5 things to know about the Greece-Romania playoff

Greece wants to build on a decade of football achievement, and

Romania hopes to restore past glory after years of frustration.

Both are teams with few individual stars that rely on a strong

group ethic, but only one of them will make it to the World Cup in


Here are five things to know about the World Cup qualification

playoff between Greece and Romania:


With eight victories in qualification, Greece was Europe’s top

performing runner-up, losing out on goal difference to Bosnia.

Greece coach Fernando Santos says his team now has an

”obligation” to prevail in the playoffs to ensure their hard work

is rewarded and to lift the spirits of their crisis-hit


Greece has been a regular at major tournaments since its shock

victory at the 2004 European Championship, and Santos says he is

certain his players will overcome a recent run of uninspiring


”We will play with heart,” the 59-year-old Portuguese coach

said. ”There is feeling of confidence and belief in our squad. The

Romanians have an excellent team, but I believe that in the end we

will qualify.”


Romania had a tougher time in a qualification group dominated by

the Netherlands, though ultimately managed to sideline Turkey and

Hungary to finish second.

Now coach Victor Piturca has a chance to regain some of the

glory of the 1990s after his country emerged from a bloody

revolution and inspired the football world, led by Gheorghe


Romania reached the quarterfinals at the 1994 World Cup but has

been absent from the global competition since 1998, when members of

the squad famously dyed their hair blonde before one match.

Piturca, who spent his coaching career jumping between Steaua

Bucharest and the national side, is back in charge of his country

for a third time and is promising to break a generation-long streak

of near-misses.


Piturca hasn’t had the best of luck recently.

Romania captain Vlad Chiriches fractured his nose while playing

for Tottenham against Newcastle in the Premier League on


”He’s a valuable player and he’ll be missed,” Piturca said,

adding that Florin Gardos is likely to fill in as center back.

First-choice goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu is also fighting a

back injury, forcing the late inclusion of Manchester City’s Costel

Pantilimon to the squad.

Greece has fewer injury worries, except for the long-term

absence of Germany-based defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos, who has

been out for nearly a year after a knee operation.

Greece captain Giorgos Karagounis, with 129 appearances, has

sustained his career since moving to Fulham last year and could be

key to Santos’ plans for a tightly controlled match on Friday.


The Greeks are well known for their low-scoring victories and

impenetrable defense, conceding only four goals during

qualification. The record has left both coaches to openly

contemplate the merits of a scoreless encounter in Piraeus.

”We do hope to score, but 0-0 would not be a bad result for

us,” said Piturca, to which Santos replied: ”We have many

experienced players who know how to win a game without conceding at

home. That is what we are hoping to achieve.”

Greece’s best scoring hope lays with towering forward Kostas

Mitroglou, who has netted 14 of unbeaten Olympiakos’ 34 goals in

the league this season.

Romania will have a historical advantage Friday, having won 17

of its 30 matches against Greece and holding them to a draw on

eight occasions.

The Romanians also ended Santos’ 17-game unbeaten run with a 3-1

friendly win in 2011.


Adrian Mutu is arguably Romania’s best known player, having

played at Chelsea and Juventus.

But the 34-year-old striker who currently plays on the island of

Corsica for French club Ajaccio was passed over for the


Santos, however, is seeking out his veterans. He recalled

33-year-old striker Fanis Gekas, while his playoff lineup includes

two veterans from the winning 2004 team: 36-year-old Karagounis and

34-year-old Costas Katsouranis, a defensive midfielder who has

played for his country 107 times.