Romania vs. Greece: Best and Worst Performers from World Cup Playoff

Leigh Walsh@@leighwalsh87Correspondent INovember 20, 2013

BUCHAREST, ROMANIA - NOVEMBER 19:  A fan of Greece shows his colours during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier Play-off Second Leg match between Romania and Greece at the National Arena on November 19, 2013 in Bucharest, Romania.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

A total of 15 years have passed since the Romanian team donned peroxide blonde hair and strutted their stuff on the World Cup stage. And now, we’ll have to wait another four for their next trick, as they crashed out to Greece 4-2 on aggregate. 

The damage had already been done in the opening playoff leg at the intimate Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium, when Greece opened up a 3-1 lead before the return match in Bucharest ended in a draw. 

Fernando Santos’ Greek side have looked solid throughout World Cup qualifying, and their defensive record has been the foundation to their success. 

Greece conceded just four goals in 10 games in Group G, where goal difference was all that separated them and Bosnia, the team that clinched the automatic qualifying spot. With a mixture of veteran experience and youthful exuberance, the 2004 European Champions continued their impressive run of form across both playoff legs to see off Romania. 

Greece have now won 18 of their last 24 games—per BBC Sport—and they will be in a buoyant mood when they arrive in Brazil next summer.  

Here’s a look at the best and worst performers from the two playoff legs.  

Best Performers

Konstantinos Mitroglou

BUCHAREST, ROMANIA - NOVEMBER 19:  Konstantinos Mitroglou of Greece in action during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier Play-off Second Leg match between Romania and Greece at the National Arena on November 19, 2013 in Bucharest, Romania.  (Photo by Jamie
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Konstantinos Mitroglou did exactly what was asked of him over the two legs. 

The 25-year-old front man fed off limited service, but when the chances fell at his feet, he took them, bagging three goals from just five shots. 

His two goals in the opening leg in Piraeus helped Greece place one foot on the plane to Brazil, and his opening strike in Bucharest all but secured their safe passage. 

He looked clinical throughout the 180 minutes and will be one to watch in South America next summer. 

Liverpool and Arsenal have both been linked to Mitroglou, per Ben Jefferson of the Express, but a strong showing at the World Cup would likely see Olympiacos' asking price soar to new levels.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos

GDANSK, POLAND - JUNE 22:  Sokratis Papastathopoulos of Greece looks on during the UEFA EURO 2012 quarter final match between Germany and Greece at The Municipal Stadium on June 22, 2012 in Gdansk, Poland.  (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Dortmund centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos played in 11 of Greece’s 12 qualification games, and he was integral to his country’s performances in both legs against Romania. 

He stuck like glue to Ciprian Marica, preventing Romania’s top goalscorer in qualifying from fashioning any chances of note. 

At just 25, the defender possesses a level of composure far beyond his years, and he demonstrated his talents once more against Romania. 

Georgios Samaras 

Unlike Mitroglou, Georgios Samaras didn’t light up the stage, but he put in an immense shift down the left side of the pitch. 

The Celtic forward, who is still only 28, worked tirelessly up and down the flank, supporting Mitroglou when Greece had the ball and helping out left-back Jose Holebas when Romania were in possession. 

Worst Performers

Ciprian Marica

BUCHAREST, ROMANIA - NOVEMBER 19:  Konstantinos Mitroglou of Greece battles with Vlad Iulian Chiriches and Nicolai Dorin Goian of Romania during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier Play-off Second Leg match between Romania and Greece at the National Arena o
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

It was a playoff to forget for Marica. The Getafe striker mustered just two shots on goal, neither of which hit the target, over the 180 minutes of action.

To be fair to Marica, he had little to work from, but he didn’t offer his teammates a viable outlet either. He looked sluggish at times and appeared unable to create any space for himself. 

Dorin Goian

Dorin Goian was lucky not to get his marching orders in the first leg. He picked up an early yellow card after a scuffle in the box with Mitroglou and was then lucky to avoid a second after a coming together with wily veteran Kostas Katsouranis.

The Romanian centre-back failed to stay close to Mitroglou, who ended up bagging three decisive goals. 

Razvan Rat 

The West Ham man experienced a torrid time of it at left-back, particularly in the first leg in Greece. 

Dimitris Salpingidis played an important role for the home side down the right flank, and Rat did little to stifle his threat. 

The Romanian skipper’s woes continued in the second leg when he limped off injured in the first half. 

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