=============================================================================== R O M A N I A Adrian Weissmann =============================================================================== General Information ------------------- Population: 23.000.000 The Football Federation: founded 1909, affiliated to FIFA since 1930 and to UEFA since 1955 Number of teams cca. 5800 Registered players: cca. 180.000 Sport in Romania ---------------- Romania has produced some brilliant sport stars such as the gymnast Nadia Comaneci or the tennis player Ilie Nastase. In the international arena the Romanian athletes have produced a lot of good results in sports like gymnastics, rowing, track & field, weightlifting, boxing, wrestling and fencing. The handball team was 4 times World Champion and the volleyball team have won the European title. There is no doubt that football is the most popular sport in Romania with average attendances at matches amongst the highest in Europe. Romanian Football History ------------------------- Football has been played in Romania since 1893, but the first organized teams appeared in 1899-1900. The first championship was held in 1910 and the national side made their debut in 1922, a 1-2 defeat by Yugoslavia in Belgrade. The first Romanian Cup Final took place in 1933. At club level, Steaua Bucharest have been the most successful, winning 15 championships and adding the European Champions Cup in 1985-86, after a penalty shoot-out with Barcelona. After 2 hours of football, the game was a 0-0 stalemate, but although Steaua only scored twice from the spot, Barcelona failed to score at all, all four attempts being saved by Duckadam, the hero of that night. Steaua Bucharest also reached the Champions Cup semi finals in 1987-1988 losing 2-0 on aggregate to Benfica, and made the final again in 1989 losing 4-0 to a rampant AC Milan. Other teams that have done well in European competition are Universitatea Craiova who lost on the away goals rule in the semi final of the 1982-1983 UEFA Cup, beaten by Benfica, and Dinamo Bucharest who have been knocked out of both the Champions Cup and Cup Winners Cup at the semi final stage by Liverpool (1984) and Anderlecht (1990) respectively. The history of the national side really started when Romania was among only four Europeans teams that crossed the Ocean in 1930 to take part in the inaugural World Cup in Uruguay. King Carol of Romania proved to be a hero by not only picking the Romanian team, but ensuring that the players were given adequate time off work in order to train for and play in the finals. They beat Peru 3-1 and lost to the eventual winners, Uruguay by 4 goals to nil.In 1934 in Italy, the Romanian team was beaten 2-1 by the eventual finalists Czechoslovakia after leading 1-0, and in 1938 Romania were surprisingly eliminated by the Cuban team, losing 2-1 after drawing 3-3. Romania therefore took part in all 3 editions of the World Cup played before WW II, but after the war the country had to wait until 1970 before their team qulified again. A very young team, coached by Angelo Niculescu, succeeded in January 1969 to draw 1-1 with the World Champions, England at Wembley and soon afterwards they won their qualification group ahead of Greece (2-2 in Greece and 1-1 in Bucharest in the decisive game), Switzerland (2-0 at home and 1-0 away) and Eusebio's Portugal (0-3 in Lisbon and 1-0 in Bucharest). In Mexico they played in the toughest group together with the reigning Champions (England), the eventual winners (Brazil) and Czechoslovakia, who had appeared in the final 8 years earlier. After losing 1-0 to England, they beat Czechoslovakia 2-1 with goals from Neagu and Dumitrache, and lost to Pele's Brazil 2-3 (Dumitrache and Dembrovschi, the scorers). They failed to qualify for the second phase and their coach was criticized by the Romanian media for the team's lack of courage against England and the non selection of the nation's most gifted player, Dobrin (a kind of Gazza of Romanian football). The best Romanian players in the tournament were Ion Dumitru in midfield, the sweeper Cornel Dinu and Emeric Dembrovschi in attack. The same remarkable team won their group in the European Championships ahead of Czechoslovakia, Wales and Finland and were very close to the semi-finals in 1972, after a dramatic three game series with Hungary (1-1 in Budapest, 2-2 in Bucharest and 1-2 in the play-off in Belgrade). The Hungarians scored the decisive goal in the 88th minute of the third game. After 1972 a long string of disappointments were to follow, with Romania failing to qualify for the 1974 World Cup finishing second behind East Germany, and repeating this 4 years later by losing an incredible match against Yogoslavia in Bucharest 6-4. This qualification had started promisingly for Romania as they beat Spain 1-0 in Bucharest and had a sensational 2-0 victory in Yogoslavia, but Romania had to settle for the runners up spot again. The qualification for the World Cup in 1982 was lost in a similar way as Romania took 3 points from England (2-1 in Bucharest and 0-0 at Wembley), but couldn't beat Hungary at home and suffered a shocking home defeat, 2-1 to Switzerland. Unsurprisingly, the coaches were dismissed and the young trainer Mircea Lucescu, the captain of the 1970 team was appointed. He was only 36 and was still an active player at his club, Corvinul Hunedoara. This is a unique case in football history - an active player also operating as national team coach. Nobody gave the Romanian team much chance in the 1984 European Championship qualifying as they were in a group with Italy (reigning World Champions), Sweden, Czechoslovakia (1976 European Champions) and Cyprus. However, Romania qualified after conceding only 3 goals in 8 games. Unfortunately, the team was far from impressive in the finals in France where they lost to West Germany and Portugal and drew with Spain. Their performance in qualification though was enough for them to be favourites to qualify for the 1986 World Cup. The team again played very well against England (0-0 in Bucharest and 1-1 at Wembley), and had few problems with Finland and Turkey, but qualification was lost when they soemhow managed to lose all four points to Northern Ireland. In Belfast, Northern Ireland were victorious 3-2, but the crucial game was in Bucharest where a draw would have been enough to take the Romanian side through. However, the game was lost 1-0 and the only hope was that England would beat the Northern Irish at Wembley, but the English offered the qualification to Northern Ireland by drawing 0-0. History repeated itself as Romania had got into a good position to qualify before losing a crucial match on home soil. Seven months later came Romanian soccer's big triumph, Steaua Bucharest's Champions Cup victory and their coach, Emeric Jenei replaced Mircea Lucescu as head of the national team, bringing with him the offensive spirit of Steaua. This was reflected in the 1988 European Championship qualifying when Romania just failed to qualify after winning all their home matches impressively, 4-0 against Austria, 5-1 against Albania and 3-1 against Spain (the group winners). After this, the long string of failures in World Cup qualifiers came to an end, the crucial games being against Denmark in the autumn of 1989. In Copenhagen the Danish side won 3-0 and when Povlsen scored in Bucharest after only 5 minutes it looked like another disaster for the Romanian squad, but this time they managed to score three times winning 3-1 and qualifying for the first time in 20 years. The coach Jenei was praised for picking 26 year old striker Gavrila Pele Balint, who scored twice in his first international. In Italy the team began by beating USSR 2-0 with Lacatus scoring twice, but then lost to the tournament's surprise team, Cameroon 1-2, Balint scoring. The final group game was against World Champions Argentina and Balint scored again in a 1-1 draw. This put Romania through to the second round as group runners up behind Cameroon. The second round game was against Jack Charlton's Ireland and after a scoreless game, Ireland won 5-4 on penalties. As in 1970 the Romanian fans had the feeling that the team was capable of doing better. The falling of the communist regime opened the country's gates for the football players too and most of the stars that played in the World Cup finals moved abroad: Gheorghe Hagi to Real Madrid, Gheorghe Popescu to PSV Eindhoven, Marius Lacatus to Fiorentina, Ionut Lupescu to Bayer Leverkusen, and the young Florin Raducioiu to Bari. This created a new situation for the national side as players ceased to be available two weeks before every important game - this created a problem for the coaches: select the overseas based players who would not have the benefit of a fortnight with the national side before a game or reward those who had stayed in Romania. The new manager that was appointed after the World Cup, Gheorghe Constantin, paid a big price for not knowing how to solve these problems: he was forced to resign after a disastrous start in the European Championship, particularly a humiliating 0-3 home defeat by Bulgaria. The new coach, Mircea Radulescu managed some good results, but in the last game of the qualifiers Romania required a 2-1 away win over Bulgaria,but only managed to draw 1-1 (Hagi missed a penalty kick). Mircea Radulescu resigned a few months after that and was replaced by the controversial Cornel Dinu. Qualification to USA --------------------- In the