Northern Ireland v Romania

v ROMANIA NORTHERN IRELAND OFFICIAL MATCHDAY PROGRAMME £4

# GAWA UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE LEAGUE B GROUP 1 NATIONAL FOOTBALL STADIUM AT WINDSOR PARK 18.11.20 19:45

CONTENTS

TEAMS

2 3 5

PRESIDENT’S WELCOME

IAN BARACLOUGH PATRICK NELSON 7 NORTHERN IRELAND SQUAD 20 DID YOU KNOW? 22 THE OPPONENTS - ROMANIA 35 ROMANIA SQUAD 36 FACTFILE ROMANIA 38 INTERNATIONAL RECORD 45 MASCOTS 56

Official Publication by Irish Football Association National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, Donegall Avenue, Belfast, BT12 6LW Head of Communications Danny Lynch Editor Nigel Tilson Design and Print Minprint Ltd, 401 Castlereagh Road, Belfast, Co Down, BT5 6QP Tel: 028 9070 5205 www.minprint.co.uk

Irish Football Association President David Martin Deputy President Jack Grundie

Chief Executive Patrick Nelson Advertising Irish Football Association Pictures Press Eye

Please note that the views in this programme do not necessarily reflect those of the Irish Football Association. Gavin Whyte heads home Northern Ireland’s equaliser in the UEFA Nations League match against Romania in Bucharest back in September. The game ended 1-1. Cover: Stuart Dallas, seen here in action against Romania in September, won his 50th cap for his country in the

Euro 2020 Play-Off Final against Slovakia last Thursday. See inside for a special Did You Know? feature on Stuart.

NORTHERN IRELAND

ROMANIA

Ian Baraclough Manager

Mirel Radoi Manager

Michael McGovern Norwich City Bailey Peacock-Farrell Burnley Conor Hazard Celtic Jonathan Evans Leicester City Craig Cathcart Watford Stuart Dallas Leeds United Shane Ferguson Millwall Conor McLaughlin Sunderland Jamal Lewis Newcastle United Michael Smith Heart of Midlothian Tom Flanagan Sunderland Daniel Ballard Blackpool* Ryan McLaughlin Rochdale Patrick McNair Middlesbrough Gavin Whyte Cardiff City Ethan Galbraith Manchester United Alistair McCann St Johnstone Matthew Kennedy Aberdeen Josh Magennis Hull City Conor Washington Charlton Athletic Liam Boyce Heart of Midlothian

Ciprian Tatarusanu AC Milan Valentin Cojocaru Viitorul Constanta David Lazar Astra Giurgiu Vlad Chiriches Sassuolo Alin Tosca Gaziantep Ionut Nedelcearu AEK Athens Cristian Ganea Aris Bogdan Tiru Jagiellonia Bialystok Iulian Cristea FCSB Vasile Mogos Chievo Mario Camora CFR Cluj Valentin Cretu FCSB Bogdan Mitrea Sepsi Sfantu Gheorghe Alexandru Maxim Gaziantep Razvan Marin Cagliari Eric Bicfalvi Ural Yekaterinburg Alexandru Baluta Puskas Akademia

Dan Nistor U Craiova Florin Tanase FCSB Cristian Albu UTA Arad Dennis Man FCSB George Puscas Reading Denis Alibec Kayserispor

*on loan from Arsenal

Green and White

Yellow, Red and Blue

Referee Assistant Referee 1 Assistant Referee 2 Fourth Official Observer MATCH OFFICIALS

Sandro Schärer SUI Jan Köbeli SUI Jonas Erni SUI Fedayi San SUI John Ward IRE

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PRESIDENT’S WELCOME

On behalf of the Irish Football Association it gives me great pleasure to welcome the players and officials of the Romanian Football Federation (Federația Română De Fotbal) to the National Football Stadium in Belfast for tonight’s UEFA Nations League game.

It has been a difficult week for Northern Ireland with the team falling just short in the Euro 2020 play-off final against Slovakia where fine margins were the determining factor in a match that really could have gone in our favour. There is such a short turnaround time for players when involved in triple headers and recovery has been made even more challenging with the playing of 30 minutes extra time in Belfast last Thursday night. Still, with eight changes to the starting line-up, Northern Ireland produced a fine performance against Austria in Vienna on Sunday despite losing by two goals to one. It was particularly disappointing that the Austrian equaliser in that Nations League match appeared to be considerably offside, leaving everyone wondering what would have happened had the goal been disallowed. Tonight is the third and final game of the triple header and the squad will be sure to want to finish the series of games with a win at home in advance of the FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers draw which is due to take place in Nyon on 7 December. The 1-1 draw in Bucharest back in September produced Northern Ireland’s sole point in League B Group 1 of the Nations League to date, while Romania have three points more, so this should be a big relegation battle.

