It wasn’t a win but a 1-1 tie with Romania at their rival’s home ground the night of Nov. 19 was good enough to give Greece, which won the first game in Athens of the playoff series by a 3-1 score, enough of an edge to make it to the soccer World Cup next year in Brazil, the first time it will be making appearances in consecutive games and only the third time ever.
The group draw of the final phase of the competition will be held on Dec. 6, 2013 in Bahia when Greece will find if it gets lucky in the pairings or is placed in with world powerhouses. Greece had a respectable showing in 2010 in South Africa after a disastrous appearance in Boston in 1994 when it was shut out in every game and went home in disgrace after scoring no goals and giving up 10 for the tournament’s worst showing.
Greece won its series with Romania by an aggregate 4-2 score, giving up a goal in the first game on a header off a free kick and in the second on an own goal as its defense proved it’s one of the most formidable in the world.
Kostas Mitroglou, who scored twice in first game and narrowly missed a third which would have given him a hat trick, gave Greece the lead in the 23rd minute, beating Romania’s offside trap to control a cross from Giorgos Karagounis and steer the ball past goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu.
Romania came back into the game in the 55th minute when a botched Greece clearance led to an own goal by Vassilis Torosidis.
Watch highlights from the game below:
Moments after the final whistle at Bucharest’s National Arena, Greece players lifted coach Fernando Santos and heaved him into the area to cheers from 2,000 traveling fans.
“I thank God and I thank the players who were fantastic. We are going to Brazil and that’s amazing,” the Portuguese coach said, publicly speaking Greek for the first time since taking over the national team three years ago.
He added, in Portuguese: “I think it is a great thing for Greece that we are going to our second consecutive World Cup … And certainly this is a huge moment for me, personally.”
Romanian fans pointed lasers at players and hurled firecrackers onto the pitch at stages — one hitting defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos — but applauded the Greek team after the match.