Home » Soccer-Romania cautiously optimistic that hard work will pay off

Soccer-Romania cautiously optimistic that hard work will pay off

Soccer-Romania cautiously optimistic that hard work will pay off

(Reuters) – Romania showed their graft and potential when they topped their qualification group through an unbeaten campaign to reach the Euro 2024 finals in Germany but are not the finished article, according to coach Edward Iordanescu.

Iordanescu’s side won six and drew four of their 10 qualifiers, finishing ahead of Switzerland as they earned a first visit to the finals since 2016 and sixth overall.

They have never made it past the quarter-finals but with a hard-working team who understand their limitations, and in a Group E in Germany that includes Belgium, Slovakia and Ukraine, there is cautious optimism that they can be a surprise this year.

They will open their campaign against Ukraine in Munich on June 17.

Iordanescu, whose father Anghel had three spells in charge of Romania and took them to the 1994 World Cup quarter-finals, was appointed to lead the team in January 2022.

It was a rocky start as he won only one of his first seven games in charge, but since November 2022 his sole loss has been a 3-2 friendly defeat by Colombia in March this year.

Romania have not been to the World Cup since 1998 and their eight-year absence from the Euros was also frustrating, according to the coach.

“We had a lot of tension and disappointments on the way to this goal and we had to make a lot of effort to get on the right track,” Iordanescu told reporters.

“(At the Euros) it will be infinitely more difficult. We have to raise our level, because we are talking about the best players and the best teams.”

Iordanescu confirmed he would stick with the core of the players who qualified the team for the finals.

“We cannot make major changes in this group,” he said. “This team has already proved it has potential, but we are looking forward and have our foot on the accelerator. We are in the last 100 metres and I want our success story to continue in Germany.”

Defender Radu Dragusin, 22, barely played at Tottenham Hotspur this season but is one of three Romanians to start each of their qualifiers along with midfielder and captain Nicolae Stanciu and defender Andrei Burca — both based in Saudi Arabia.

Midfielder Ianis Hagi, son of Romania great Gheorghe, also played a key role, while the goals threat could come from journeyman striker George Puscas.

They headline a relatively inexperienced squad that is seeking a first knockout place at the Euros since the quarter-final defeat by Italy in 2000.

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Ken Ferris)