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Romania head for playoffs after Marica downs Estonia

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Ciprian Marica scored twice to help Romania secure a World Cup playoff spot with a 2-0 victory over Estonia in their final qualifier at the National Arena in Bucharest on Tuesday.

Coach Victor Piturca's men finished second in Group D with 19 points, nine points behind unbeaten Netherlands who ended Turkey's hopes of making the playoffs with a 2-0 win in Istanbul.

Romania, who have not reached the World Cup finals since 1998, missed a golden opportunity to open the scoring midway through the first half when Bogdan Stancu blasted his shot from close range over the bar.

A few minutes later, Stancu was brought down in the penalty area by Estonia defender Mikk Reintam and Marica converted from the spot for his 23rd international goal.

Marica almost doubled Romania's lead after 36 minutes but keeper Sergei Pareiko did well to parry his firm header and Gheorghe Bucur's shot from the edge of the area went narrowly wide five minutes before the break.

Romania's dominance continued in the second half but they had to wait until the 81st minute to make the game safe when Marica gave Pareiko no chance with a brilliant header from a precise right-wing cross from Alexandru Matel.

"We are happy, we did something important," Piturca told GSPTV. "The team deserve 10 plus for tonight's game.

"It's very good for this generation and it would be fantastic if we qualify for Brazil. But even if we don't, it's good that I brought some new players to the team."

Piturca was full of praise for the Netherlands and their coach Louis van Gaal for ending Turkey's hopes of making the playoffs.

"Van Gaal is a great coach, I thank him for what he did. I never thought for a moment that this match couldn't be played on the field.

Marica said every footballer dreamed of playing in the World Cup finals.

"I don't think about our next opponent yet," he said. "I know it will be hard but I also know and I feel that the Romanian fans love us and they'll be at the stadium to support us again."

(Writing by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by John Mehaffey)

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