Romania, not such dark horses
Having been drawn alongside Italy, France and the Netherlands in Group C, not many people would have predicted Romania would hold their own destiny and that of the world champions and World Cup finalists in their own hands going into the final group matches.
But my Reuters colleagues at Euro 2008 and friends back in Brussels — who are not laughing at me now — will testify that I was one of the few to tip the eastern Europeans as the dark horses to progress from the toughest group at the tournament.
Victory for Romania over the Netherlands on Tuesday would secure a quarter-final spot for Victor Piturca’s side, no matter what the result is between Italy and France. A draw in both games would also see the Romanians through and there are lots of other permutations, too many to explain here.
Any team that finished above the Dutch in qualification, beating them at home and drawing in Rotterdam, had to be taken seriously. Romania in fact lost just one game en route to Austria and Switzerland. A record any top team would be proud of.
Did France and Italy take them seriously enough in their two draws?
They are not the prettiest of teams to watch at Euro 2008, but if you could package them up, they certainly would do what is said on the tin. Very well organized, hold their shape, and very disciplined. In Adrian Mutu they have a match winner and captain Cristian Chivu can control and run a game from midfield at any level.
But they are not in the quarter-finals yet and face the daunting task of a rampant Dutch team. Will Romania regret the penalty miss from Mutu that would have all but sealed their passage to the last eight? Or will they be helped by the already qualified Dutch resting a few key players?
Marco Van Basten has promised to go all out for a win. But surely meeting Romania again in the semi-finals is a much more attractive proposition than playing Italy or France.
PHOTO: Romania’s Razvan Rat leaves the pitch with a bloodied face at half-time in the match against Italy in Zurich, June 13, 2008. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich