BUCHAREST, Reuters - With a team ethic built on discipline plus a strong defence, Romania bear more than a passing resemblance to the Greece team which sprang out of nowhere to win Euro 2004.
While few observers expect Anghel Iordanescu’s side to emulate that success, their ability to prevent other teams scoring ensures they will be one of the most difficult sides to break down in France.
Undefeated in 15 matches since June 2014, they kept clean sheets in 12 of those games including a goalless friendly against Spain last March.
So Group A rivals France, Albania and Switzerland know that even scoring against them will be an achievement when the action kicks off next month.
“We’re tactically astute at the back,” captain Razvan Rat said after the draw. “The idea is to not concede and from there create our own chances and score. The most important thing is the defence, to work at the back together and then attack together. You could compare it to the (Atletico) side of (Diego) Simeone. The most important thing in football is not to concede.”
The problem for Romania will be at the other end and a qualifying record of 11 goals from 10 matches — including a record goal drought of 428 minutes — suggests their games will be short on goalmouth thrills.
Iordanescu clearly feels he must rely on their defensive strengths, which have been honed by many a Romanian side over the years. The manager, who began this third spell as national coach in October 2014, was a hero of the 1994 World Cup team who beat Argentina 3-2 and reached the quarter-finals.
Back then, his reward was promotion from colonel to general in the Romanian army and he will again be feted if he takes a side with only one victory in 13 previous European Championship final games — a 3-2 win over England in 2000 — out of the group.
Critics accuse Romania of predictability, perhaps a byproduct of Iordanescu’s refusal to replace ageing players who have been marginalised by their clubs.
He is at least trying to introduce new blood with highly promising players such as Nicolae Stanciu, Florin Tanase and Andrei Ivan being given a chance.
Editing by Neil Robinson