Romania to ride on luck at Euro's

2015-12-11 13:00
Vlad Chiriches (Supplied)

Geneva - Romania's revival in international football owes much to getting the luck of the draw and using it well.

Taking advantage of a relatively weak qualifying group, Romania went unbeaten to reach just its second major tournament since Euro 2000, the swansong for Gheorghe Hagi. A resolute side will arrive at Euro 2016 without a defining star player, but with national great Anghel Iordanescu as coach.

"In this moment we don't have an individual, but we have a very strong team," Romanian football federation president Razvan Burleanu told the Associated Press in July.

That team overcame a record 428-minute scoreless streak to place second in Group F as top-seeded Greece imploded to finish last. The group was won by unheralded Northern Ireland, though third-placed Hungary also advanced through the playoffs.

Yet Romania was due some Euro fortune after being landed with the Netherlands, Italy and France at the 2008 tournament. Romania will probably not top most neutral fans' must-see list of teams in France.

Three straight 0-0 draws meant it scored only 11 goals in 10 matches, though conceded only two - the best record in qualifying. Still, that lifted Romania into the top-10 in the FIFA rankings and top-seeded status in the 2018 World Cup qualifying draw.

If Romania is to once more be an international force, here are three key players - and coach Iordanescu - who could help.


Now 34, the captain is one of very few potential squad members with tournament experience at Euro 2008. Rat made his 100th appearance during qualifying, shoring up the left side of defense in a 2-0 win at Finland.

A decade of playing at Champions League regular Shakhtar Donetsk ended in 2013 and Rat's career is in decline. After leaving Donetsk, he briefly stopped at West Ham and is now in a second spell with Rayo Vallecano in Spain. The Romanian squad is not especially young, but Rat brings veteran qualities few of his team-mate can match.


A player touted as the most talented Romanian since Gheorghe Hagi could finally play in a major tournament at age 36. Sanmartean could also be the only player to prepare for Euro 2016 by playing in the Saudi Arabian league.

The skillful and creative midfielder's move to Saudi club Al Ittihad at the start of this year had some logic to it. Former Romania national team coach Victor Piturca was then managing the club. Current Romania coach Anghel Iordanescu also led Al Ittihad to the Asian title in 2005 to knows the level Sanmartean is playing at.

Sanmartean's road to Euro 2016 is long and winding. Like his captain Rat, he made his Romania debut in 2002 yet his appearance total stands at only 16. His career also stalled after his first big transfer abroad with two wasted years in dispute with Panathinaikos.


Fans of Tottenham, where he spent two unremarkable years until this offseason, probably did not see this coming.

Chiriches was the bedrock of the tightest defense in qualifying, playing every minute of all 10 matches as Romania conceded just two goals.

The 26-year-old defender also landed at club, Napoli, which has led Serie A this season though he has not been a regular choice.

Chiriches is a mainstay of Napoli's lineup in the Europa League where it had the only perfect six-win record in the group stage.

In a Romania squad with few players at top clubs, Chiriches stands out as one if its elite performers.


Romania's revival owes much to a national great in his third stint as coach. Iordanescu's first tile around was with a golden Hagi-led generation at Euro 1996 and the 1998 World Cup, which is the last time Romania qualified.

He gave up a political career and seat in the national Senate before returning for his third spell last year after Euro 2016 qualifying started. Now 65, Iordanescu was there at most of Romanian football's best moments.

At the end of a prolific playing career, he served as a substitute in Steaua Bucharest's 1986 European Cup title win against Barcelona. Iordanescu led Steaua back to the final three years later in his first coaching job. A team featuring Hagi, Piturca and Dan Petrescu was routed 4-0 by a great, Dutch-influenced AC Milan side.

Outside his home country he coached two Saudi Arabian clubs - Al Hilal and Al Ittihad - to be Asian champion in 2000 and 2005, respectively.


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