Romania in EURO 2024: A Sign of the Next Golden Generation?

Romania’s resurgence in EURO 2024 could be the sign of their next golden generation.

Romania has just returned to the major tournament by sealing their berth in EURO 2024. It is their first appearance in the international competition since EURO 2008. Moreover, they marked their comeback in style by snatching a win at the opener by crushing Ukraine 3-0, which is their only second win in the tournament’s history.

Prior to Germany 2024, Romania qualified in five editions: 1984, 1996, 2000, 2008, and 2016. In their debut, László Bölöni and ci only managed to hold the eventual runner-up, Spain, in a 1-1 draw but then lost to West Germany and Portugal in the remaining games at the group stage. They only sat at the bottom of the table.

In England in 1996, Anghel Iordănescu’s men had an even worse campaign than their debut. They slumped to three defeats, 1-0 against France and Bulgaria plus a 2-1 loss versus Spain consecutively. Meanwhile, in Austria-Switzerland 2008, Adrian Mutu and co still could not snatch three points in the competition. They mustered a goalless stalemate while taking on France and shared spoils versus Italy in a 1-1 draw. Yet they were beaten 2-0 by the Netherlands. Their last campaign in France in 2016 also ended terribly. They lost to the hosts and Albania, with a draw against Switzerland in between.

Romania’s best performance was in the Netherlands-Belgium 2000. Emerich Jenei’s side was able to pick up a 3-2 win over England in the decisive third game at the group stage after a 1-1 tie against Germany and a 1-0 defeat against Portugal. It was also their first victory in their history of participation. Unfortunately, Gheorghe Hagi and co failed to ease past Italy in the round of eight as they were beaten 2-0.

Their win in the first game of EURO 2024 could be the sign of their second golden generation. The first one emerged in the 1980s and 1990s, with the likes of Marius Lăcătuş, Miodrag Belodedici, Gheorghe Hagi, Florin Răducioiu, Illie Dimitrescu, Dan Petrescu, and Gheorghe Popescu as the protagonists. Moreover, there is more than meets the eye in the current Romanian team.

Iordănescu 2.0

Romania’s first golden generation could never be far from one specific name: Anghel Iordănescu. He was instrumental in Romanian football success, starting from his role as an assistant manager at Steaua Bucharest when they clinched the European Cup in 1986 by beating Barcelona on penalties.

He was then promoted to be the head coach and led them to the European Cup final in 1989. Unfortunately for them, they suffered a big loss to Dream Team AC Milan. Iordănescu was then appointed to take charge of the national team in 1993. He managed to help Hagi and co qualify for the 1994 and 1998 FIFA World Cups, reaching the quarterfinals plus the round of 16, respectively.

The current Romanian side marks the return of Iordănescu. Yet, instead of Anghel himself, it is his son, Edward, who leads the team. He managed to bring them to their first major tournament since EURO 2016, which was also led by his father in his last stint with the Romanian national team.

Edward Iordănescus Romania could be considered Iordanescu 2.0. The former CFR Cluj and CSKA-Sofia boss is underway to emulate his father’s success. His team qualified automatically for Germany 2024 after toppling Switzerland and Israel in the qualifiers. Dennis Man and co were unbeaten with six wins and four draws. The most notable results were a narrow win over La Nati 1-0 at home and a 2-2 draw on the road. Edward would surely hope to bring his team further than his father’s side. At least, they already have a positive start in their EURO campaign.

The Current Key Figures 

Romania’s key figures in the current team have been far from famous. Some of them were the mainstays who helped the U19 team reach the semifinals of the U19 EURO Championship in 2019. The likes of striker George Pușcaș, winger Florinel Coman, Parma’s Dennis Man, Adrian Rus, and Hagi’s son, the attacking midfielder and Glasgow Rangers loanee, Ianis, stunned England and Croatia with 4-2 and 4-1, respectively, before sharing spoils with France. Such results led them to finish as the group leader. Unfortunately, they lost 4-2 to Germany in the semifinal.

Beside those names, there are others who are still less well known. Spurs’ man, Radu Drăgușin, is probably the most notable one. The centre-back joined the North London side in the winter transfer window from Genoa. He was the key figure in helping them return to Serie A in 2023. The 22-year-old defender was not the mainstay at Spurs yet, as he only hit the pitch nine times in the Premier League. He previously played for Salernitana and Sampdoria before heading to Genoa.

The second goalscorer in the match against Ukraine, Răzvan Marin, is another well-recognised figure in the team. The current Empoli man has been capped 56 times and played for more well-known clubs such as Cagliari, Ajax Amsterdam, and Standard Liège. The 28-year-old midfielder even won silverware with the Dutch giant and the Belgian side. He helped them clinch the Eredivisie in 2020 and the Belgian Cup in 2018, respectively.

Last but not least, the third goalscorer at the opener, Denis Drăguş, is probably their next star. He has made 12 appearances in international fixtures and scored three goals so far. The 24-year-old forward is currently playing for Belgian side Standard Liège, but has been loaned out to Italy’s Crotone, Genoa, and Turkey’s Gaziantepspor. He registered 15 goals and two assists in 35 games with the Turkish Süper Lig side.

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