If you were looking for teams who could emerge as a surprise package this summer then the manner in which Romania qualified could provide a few clues as to how they’ll fare in France.
Drawn in a group including the hosts, Albania and Switzerland, they will be quietly confident of reaching the last 16 via a top-two berth or at least as a best third-placed team.
This side may lack the stellar quality of the 1990s golden generation but they are damn hard to beat. Indeed, going into their pre-tournament friendly schedule they hadn’t lost in almost two years since June 2014. That 17-match run encompasses a hugely impressive record in qualifying – they were one of just four teams to go unbeaten (along with England, Austria and Italy) and includes a handsome win over Denmark and creditable draws with Italy and Spain.
Everything stems from a solid back four and they qualified with the best defensive record of the lot – Anghel Lordenescu’s disciplined charges conceding a miserly two goals as they won five and drew five of their group games. Take a look at their history on the big stage and it’s also pretty impressive. Led by the enigmatic Gheorghe Hagi, they made it all the way to the quarter-finals of the 1994 World Cup, only missing out on the last four after losing on penalties to Sweden.
They made the last 16 four years later and also reached the last eight at Euro 2000. They may have been through a meagre period since then but they have tended to give a good account of themselves when they make it to the main event.
Captain and defensive rock Vlad Chiriches is their best player, while winger Gabriel Torje is often the man to provide a creative spark. They do tend to lack goals so striker Bogdan Stancu is a man they’ll need to have a big tournament.
An iron-clad defence paints a picture that Romania will be stubborn to break down. Amazingly, they were unbeaten in 17 games prior to May’s friendly defeat to Ukraine, conceding just six and keeping 12 clean sheets in that time. Despite a lack of goals, they’re not reliant on one player in particular, goals in qualifying shared among eight different players. Paul Papp, Constantin Budescu and Bogdan Stancu all found the back of the net twice.
Though their defence was imperious in qualifying, it’s at the other end of the pitch where Romania struggle. Of the 24 teams, they have the joint-fewest goals in qualifying (with Wales and Hungary). They found the back of the net just 11 times, including a 1-0 win over the Faroe Islands and striker Bogdan Stancu will need a big tournament. This current crop also lacks genuine quality.Their star names are at the back, including Razvan Rat and Vlad Chiriches.
STAR MAN – VLAD CHIRICHES
An ever present for his country during their qualifying campaign, playing all 900 minutes en route to France. This comes despite the fact he has seen very little game time for his club side, Napoli, this season, where he has made just 16 appearances in all competitions. He came to prominence when Tottenham signed the centre-back from Steaua Bucharest in August 2013, but after a bright start to his Spurs career, he fell down the pecking order and eventually made the switch to Serie A.
Romania are welldrilled and should not be taken lightly. However, getting out of the group will be tough, given France and the Swiss are there. Reaching the last-16 will be a coup but is not beyond them.