Belfast Telegraph

Euro 2016: Iordanescu's high hopes for O'Neill

By Steven Beacom

Romania manager Anghel Iordanescu has declared that he would love to have several of the Northern Ireland players in his team and outlined his hope that Michael O'Neill's men, along with his own side, reach the Euro 2016 finals.

Iordanescu was satisfied following Saturday night's 0-0 draw between the teams at Windsor Park which kept Romania top of Group F, one point clear of Northern Ireland.

Third-placed Hungary play both sides in September.

Known as 'the General', Iordanescu is quite a character. He has a background in politics and did his best to win friends in this part of the world in his press conference after the match.

"I hope Northern Ireland qualify automatically. Northern Ireland have shown great progress in the past year," he said.

"You have an admirable fighting spirit which pushes players forward to attack. You also have some wonderful players, a few lads we would wish to have in our team. If you beat Hungary, and we beat Hungary, then probably we will qualify together."

Pressed on which Northern Ireland players he would wish to have, Iordanescu, in his third spell as Romania boss, smiled before answering.

His reply: "It is not very fair to outline some players from your squad. It is your squad after all, but I have to admit Kyle Lafferty is one of them. He is a very powerful, determined player.

"He calls for the ball and has the ability to cover the width of the pitch. Also Jamie Ward and Jonny Evans are two very good players."

On the match itself, Iordanescu said: "It was a very tough game. I've said it once, and I repeat it again, Northern Ireland are not a surprise in the group.

"Their squad has a lot of quality players. They deserve every point gained in this group.

"We didn't manage to play this game in our usual style. The physical toughness of the Northern Ireland side was evident. For us though we managed to earn a very important point.

"We had a good fighting spirit. Our main quality usually is our possession, but it was our fighting spirit that got us this point.

"We were playing in a difficult period, at the end of the season. Remember, our Steaua Bucharest players played in three competitions, so it is impressive we were able to perform the way we did against a strong team like Northern Ireland."

The 65-year-old added that he was not surprised by the stand out result on Saturday night in Group F with the Faroe Islands beating Greece to move into fourth place in the table.

"They have gained six points against Greece, so that shows you how football is changing," he said.

Belfast Telegraph