Belfast Telegraph

Niall McGinn isn't buying Romanian rivals' hard luck story

By Paul Ferguson

In Bucharest this week they’ve been portraying Romania as a troubled team. A wounded side in need of sympathy.

New coach Anghel Iordanescu is reluctantly in charge, key players are injured and star performers are struggling to find first-team football at their respective clubs.

In his third spell as national team boss — he was third choice for the position — Iordanescu insisted earlier this week that he wished Victor Piturca, who left after Romania’s last game against Finland four weeks ago for a lucrative deal with Ittihad in Saudi Arabia, was still in charge.

He lamented the fact forwards Ciprian Marica and Raul Rusescu, defenders Gabriel Tamas and Dorin Goian and midfielder Alexandru Bourceanu have all been ruled out of tomorrow’s night’s game, that experienced stand-in skipper Razvan Rat is a major doubt with a groin injury while Vlad Chiriches of Tottenham and Florin Gardos are not appearing regularly for their respective clubs.

Yet Northern Ireland’s flying winger Niall McGinn, who arrived in Bucharest with his team-mates late last night, is showing no signs of pity towards Romania and doesn’t buy their hard luck story.

The Aberdeen winger expects Northern Ireland to face their toughest challenge of the campaign in the Arena Nationala tomorrow night.

Romania, who are in second place in Group F behind Northern Ireland on seven points having defeated Greece and Finland along with a draw against Hungary, have a rich history of producing exceptionally gifted players.

And McGinn anticipates those players who come in will not only be extremely talented, but also have a point to prove to the new boss.

“It can work for you or against you when a new manager takes over the opposition,” concedes McGinn. “All their boys will be looking to impress him and get into that starting XI. The whole week they’ll have been trying to impress, it’s the same at club or international level.

“I’m sure they’ll come out all guns blazing and we expect this match to be our toughest game to date.”

McGinn, having been the equalising hero in Budapest after coming off the bench, failed to shine after being given a chance from the start against the Faroe Islands at Windsor Park and then played no part in Northern Ireland’s terrific 2-0 win over Greece in Athens.

But with attacking midfielder Jamie Ward unavailable tomorrow night due to injury, 27-year-old McGinn gives boss Michael O’Neill another option in that area of the pitch, although MK Dons’ Ben Reeves also comes into the equation.

McGinn would love to play a role in Bucharest and help Northern Ireland go into the Christmas break with at least 10 points.

Victory is the ultimate goal, but McGinn would happily accept a draw and another point in Northern Ireland’s pursuit of automatic qualification to France in 2016.

McGinn says: “When the fixtures came out with three tough away games early, if you told us there was a chance we could have 10 points from four games we would have grabbed it. We believed in ourselves and the performances and results have come.

“It’s great to be a part of it because it puts our nation on the map, everyone is asking me about how well we’re doing.”

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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