However, the consequences of the unplayed game between Romania and Norway scheduled for Sunday last in Bucharest are now set to be discussed by the UEFA Disciplinary Committee, so their decision could be the determining factor in the relegation issue. I trust that the 1000 or so supporters in attendance tonight will enjoy an exciting game and that the game will be played in a true spirit of fair play. In so many ways 2020 has been a challenging year for everyone and it will be good if the New Year brings a Covid-19 vaccine which will allow the country, and the rest of the world, to return to some form of normality. From a football perspective it will be great to welcome supporters back into grounds, providing not only revenue but also the vital support which in turn affords atmosphere that has been lacking at games. Christmas is only a few weeks away and I wish all Northern Ireland supporters every good wish over the festive holiday period in addition to a Happy New Year 2021. Thanks to all in attendance tonight. Enjoy the game and have a safe journey home. David J Martin President Irish Football Association

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MANAGER’S VIEW

Football can be a very harsh game and often you don’t get the rewards that performances deserve. That has definitely been the case in our two matches over the past week or so.

I felt we produced a good performance against Slovakia in the Euro 2020 Path B Play-Off Final at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park last Thursday. We controlled the game for long spells, created several more chances than the opposition and battled hard when we needed to. Despite falling behind we kept going, showing tremendous spirit. And I thought there would only be one winner after we equalised, however Slovakia hit us with a sucker punch in extra time. Naturally, the players were devastated afterwards and it will take a while to get over that defeat. This season’s UEFA Nations League campaign has been hard to swallow, too. We have competed well in every game apart from the home match against Norway when we deserved to lose. Before Sunday’s game in Austria we had a good chat about what lies ahead, with a focus on the remaining Nations League games and next year’s World Cup qualifiers in particular. Despite conceding two late goals, and leaving Vienna empty handed, there were a lot of positives in the performance against the Austrians at the Ernst Happel Stadion. I thought the players who came in to the team on Sunday acquitted themselves really well. And it proved once again, just like in the away match against the Norwegians last month, that we have good depth to our squad. I felt we defended superbly, had a good shape and looked sharp on the counter attack in Vienna, while Josh produced a great finish to give us the lead. I was particularly pleased with the performances of the two youngest players on the pitch, Alistair McCann (20) and Daniel Ballard (21). Alistair had a fine senior debut, while Daniel continues to blossom as a no-nonsense centre back. Of course, we were not helped by a poor refereeing decision on Austria’s first goal. Their scorer was clearly offside. Unfortunately, however, we can’t change such decisions after the event.

Looking to tonight’s match, I would like to finish what has been a frustrating Nations League campaign on a high. We fought back well with 10 men to claim a point after falling behind against the Romanians in Bucharest in September. It will be tough again tonight – international matches are never easy – but I believe we can register that Nations League victory which has proved to be elusive to date across two editions of the competition. At the time of writing it was unclear if Romania would be given a 3-0 walkover win – and therefore three points – after their game against Norway was called off at the weekend by the Norwegian government, who refused to allow their national team to travel to Bucharest due to Covid restrictions. If Romania are not awarded the three points by UEFA then we will have all to play for tonight. We could still avoid relegation to the third tier in the Nations League with a win against our nearest rivals in the group. We currently have one point while the Romanians have four, but the score draw in Bucharest and a win tonight would mean we would have the better head-to-head record. Whatever the outcome we will be doing our utmost to give the 1060 fans in the ground something to cheer about. After tonight we will begin to prepare for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers which will get under way with a triple header in March. The draw will be made early next month and the homework and analysis will begin immediately after we learn who we will face in those qualifiers in March, September, October and November next year. Please enjoy tonight’s match whether you are lucky enough to be in the stands or are watching at home on television. Ian Baraclough Northern Ireland Manager

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GOOD EVENING

If a week is a long time in politics (as was famously once said by former Prime Minister Harold Wilson) then this week has felt like an eternity for the Irish Football Association and football in Northern Ireland.

