Greece leads 3-1
Greece: Fernando Santos (24-12-4)
Romania: Victor Piţurcă (50-20-19)
32nd Meeting All-Time
Series History: Romania 17 wins, Greece 6 wins, 8 draws
After the first leg, there is one thing that is very clear coming from this playoff series: Greece is really as good defensively as they looked during the group stages. On Friday night in Piraeus, Greece limited Romania to only one shot on target, which was pretty remarkable considering Romania entered the first leg averaging five shots on target per group stage match. Now Greece enters the second leg with a two-goal cushion and is just 90 minutes away from a trip to the World Cup.
Greece’s defensive stats under manager Fernando Santos are incredible, especially away from home; in 17 true road matches since August 2010, Greece has given up only 10 goals, which comes out to a staggering goal against average of 0.59. A number like that is absolutely unheard of at the international level. The other amazing statistic to consider going into this match is that Greece has only given up two or more goals just five times in the previous 40 matches.
All is not lost for Romania though, as they come into this match with an away goal in their back pocket. You can expect Romania to come out guns blazing knowing that they need to score at least twice and keep Greece off the board completely to make their first World Cup appearance since 1998.
History shows that Romania is capable of putting up the numbers they need at home, having scored two or more in nine of their last 13 matches. The only drawback to that statistic is that most of those wins were against subpar opponents such as Andorra, Estonia, Trinidad & Tobago and Turkmenistan.
For Romania though, the biggest key will be to remain calm throughout the match. The pressure will no doubt be intense from the home support that will be pushing for a victory. Romania was called for 20 fouls in the first leg and accumulated six yellow cards, including Costin Lazar’s two yellow cards late in the match.
Romania Projected Lineup: 4-2-3-1
Alexandru Mațel — Florin Gardoș — Dorin Goian — Razvan Raț
Razvan Cociș — Alexandru Bourceanu
Gabriel Torje — Bogdan Stancu — Cristian Tanase
Greece Projected Lineup: 4-1-4-1
Vasilis Torosidis — Sokratis Papastathopoulos — Dimitris Siovas — Jose Holebas
Dimitris Salpingidis — Giannis Maniatis — Kostas Katsouranis — Giorgos Samaras
Romania hosts Greece in the second leg of their UEFA Qualifying Playoff at the Arena Naționala in Bucharest on Tuesday, Nov 19 at 2:00 p.m. ET and can be seen online at ESPN3.
This is a two-game aggregate series; away goals are used for the tiebreaker. If the series score and away goals are tied after these 90 minutes, then the match will proceed into two 15-minute extra time periods. If it is still tied, then the match will move forward to penalty kicks.
Second Leg Prediction: Greece 1, Romania 1 (Greece wins 4-2 on aggregate and qualifies for 2014 FIFA World Cup)
I just don’t see any way for Romania to overturn the two-goal deficit. They will score in the first half to make it interesting, but will eventually fall on a late counterattack while they are pressing for the winner.