Gekas Back for Greece vs. Romania

Greek soccer star Fanis Gekas

– Derek Gatopoulos (AP)

ATHENS — Veteran striker Fanis Gekas has been recalled by Greece for the World Cup qualifying playoffs against Romania this month.

Coach Fernando Santos named the 33-year-old center forward in a 24-man squad filled with veterans, including 36-year-old captain Giorgos Karagounis and 34-year-old midfielder Costas Katsouranis.

The first leg is Nov. 14 in Piraeus, then Nov. 19 in Bucharest. Gekas, who plays for newly promoted Konyaspor in Turkey, has scored 24 goals in 68 appearances for his country and last played for Greece in June.

Greece gained the most points as runner-up in European qualification — 25 from 10 matches — but lost out to high-scoring Bosnia on goal difference in Group G.

Santos’ side, still rated 15th in the world rankings, struggled in recent qualifiers, finding it hard to score against lowly Liechtenstein on two occasions.

They have missed the reassuring presence of Schalke defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos, a rising star at 21, who has been out all year following a right knee operation.

Santos said he wanted to give little away before the first game at Karaiskaki Stadium, saying only that he would rely on experienced players.

“I won’t say anything about any individual player. But we do have a lot of players who are under the threat of suspension, so we need give ourselves some options,” the Portuguese trainer said.

“We have a lot of experienced players who will know how to win the first match without conceding a goal. The Romanians are an excellent team, but I believe we will be the ones to make it through.”

Romania named foreign-based players last week, and coach Victor Piturca dropped veteran striker Adrian Mutu as well as Manchester City goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon. Piturca included Greece-based midfielder Costin Lazar of PAOK and defenders Dorin Goian of Asteras Tripolis.