Belfast Telegraph

Romania boss Iordanescu labels his side as underdogs

By Steven Beacom

Romania coach Anghel Iordanescu believes Friday's Euro 2016 qualifier against Northern Ireland is his nation's biggest game of the year.

It will also be Iordanescu's first match in his third spell in charge of the Romanian national team, having taken over from Victor Piturca just last month, and he has promised an attacking approach for the much anticipated visit of Michael O'Neill's men.

The clash in Bucharest sees the top two sides in Group F meet with leaders Northern Ireland sitting comfortably on nine points from nine with Romania, also unbeaten, on seven.

At yesterday's press conference to unveil his squad, Iordanescu declared that O'Neill's men are favourites for Friday's qualifier.

Mind games? Perhaps.

The 64-year-old is a canny old campaigner, who coached Romania between 2002 and 2004 and more memorably from 1993 to 1998, making the World Cup quarter-finals and qualifying for two other major tournaments in the country's most successful period.

Little wonder the Romanian Football Federation named him their 'Coach of the 20th Century'.

He has also managed Greece and at club level was player-assistant coach at Steaua Bucharest when they won the European Cup in 1986, beating Barcelona, bossed by Terry Venables, in the final.

As manager of Steaua, Iordanescu guided the club to Super Cup success in the same year, reached the European Cup final in 1989 and guided them to four league titles.

He won 57 caps as a player for Romania and intriguingly entered politics six years ago, serving as a senator between 2008 and 2012, before returning to football in 2013 becoming a Technical Director for the Federation, a role he has retained despite becoming the national team coach again.

Against Northern Ireland, Romania will be missing injured forwards Ciprian Marica and Raul Rusescu and defender Dorin Goian. He highlighted that yesterday when naming his squad which included seven Steaua Bucharest players for Friday and a friendly against Denmark next week.

O'Neill will be interested to learn that three uncapped players are in Iordanescu's 25-man panel - teenager George Puscas, who has scored 14 goals this season for Inter Milan's youth team though has yet to make his senior debut, Volyn Lutsk midfielder Eric Bicfalvi and FC Viitorul Constanta defender Bogdan Mitrea.

Iordanescu said: "Northern Ireland are favourites because they have won all of their qualifiers so far. They are dangerous on the counter attack and from set-pieces. The match is extremely important, perhaps it's the most important this year for us. It's delicate because there are many problems.

"I will not make big tactical changes," he added. "The changes will come in the future. I'll use the same system, 4-2-3-1, but I want the team to play attacking football. In addition to a secure defence I want us to threaten."

Last month the Romanians, who started the campaign by winning in Greece and Finland, drew 1-1 at home to fierce rivals Hungary, but it was a game marred by crowd trouble which was punished by Uefa.

The Romanian Football Federation were fined €32,000 for the disturbances, including fans throwing fireworks and missiles, using laser pointers and displaying illicit banners, and told to close a minimum of 2,500 seats for home fans inside the stadium against Northern Ireland

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