spring of 1992 Romania started the campaign with an easy 7-0 (Balint 3, Hagi, Lacatus, Lupescu, Pana) victory in Bucharest against the Faroe Islands. The second game was also played in Bucharest and the first half ended with the Romanians holding an incredible 5-0 lead against Wales! The game ended 5-1 (Hagi 2, Lupescu 2, Balint) greatly boosting Romanian hopes. In the autumn, Romania visited Brussels and despite having a number of good scoring opportunities, they lost 0-1. The same lack of effectiveness lead to a 1-1 draw at home to the Republic of Czechs and Slovaks (RCS), Ilie Dumitrescu scored after the break, but the visitors equalized with a penalty in the dying minutes of the game. A 4-1 win in Cyprus ended the year (G. Popescu, Raducioiu, Hagi and Hanganu the scorers). In April 1993 they beat Cyprus 2-1 in Bucharest with Steaua's Ilie Dumitrescu scoring both goals and in June the team suffered a disaster playing the Czech and Slovak team in Kosice. Raducioiu equalized RCS goals twice, but despite the expulsion of 2 RCS players, Romania went on to lose 2-5. A 2-5 defeat was hard to swallow and led to the end of the international career of the veteran goalkeeper Silviu Lung and the dismissal by the Romanian Federation of coach Cornel Dinu, who was replaced by Anghel (Puiu) Iordanescu who had coached Steaua Bucharest to their most recent Romanian title. Iordanescu was aware that he had a very tough task ahead. After winning in 4-0 in The Faroes, all goals scored by the new AC Milan striker, Raducioiu, Romania entertained Belgium in Bucharest. The Belgians needed a draw to assure their place in the USA finals, but the Romanians won 2-1 to keep their own hopes very much alive. The first goal from a Raducioiu penalty and the same player assisted Ilie Dumitrescu in scoring the second. The Belgians narrowed the margin with an 89th minute penalty, but could not prevent Romanian victory. Now, everything would be decided for the Romanian side in the last game, against Wales in Cardiff. The game produced great drama with both teams needing victory for qualification. Romania controlled the game for virtually the whole of the first half, but only held a 1-0 lead at the break, a drive from Hagi in the 32nd minute. Wales equalised through Dean Saunders in the 62nd minute and a minute later the hosts were awarded a penalty. Peter Bodin stepped up to take it but clearly couldn't handle the pressure as he blasted the ball against the bar. After this disappointment for the Welsh, the Romanians came back strongly, finally securing victory in the 83rd minute through Raducioiu. The Welsh might claim bad luck, but on the night Romania deserved their victory. So, Romania qualified to the World Cup for the second time in succession, their 29 goals in qualifying sharing the record with the Dutch. The coaches ----------- Anghel (Puiu) Iordanescu was born in 1950, in Bucharest. Since the age of 12 he played for Steaua Bucharest, making his first team debut at the age of 18. He was considered to be one of the most gifted players of his generation, but injuries delayed his debut in the national squad until 1971. He was capped 64 times in the national squad scoring 26 goals (only one player in the whole history of the squad has scored more). With Steaua Bucharest he was 2 times champion and won the Cup 4 times. In 1982 he went to Greece and played until 1984 for OFI Creta. On his return to Romania, he was appointed as the assistant coach of Steaua. Together with the main coach, Emeric Jenei, Iordanescu led Steaua to the great successes of 1984-1986 that culminated with the winning of the European Cup. On the day of the final with Barcelona, Iordanescu was 36 and everybody was surprised to see him enter as a substitute. He had not played an official game since 1984 and was only supposed to play for a maximum of 15 minutes, but he played the whole of extra time and showed again, for the last time, his wonderful skills as a player. In the autumn of the same year, when Jenei was appointed as manager of the national team, Iordanescu became Steaua's main coach and some excellent results were to come (including the winning of the European Super Cup, reaching the semifinals of the Champions Cup in 1988 and the final one year later). In 1990 he went to Cyprus spending 2 years as coach of a local club, before coming back to coach his old team, Steaua. Their archrivals Dinamo seemed to be much stronger, but Iordanescu succeeded again in winning the National title. Last summer he was appointed manager of the national side and again did a splendid job by winning all the autumn games including the decisive games with Belgium and Wales. Iordanescu is assisted by Dumitru Dumitriu, also a former player and coach for Steaua.