Greek national soccer team players take part in a training session in Hrasnica, March 21, 2013. Greece will play against Bosnia in a 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match on Friday. (Photo : REUTERS/Dado Ruvic (BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA - Tags: SPORT SOCCER))
Greece will take on Romania in its first match of the World Cup playoffs. The Greeks are the higher seed in this matchup and should be the favorites to win it all. Here is why Greece will win the opening leg.
Four goals. That is all that Greece conceded through 10 matches in the World Cup qualifiers. Guess how many teams allowed less goals than Greece in the entire UEFA World Cup qualifiers? One. Which team was it? The defending champion, Spain. How many goals did the Spaniards allow? Three. But here is the rub, as the old bard would say. Spain played two games less than Greece. So the next logical question would be: how many teams allowed as many goals as Greece? Only three other sides in UEFA: England, Ukraine and Belgium. Two of those sides already qualified for the World Cup and the other is locked in a playoff battle with France. Greece has always been known for having a tremendous defense and won the 2004 Euro Cup thanks to its stalwart backline. The team was not tested in a particularly hard group, but still managed to limit the amount of goals allowed. That is a huge feat in itself and should help the team win this matchup.
Home Field Advantage
This could become a cliché but the boost that home fans provide should never be overlooked; much less in Greece's case. The team compiled a record of four wins and one draw at Piraeus in the Group Stage. However, that is not the most stunning statistic of all. Greece did not concede a single goal at home in the five home matches and outscored opponents 6-0 in five games. That alone should be a huge warning sign for Romania.
Romania has not played in the World Cup since 1998. Greece has participated in the more recent tournaments and knows what it takes to get into the tournament. That alone should give them a huge edge on the Romanians, who were lucky to finish second in the group thanks to wins by Netherlands over Turkey and Hungary late in the group stage.