Romania beat Israel’s Hungary 2-1 and qualified for the 2024 European Football Championship, which will take place in Germany between June 14 and July 14 next year.
It is Romania’s sixth appearance at the Euro after the editions of 1984, 1996, 2000, 2008 and 2016. The “Tricolori” missed the appearance at the last edition of the EC, the one from 2020, held in 2021 due to the pandemic, even though they played matches in Bucharest as well.
Originally a much more difficult tournament in the early stages than the World Cup, where the number of teams was greater, the Euros have become much more accessible in recent years. Practically, in the last 50 years, the number of teams has increased six times (from 4 to 24).
Here are 5 milestones in the history of the national team’s participation in the European Football Championships.
1. I missed the first six tournaments, but I ticked off a “quarter”
The longest period in which Romania did not participate in the final Euro tournaments was from the start of the competition, from 1960, until 1984. That means six tournaments (1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980).
It should be noted, however, that only four teams qualified for the first five of them, playing in the semi-final – final system.
Even though we did not actually go to a final tournament, we came very close to the semi-finals in 1972. After a preliminary group won against Czechoslovakia, Wales and Finland, Romania advanced to the play-off against Hungary, a kind of quarter-final.
After two matches ended in a draw, 1-1 and 2-2, the Romanians traveled to Belgrade for a replay on neutral ground. It was 2-1 for Hungary at the Partizan Stadium after an 89th-minute winning goal by István Szőke.
2. Gică Hagi, the only one with three tournaments
The first qualification came in 1984, when the “tricolors”, with a 19-year-old Hagi, participated in only the second tournament with 8 teams.
They drew only once, 1-1 with Spain, and lost against West Germany (1-2) and Portugal (0-1).
In the match against Spain, Ladislau Bölöni became Romania’s first scorer at a final tournament of the European Championship.
Hagi did not score, but he would mark two more final tournaments, the one in 1996 and the one in 2000. He is still the only Romanian with three Euro tournaments.
3. The worst ranking, in 1996. But also a phantom goal
The European Championship of the Golden Generation was, paradoxically, the weakest for Romania. Paradoxical because the “tricolors” were coming from the best performance in history, a quarter-final at the World Championship in the United States – 1994.
In 1996, Romania lost all three matches at the Euro and scored only one goal, Răducioiu against Spain (1-2).
In the second stage of the groups, the “tricolors” were defeated by Bulgaria. Still at the limit, 0-1. A match in which Dorinel Munteanu scored a valid goal, a ball that bounced off the crossbar beyond the goal line and returned to the field. Without VAR, the referee let the game continue.
4. We have only one win from 16 matches and 10 goals in 5 tournaments
A sad reality: in the five tournaments so far, Romania has only one success. In 15 matches!
A victory recorded at Euro 2000. In the very last match of the group, the “tricolors” led (1-0) and then turned back England, managing to beat 3-2. The winning goal, scored by Ionel Ganea, came from a converted penalty in the 89th minute.
Practically, almost a third of the 10 goals scored by Romania in Euro history came in this match.
The same tournament also recorded two other firsts: it was the first time Romania ticked off two Euro tournaments in a row. And the first time he left the group.
However, Italy did not take pity on us. 2-0 and a red card received by Hagi which also meant his last game for the national team. Reaching the final, the Italians would be defeated by France.
5. The last two tournaments, at indigo: good start, weak finish
The last two final tournaments had similar developments. Romania started well against France (0-0 in 2008, 1-2 in 2016, with a late goal scored by Payet in the opening match in Paris).
A draw followed, 1-1, against Italy in 2008 and against Switzerland in 2016. In the first situation, Mutu missed a penalty that would have meant the qualification of the “tricolors” in the “quarters”.
Both in 2008 and 2016, the “tricolors” got stuck in the final match. Already qualified Netherlands managed us a 2-0 sec (2008), while Albania made the surprise in 2016 (0-1). A result that eliminated both teams.
Romania’s last two goals at the Euro were scored by Bogdan Stancu, both from the penalty spot. The last goal in action, Mutu’s against Italy.