This time last week we were eagerly looking forward to our UEFA Euro 2020 Path B Play-Off Final against Slovakia in Belfast and also our UEFA Nations League match against Austria in Vienna. As we all now know our Euro 2020 hopes were extinguished with a Slovakian goal in extra time, and on Sunday our planned bounceback at the Ernst Happel Stadion came unstuck in the last 10 minutes. That’s the essence of sport, though, and we know it. The ecstasy of winning is always met with the despair of defeat, and it was our turn to suffer a double dose of the latter over the past seven days. Tonight we figuratively get back on the horse and welcome Romania to the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park for our final game in this the second edition of the UEFA Nations League, and indeed our last senior men’s match of 2020. Although we played very well in Austria on Sunday, we came back empty handed, so against our visitors Ian and his squad will want to put that right and finish what has been a strange year for all of us with a flourish. Hot on the heels of tonight’s match will be the draw for the FIFA World Cup 2022 European qualifiers. The draw takes place in Zurich on 7 December. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and related restrictions

the ceremony will be held as a virtual event without the presence of member associations’ representatives. The qualifiers themselves start up in March, and continue in September, October and November next year, so the road to Qatar is only just around the corner. It’s perhaps hard to do right now but let’s put away the disappointment of not making it to our second Euros in a row and focus on the FIFA World Cup instead! Finally, let’s not forget that at the end of this month our senior women’s team will complete group stage qualifiers for the upcoming UEFA Women’s Euro finals in England with games against Belarus and the Faroe Islands at Seaview in Belfast. Two wins in these matches will give us at least a play-off berth, which will be a fabulous achievement for Kenny Shiels and his squad. When one Euro dream dies, another one is born! Enjoy the game tonight and let’s finish 2020 on a high.

Patrick Nelson Chief Executive Irish Football Association

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NORTHERN IRELAND 1 SKRINIAR 87' OG SLOVAKIA 2 KUCKA 17', DURIS 110' AET SLOVAKIA QUALIFY FOR EURO 2020

UEFA EURO 2020 PATH B PLAY-OFF FINAL 12.11.2020 National Football Stadium at Windsor Park

STATS

POSSESSION %

46

54

SHOTS

16

9

SHOTS ON TARGET

3

3

CORNERS

6

1

FOULS

13

11

TEAMS

1 Peacock-Farrell 14 Dallas 20 Cathcart 5 J Evans 3 Lewis 7 McGinn 17 McNair 8 Davis 6 Saville 16 Washington 21 Magennis

1 Rodák 2 Pekarík 16 Satka 14 Skriniar 15 Hubocan 22 Lobotka 10 Rusnák 19 Kucka 17 Hamsik 20 Mak 8 Duda

Substitutes

Substitutes

2 McLaughlin 4 Flanagan 9 Boyce 10 Lafferty 11 Ferguson 12 McGovern 13 McCann 15 Thompson

3 Pauschek 4 Valjent 5 Gyömbér

6 Gregus 7 Suslov 9 Mazán

11 Mráz 12 Jakubech 13 Hrosovsky 18 Safranko

18 Whyte 19 Smith 22 Ballard 23 Hazard

21 Duris 23 Greif

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Words Nigel Tilson

NORTHERN IRELAND SUFFER PLAY-OFF FINAL HEARTBREAK

Northern Ireland were narrowly beaten by Slovakia in the UEFA Euro 2020 Path B Play-Off Final in Belfast.

An extra-time strike from substitute Michal Duris was enough to secure a 2-1 victory for the Slovakians as they booked their place at next summer’s European Championship finals. In front of just over 1000 noisy fans at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park the home team created 10 chances to Slovakia’s six during the 120-plus minutes last Thursday but they could not quite find the cutting edge in front of goal. Showing just one change from the team that started the last four encounter against Bosnia and Herzegovina last month, with Conor Washington replacing the injured Corry Evans, the boys in green and white made the early running but their final ball let them down.

The first effort came after seven minutes when Paddy McNair got on the end of a Jamal Lewis cross, however McNair’s header was easily collected by Slovakian keeper Marek Rodak. The Slovakian’s first shot – an Albert Rusnak drive from an angle – flew over the top but they took the lead on 16 minutes when George Saville misdirected a header and Juraj Kucka latched on to the ball before striding forward and finding the net with a low drive. In the 21st minute Northern Ireland almost grabbed an equaliser. Niall McGinn’s cross-cum-shot had Rodak back-peddling but he managed to tip the ball over the bar.

