Following an unbeaten qualifying campaign which saw the Tricolorii defence breached just twice, Romania take their place in Group A hoping to progress to the knockout stages of the European Championships for the second team in their history.
A formidable task, made all the more arduous by the presence of the hosts France as well as Switzerland and Albania in the group. Nevertheless, Anghel Iordanescu will be buoyed by his sides defensive record, with Romanian Player of the Year Ciprian Tatarusanu representing a safe pair of hands between the posts.
Iordanescu, nicknamed ‘The General‘, employs a somewhat cautious 4-2-3-1 formation, which he persisted with throughout the qualifiers regardless of opposition. An absence of match winners has resulted in an emphasis on defensive stability, and while it proved effective in a weak qualifying group it remains to be seen if they can withstand the higher quality of their upcoming opponents.
The centre back pairing of Chiriches and Grigore may prove pivotal to their chances of matching their Euro 2000 campaign, although neither are setting the football world alight. Chiriches has fallen out of contention at Napoli, while Grigore switched from Tolouse to Quatari based Al-Sailiya in January. Both will certainly be central to Romanias success, or lack thereof, alongside the experienced Raznan Rat, who will take the captains armband at the championship.
By deploying a defensive midfield duo in front of the back four, likely the ageing Ovidu Hobam and Mihail Pintili, the Romanians value a solid foundation over attacking flair, as evidenced in their poor goalscoring return, yielding a mere 11 goals in 10 qualifiers.
Perhaps their best attacking options lie in emerging talent. The 23-year-old Steaua Bucharest playmaker Nicolae Stanciu certainly fits the bill, making his debut in March against Lithuania. He possesses a quality glaringly lacking from the rest of the Romania side – creativity. Stanciu particularly impressed in the goalless draw with Spain in March, exhibiting his ability to break the lines well, and dictate from midfield. While his international inexperience is perhaps concerning, the 10 million euro price tag slapped on him by Steaua shows that he is certainly one to watch should Romania become a surprise package in France.
Another young attacker with their sights set on replacing the likes of Keseru is Florin Adone. Cordobas 23-year-old scored against Italy in November, and will be hopeful that he is entrusted with leading the line in June. With much of their qualifying success built on an experienced back four, relying on youthful exuberance to get the goals may prove more productive than the ineffective strikers of the qualifying campaign.
It’s doubtful that Romania will be on the tip of anyone’s tongue as a threat towards the big hitters, and emerging from a difficult Group A would be a triumph. Their saving grace could be that the four best performing third-ranked teams will qualify for the last 16, and their final group match against tournament debutants Albania on June 19th is likely to be their best chance of progression to the last 16. There is certainly experience at the core of the side, none more so that coach Anghel Iordanescu, who oversaw their quarter final run in the 1994 World Cup, although a distinct dearth of star players may condemn the Tricolorii to an early exit from the tournament.