The Romanian national football team is coming back into great form as their most recent generation blend brilliantly with the former stalwarts. Wins against Estonia, Turkey and Belgium has got hope increasing in the country whose domestic league has been decimated by financial irregularities in the past five years. Is Romanian football back on the up?
There are not many countries in European football who have been through a rougher time of it then Romania in recent years. Firstly on a domestic front the league has been hit by numerous financial problems. Liga I the top division of Romanian football has seen a huge increase in competition as the dominance of the Bucharest sides Steaua, Rapid and Dinamo has faded away in recent years. Other clubs have invested heavily in foreign talent in order to counter-act the long-time established clubs who dominated the league for so long.
This has seen the likes of Unirea Urziceni, CFR Cluj, Otelul Galati and FC Timisoara break the top two of the league with no club from the capital winning the league since 2006-07. Considering the previous 16 occasions the title was taken back to Bucharest it is an incredible feat.
However the price has, in some cases, outweighed the triumph. FC Timisoara collapsed under the weight of heavy debts and a similar fate befell 2009 national champions Unirea Urziceni who just a year after playing in the Champions League for the first time were dissolved after the clubs owner Dumitru Bucsaru could no longer afford to keep a hefty wage bill afloat.
Then there are other stalwart clubs who have suffered due to various irregularities such as four time winners and 1983 UEFA Cup semi-finalists Universitatea Craiova who are currently in the midst of a battle with the Romanian Football Federation over their membership. Arges Pitesti the infamous Violet Eagles who brought us Adrian Mutu are also two time winners but found themselves expelled for financial issues in 2009 and now play in the second division.
The same problems have been mirrored by the national side in recent years. The Gheorge Hagi era firmly behind the side who once infamously knocked England out of the Euros in the year 2000 and Argentina from USA 1994. Their last international competition was the Euros in 2008 when they were dumped out of the ‘Group of Death’ finishing below The Netherlands and Italy but ahead of France. They scored one goal in that competition, Adrian Mutu grabbing it against Italy. Perhaps his career is an adjacent slide to that of his nation.
The next golden era of Mutu, Chivu, Radoi and Contra did not bring what many hoped and the recent qualification campaigns have been poor. In 1997 the Tricolorii were ranked as the third best team in the world; in September they dropped to an all-time low of 57th.
After their recent qualifying campaigns where they have failed to make the play-offs few would predict glory for them this time around in a tough group containing Holland, Turkey, Hungary, Estonia and Andorra.
However they are a nation galvanised and being led by Razvan Rat, the indomitable Shakhthar stalwart cannot hurt. They defeated play-off entrants for Euro 2012 Estonia 2-0 away and followed it up with a predictably comfortable 4-0 triumph over Andorra. The greatest result was to follow when they took on Turkey away and came away with a 1-0 victory.
A fortnight ago they took on Belgium; the side fast growing a reputation as the most dangerous emerging national side around. The result was a surprise; 2-1 to Romania.
Players such as Vlad Chiriches, Valerica Gaman, Alexandru Maxim and Marius Alexe are gifted young players who are as yet unknown to opposition.
We truly could be witnessing the re-birth of Romanian football in front of our very eyes.