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On the half-hour mark Stuart Dallas blocked a goalbound shot from Robert Mak, while a McNair shot down the other end was blocked by Tomas Hubocan. Towards the end of the half Northern Ireland pushed forward. Dallas screwed a shot well wide of the target and then McGinn fired an effort over the bar from just inside the area. After the restart Baraclough’s boys continued to press. McNair and McGinn both produced inviting crosses before Saville steered an effort wide of the upright. McGinn played in Washington but he shot straight at the keeper. Kucka fizzed a shot wide and then for a lengthy spell Slovakia soaked up pressure through quick passing and good distribution from the back, especially from Milan Skriniar and Lubomir Satka, while Northern Ireland’s final ball again too often let them down. The fans made plenty of noise as the home side tried to find a breakthrough but the Slovakian back line stood firm. Strikes from Jamal Lewis, substitute Kyle Lafferty and McNair were blocked before substitute Jordan Thompson dragged a shot wide.

In the 87th minute Northern Ireland’s persistence paid off and they levelled through a Skriniar own goal. McNair exchanged passes with substitute Gavin Whyte before his running power took him to the byline and his cutback was turned into his own net by the defender. Two minutes later Whyte fed Lafferty, who evaded his markers before smashing a shot against the post. It was so, so close. Northern Ireland withstood some late Slovakian pressure before the game entered extra time. The first effort on target in the extra period saw Lafferty’s scooped shot easily collected by Rodak before Slovakian playmaker Marek Hamsik’s tame effort nestled in Bailey Peacock-Farrell’s arms. Slovakia took the lead again on 110 minutes when a long ball hit Jonny Evans’ thigh and substitute Michal Duris picked up the loose ball before slipping past Evans and netting with a crisp low shot. It proved to be the winner. Right at the death Thompson swung in a cross which was met by Evans but Rodak was equal to his header and that was the last meaningful action of the match.

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EXCLUSIVE RETAIL PARTNER

AUSTRIA 2 SCHAUB 81', GRBIC 87' NORTHERN IRELAND 1 MAGENNIS 74'

UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE LEAGUE B GROUP 1 15.11.2020 Ernst Happel Stadium, Austria

STATS

POSSESSION %

71

29

SHOTS

10

5

SHOTS ON TARGET

3

2

CORNERS

11

1

FOULS

15

9

TEAMS 12 Pervan 21 Lainer

Substitutes 1 McGovern 22 Ballard 2 C McLaughlin 4 Flanagan 14 Dallas 17 McNair 19 Smith 13 McCann 11 Ferguson 16 Washington 9 Boyce 3 Lewis 5 J Evans 6 Galbraith 8 Davis 12 Peacock-Farrell 15 R McLaughlin 18 Whyte

3 Dragovic 4 Hinteregger 2 Ulmer 14 Baumgartlinger 6 Ilsanker 23 Schlager 9 Sabitzer 8 Alaba 11 Gregoritsch

Substitutes

1 Schlager 5 Trauner 7 Arnautovic 10 Schaub 13 Stankovic 15 Ranftl 16 Grbic 17 Holzhauser 18 Zulj 19 Kalajdzic 20 Onisiwo 22 Wiesinger

