Greece have qualified for their third World Cup after beating Romania 4-2 on aggregate in the UEFA playoffs. Despite a nervy return leg in Bucharest Romania couldn't convert their pressure into goals, with Greece's 3-1 home win carrying them to Brazil 2014.
Former wunderkind Gabriel Torje looked dangerous for Romania and delivered a couple of crosses in from the right in the opening exchanges of Tuesday's return leg, though none of his teammates managed to get on the end of them. Greece weathered the early storm, and, playing with pretty much their entire team behind the ball, started to frustrate the hosts.
With Romania's defence looking shaky the visitors soon realised that as good a form of defence was the counter-attack, with left-back José Holebas forcing a diving save from Ciprian Tătărușanu after 17 minutes. They took the lead five minutes later, after Romania's interesting take on the offside trap allowed Kostas Mitroglou to bring down Giorgos Karagounis's delicate chip before dropping his shoulder and slotting into the Romanian goal.
Greece grew in confidence and ventured forward increasingly frequently, the early Romanian promise nowhere to be seen. One of the hosts' few first half chances fell to the usually-reliable Ciprian Marica on the stroke of halftime, though his shot cleared the bar from a tight angle. 4-1 down on aggregate at the break, they needed a second half miracle.
To their credit, Romania did come out for the second half with renewed zest, and were thrown a lifeline ten minutes after the restart. Somehow a botched Greek clearance looped into the top corner of their own goal, with right-back Vasilis Torosidis the unfortunate player getting the final touch on the ball.
The hosts were buoyed by the own goal, and pushed forward looking for the two goals they needed. Just past the hour midfielder Ovidiu Hoban forced Greek goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis into making his first real save of the match with a low shot from the edge of the area, as Romania cranked up the pressure.
Despite a string of corners, penalty shouts and near-misses, Romania couldn't turn their late rally into further goals, unfortunately falling at the last qualification hurdle.
Romania: Tătărușanu; Raţ (Latovlevici 29'), Goian, Chiricheș, Măţel; Hoban; Maxim, Tănase, Stancu, Torje (Niculae 56'); Marica.
Goals: Torosidis o.g. (55')
Greece: Karnezis; Holebas, Siovas (Manolas 80'), Sokratis, Torosidis; Karagounis (Samaris 74'), Tziolis, Maniatis; Samaras, Mitroglou, Salpingidis.
Goals: Mitroglou (23')