Bony had drawn them level with a nice finish off a pass from Gervinho in the 74th minute. Andres Samaris had given Greece the lead just before halftime off a huge mistake from midfielder Cheick Tiote.

However, like Portugal proved against the USA, you cannot switch off until the referee blows the final whistle and so it proved as Samaras won the penalty himself two minutes into stoppage time, off a clip from substitute Giovanni Sio, before stepping up and confidently dispatching the ball past Boubacar Barry Copa.

There was no time for Ivory Coast, whose coach had taken off the likes of Didier Drogba and Gervinho in a bid to protect the 1-1 scoreline, to hit back as Greece advanced past the group stages for the first time in their history.

While Greece, who will now face Costa Rica in the next round, are usually criticised for their negative defence-first tactics, there are absolutely no doubts about the best team winning on the night in Fortaleza, with the European side the much better team. They hit the woodwork three times and could have easily been out of sight before the drama right at the end.

"The best team won, the one with the best strategy, most desire and most chances on the night," Greece coach Fernando Santos said. "We scored twice and hit the bar three times. The win was deserved and we showed what we can do.

"In the first two matches we weren't focused, which is usually our great strength. We showed we know how to attack too. I told the players this morning this would not be our last match. We are very happy and know that everyone in Greece is delighted."

In the other Group B game, Colombia ensured top spot in Group C with a 4-1 victory over hapless Japan.

Juan Cuadrado gave Colombia a 17th minute lead from the penalty spot only for Shinji Okazaki to make it 1-1 right on the stroke of halftime.

However, a Jackson Martinez double coupled with a strike from substitute James Rodriguez put paid to all hopes of Japan, who needed a win to stand a chance, qualifying, with Colombia now set to face a difficult encounter with Uruguay in the round of 16.

"I haven't had a look at Uruguay yet because we were focused on this game, but we know we're going to be taking on one of the strongest teams in South America and the world and some very experienced players who never know when they're beaten," Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said.