20 Cathcart 21 Magennis 23 Hazard

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NORTHERN IRELAND SQUAD

MICHAEL McGOVERN GOALKEEPER

JONATHAN EVANS DEFENDER

CONOR HAZARD GOALKEEPER

BAILEY PEACOCK-FARRELL GOALKEEPER

Club

Club

Celtic Club

Club

Norwich City

Burnley

Leicester City

Age Caps Goals 36 33 0

Age Caps Goals

Age Caps Goals 22 1 0

Age Caps Goals 32 88 4

24 18

0

SHANE FERGUSON DEFENDER

CRAIG CATHCART DEFENDER

STUART DALLAS DEFENDER

CONOR McLAUGHLIN DEFENDER

Club

Club

Club

Club

Watford

Leeds United

Millwall

Sunderland

Age Caps Goals 31 56 2

Age Caps Goals 29 51 3

Age Caps Goals 29 46 1

Age Caps Goals 29 41 1

JAMAL LEWIS DEFENDER

MICHAEL SMITH DEFENDER

TOM FLANAGAN DEFENDER

DANIEL BALLARD DEFENDER

Club

Club

Club

Club

Newcastle United

Heart of Midlothian

Sunderland

Blackpool

Age Caps Goals 22 17 0

Age Caps Goals 32 13 1

Age Caps Goals 28 8 0

Age Caps Goals 21 4 0

*On loan from Arsenal

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RYAN McLAUGHLIN MIDFIELDER

PATRICK McNAIR MIDFIELDER

GAVIN WHYTE MIDFIELDER

Club

Club

Club

Rochdale

Middlesbrough

Cardiff City

Age Caps Goals 26 5 0

Age Caps Goals 25 41 4

Age Caps Goals 24 15 2

ETHAN GALBRAITH MIDFIELDER

ALISTAIR McCANN MIDFIELDER

MATTHEW KENNEDY MIDFIELDER

Club

Club

Club

Manchester United

Aberdeen

St Johnstone

Age Caps Goals

Age Caps Goals

Age Caps Goals 19 1 0

20 1

0

261 0

0

JOSH MAGENNIS FORWARD

CONOR WASHINGTON FORWARD

LIAM BOYCE FORWARD

Club

Club

Club

Hull City

Charlton Athletic

Heart of Midlothian

Age Caps Goals 30 56 7

Age Caps Goals 28 28 4

Age Caps Goals 29 26 1

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DID YOU KNOW? STUART DALLAS SPECIAL

Words Marshall Gillespie

Leeds United defender/midfielder Stuart Dallas earned his 50th cap for Northern Ireland in the Path B Play-Off Final defeat against Slovakia last week. Here Marshall Gillespie delves deep into his international career to unearth some fascinating facts about the man affectionately known by the GAWA as the Cookstown Cafu. All statistics were correct prior to the Nations League game v Austria on Sunday when Stuart both captained his country for the first time and earned his 51st cap

Stuart Dallas made his Northern Ireland debut on 27 May 2011 in a 2-0 Carling Nations Cup defeat to Wales at Aviva Stadium in Dublin while still plying his trade in the Irish League with Crusaders. That was to be his only cap when with the North Belfast side, while the majority of his 50 appearances have been during his time with Leeds United (45) and the remaining games with his first English club, Brentford (four).

During his nine-year international career Stuart Dallas has only ever picked up five yellow cards. His first was on that memorable day in Lyon when Northern Ireland defeated Ukraine 2-0 at Euro 2016. His other cautions came against Wales (June 2016), Norway (March 2017), Belarus (June 2019) and Netherlands (November 2019).

Stuart played four games for Northern Ireland at under-17 level during the 2007-08 season. And in the squad at that time were his current international team-mates Conor McLaughlin and Shane Ferguson. Dallas also played two games for the Northern Ireland under-21 side, his debut being against Denmark in September 2011 with his only other appearance being a friendly defeat to Hungary in August 2012. He has also represented his country at Junior and under-23 levels.

Stuart has chalked up six assists during his half- century of caps. Two of them have led to goals from skipper Steven Davis, while he has also assisted goals for Josh Magennis, Kyle Lafferty, Conor Washington and Niall McGinn.

Dallas has scored three international goals for his country. He first found the net in the 1-1 friendly encounter with Qatar at Gresty Road, Crewe, in May 2015 in what was only his fourth full international appearance. He had to wait just over two years, June 2017, before registering his second when he scored the only goal of the game in injury time in a World Cup qualifier in Baku versus Azerbaijan. His third and last goal was in a convincing 3-0 victory over Israel at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park in September 2018.

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As everyone knows Dallas started out his career in Northern Ireland with Coagh United before spending two seasons with Crusaders where he scored 27 goals in 93 games before earning a move to Brentford. In his three-year spell at Griffin Park he made 75 appearances, finding the net 10 times, and he scored three goals in a dozen matches during a brief loan spell with Northampton Town. The 29-year-old is currently one short of 200 games for his present employers Leeds United for whom he has scored 20 goals.

Dallas has played a total of 3936 minutes during his 50 appearances for Northern Ireland. He has played more minutes in Euro qualifiers than in any other competition - 1599 - while 905 have come in friendlies, 762 in World Cup qualifiers, 643 in the Nations League and 27 in the now defunct Carling Nations Cup.

