Greece will take a comfortable lead to Bucharest after triumphing 3-1 over Romania in the first leg of their World Cup playoff.
Konstantinos Mitroglou bagged a goal either side of Dimitris Salpingidis’ strike at the Stadios Georgios Karaiskaki to put Fernando Santos’ team in pole position to secure a place at the 2014 showpiece.
But the Romanians gave themselves a sniff after Bogdan Stancu netted a crucial away goal.
Whilst the Greeks will no doubt be confident of seeing the job out in Bucharest, Romania too will feel they have enough in their locker to triumph 2-0 in front of their own raucous supporters.
So with that in mind, let's take a glance towards the second game and some changes both sides might be looking to implement ahead of what promises to be another intriguing affair.
Romanians Must Shackle Mitroglou
The Olympiakos man was the stand-out player in the first game of this double-header, running the Romanian defense ragged from start to finish. Mitroglou, who has been linked with clubs such as Liverpool in recent weeks, has been in superb form this season, bagging 13 goals in just 10 games (courtesy of WhoScored.com) in the Greek Super League.
But whilst he is on an excellent goalscoring run, Romania afforded him far too much time and space in dangerous areas. It is certainly something the home side will need to look at closely in Bucharest.
Yes, they need to score at least two goals to qualify and at some point may have to neglect defensive responsibilities. But another goal or two from Mitroglou will make their job all the more difficult.
Victor Piturca’s side need to shore things up defensively and limit the space for the red-hot forward to work in. Once they’ve established an improved, solid base to work from, only then should they go in search of the two goals they require.
Patience Needed From Piturca’s Romania
Often when a side is trying to overhaul a two-goal deficit, they will go all guns blazing from the off. Whilst it is noble from an attacking sense, it is a tactic that rarely bears fruit. The team in the driving seat—on this occasion Greece—soak up the pressure and take control of the game in the latter stages.
If Romania are to have any chance here, they must be patient against a Greece team who can be notoriously dogged. Romania had 55 percent of possession in the first leg but only managed to convert that into one shot on target.
Instead of keeping the ball for longer, frustrating the home crowd and taking the sting out of the game, they regularly rushed their passing in advanced areas and found themselves running down blind alleys.
With the Bucharest crowd likely to create a galvanizing atmosphere, the temptation will be there to go for the jugular from kick-off. But Piturca must reaffirm that patience in their play and opportunism in their passing is crucial to their success.
More Of The Same From Greece
In many respects, the performance of the Greeks was reminiscent of one you might see a team employ away from home. The Romanians bossed possession but always looked susceptible to the hosts' counter-attacking play when springing from deep.
Mitroglou’s first goal, for example, came as a long, late run from the Olympiakos striker caught the Romania defence square. With Romania likely to have just as much, if not more, of the ball in Bucharest, this will leave space for the Greeks to exploit on the counter.
If Santos’ side can be as efficient and effective in their play in the return leg, then they have a superb chance of grabbing an away goal which could deflate any Romanian hopes of a comeback.
Players such as the aforementioned Mitroglou and his strike partner Georgios Samaras excel when playing counter-attacking football, and they could see a lot of the ball on the break in Bucharest.