Northern Ireland’s defeat to Slovakia last Thursday night was Stuart’s 23rd international at the National Stadium and the eighth time he has tasted defeat on home soil. Of the remaining matches 12 ended in victory and three in draws. Away from home he has played 21 internationals, winning seven, drawing seven and losing seven, while the remaining six matches were at neutral venues with one win, one draw and four defeats being recorded.

Dallas has started 43 of his 50 games for Northern Ireland and has only been substituted on 14 occasions. He has only been an unused substitute once, which was against the Republic of Ireland in May 2011, just three days before he made his full international debut. His full record reads: P W D L W% D% L% 50 20 11 19 40 22 38

Ian Baraclough is the third Northern Ireland manager that Stuart Dallas has played under. Nigel Worthington gave him his debut, his only appearance under the former Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United defender. The majority of his international games, 43, came during Michael O’Neill’s reign and he played in all six of Baraclough’s games in charge this season prior to the Austria match on Sunday.

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Just over 1000 socially distanced fans were allowed in to the 18,500-capacity National Football Stadium at Windsor Park for last Thursday’s Euro 2020 play-off final against Slovakia.

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THE SUPPORT IS THERE – EVEN FROM A DISTANCE!

One of the problems with the empty stadiums or vastly reduced spectator numbers at the moment is that there are few voices to offer players support and encouragement.

approached by a Dungannon man wanting to know if there were any boys from his home town in the squad; there was and they shared a mutual acquaintance. Fans play a vital part in any team’s successes. The success of a World Cup tournament is often judged by how far the home team goes in the competition as this tends to enthuse the population and add excitement to all the matches and venues, but now we are forced to doing without. We are home based fans enjoying or enduring the highs and lows via the TV, fans by proxy. No matter how hard we sing, how ardent our support, it is remote and the players must have faith to believe that it is still there, but there it is. I can’t quite make up my mind if I prefer the matches on TV with only the calls of the players/managers/coaches or whether it is better with the added crowd noise. I think probably the former. These are not normal times and maybe we all need to remember that. Of course some day (soon we trust) fans will be able to return to the stadiums, with no restrictions and no risk. We can look forward to the noise, the chatter, the singing, the calling, the cheering and the unabated celebrations. Until then we must make do with support by proxy, but the desire for victory is not affected and the delight at a win remains real and palpable even if we are miles from the action. If being there is the best, the next best thing has to be wanting to be there, and the support never wavers. Words William Campbell

And the corollary is also true. When they mess up, misplace a pass, miskick in front of the gaping goal or slip and fall at a crucial moment, there is no-one to cheer or jeer, no- one to ridicule and (most importantly) no-one to offer that encouragement that we all need from time to time. Footballers are, after all, just ordinary people. I’m afraid I don’t buy in to the “players just play and don’t notice the crowd” argument. The Premier League in England, which has been played behind closed doors since its restart in July, has shown that goals galore are being scored and away teams are prospering more than would have been expected prior to now. It would appear that no fans in the stadia has provided the impetus for away teams to flourish. And without a surging home support the matches become less passionate and more clinical. The reasonable conclusion is to underline the importance of the fans, their passion, their engagement, their enthusiasm in driving their team forward. They are part of the team. The Green and White Army have always been there to cheer on the wee team in green and white. In success and in defeat, in good days and in not so good, at home and at all points of the compass throughout Europe and further afield. Recently in Sarajevo an Ulsterman turned up at the team hotel. Someone working out there just wanted to come along to say hello. The story is the same everywhere the team goes. Back in 1986 when the team were doing their altitude training at Albuquerque in the US before the Mexico World Cup a professor in the University of New Mexico where the team trained was from Belfast. And in a remote town in the north of Denmark when on duty with the U17 team I was

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ROMANIA’S GOLDEN GENERATION

For those who had been observing the rise of Romanian football around that time, however, the result of the round of 16 clash in Pasadena in July ’94 was perhaps less surprising. Just five years before that particular World Cup, Steaua București had made it to the European Cup (now UEFA Champions League) Final again, having won the tournament in 1986. Steaua’s star turn at that time was 24-year-old midfielder Gheorghe Hagi, the so-called ‘Maradona of the Carpathians’. Hagi was named in FIFA’s ‘All- Star Team’ at the 1994 World Cup after three goals and some fine performances. Hagi was part of an ultra-talented team in the 1990s that many consider the Tricolorii (the Tricolours) ‘golden generation’. At that time many of Romania’s team played for big clubs across Europe. Hagi turned out for Real Madrid, Barcelona and Galatasaray during the decade, while striker Florin Răducioiu was at AC Milan prior to the 1994 World Cup. Both Gica Popescu – who later played for Barcelona – and Ilie Dumitrescu were signed by Tottenham Hotspur after the tournament in America and Dan Petrescu joined them in London a year later when he moved to Chelsea. Romania appeared at the first three World Cup tournaments, held in Uruguay in 1930, Italy in 1934 and France in 1938, but between 1950 and 1990 they only reached the finals on one occasion, in 1970. There was also only one European Championship qualification during that time - in 1984. Romania impressed at the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy. They finished second in their group, beating the former Soviet Union 2-0 and drawing 1-1 with Argentina, while they went down to a 2-1 defeat to Cameroon. They eventually bowed out of the competition on penalties, after their round of 16 tie with the Republic of Ireland in Genoa had finished goalless after extra time. Prior to Romania’s memorable victory over Argentina at the 1994 World Cup, Anghel Iordănescu’s side topped Group A at USA ’94 with a 3-1 victory over Colombia and a 1-0 success against the United States. On the face of it Romania’s 3-2 victory over an Argentina side containing the likes of Diego Simeone and Gabriel Batistuta was one of the biggest shocks of the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

Given their form at the time, perhaps their biggest shock result was a 4-1 group defeat to Switzerland. After seeing off Argentina they succumbed to another penalty shootout loss, going down 5-4 to Sweden on spot kicks after their quarter-final finished 2-2 after extra time. Romania’s ‘golden generation’ appeared at all but one of the major tournaments - Euro 1992 - during the 1990s. They also appeared at Euro 1996 and the 1998 World Cup. In ’98 they beat Colombia and England and drew with Tunisia to top Group G before a 1-0 defeat to Croatia in the round of 16. Romania then reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2000 but by this time the ‘golden generation’ players were in their 30s. As they started to retire Romania’s presence at major tournaments diminished. The Tricolorii haven’t qualified for the World Cup since 1998 while they failed to progress beyond the group stages in their two European Championship appearances since 2000, in 2008 and 2016. There are signs of a brighter future for Romania, whose U21 side reached the semi-finals of the UEFA U21 Championships just last year. In the likes of Andrei Radu, Dennis Man, George Pușcaș and Gheorghe Hagi’s son, Ianis, the Tricolorii hope they might just have the nucleus of a future golden generation… Words Andy Greeves George Puscas – part of a new golden generation for Romania?

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SCOUTING REPORT Andy Greeves takes a closer look at Romania ahead of tonight’s UEFA Nations League match in Belfast.

to his predecessors with a greater emphasis on taking the match to their opponents rather than sitting back and looking to hit teams on the counter attack. High pressing has become another feature of Romania’s game in recent years. The Tricolorii often play out from the back and, with a lack of conventional wingers, their attacks are usually built in central areas. When defending set pieces Rădoi’s team usually mark on a zonal basis rather than man-to-man, while central defenders such as Dragoș Grigore and Vlad Chiricheș often move into their opponents’ penalty area when Romania have advanced free-kicks and corners. STRENGTHS Romania have a number of technically gifted players at their disposal, such as Ianis Hagi, Nicolae Stanciu, Răzvan Marin and Denis Alibec, who can all be match winners on their day. While October yielded three disappointing defeats the energy levels on display – as well as the overall performances - against Northern Ireland and Austria the previous month suggest the Tricolorii can be a match for anyone. Success for the current Tricolorii will depend on Rădoi discovering his best starting XI and his players achieving greater consistency together.

LOWDOWN Romania finished fourth in UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying Group F but were given the opportunity to qualify for the tournament via the play-offs by virtue of their performances in the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League, which saw them finish second in Group C4. Alas Mirel Rădoi’s team were beaten 2-1 in their recent UEFA Euro 2020 play-off semi- final with Iceland in Reykjavik, meaning the Tricolorii (The Tricolours) will be absent from the European Championships next summer. A George Pușcaș goal helped Romania to a 1-1 draw with Northern Ireland in the opening round of UEFA Nations League Group B1 fixtures on 4 September, while they won 3-2 in Austria three days later. On top of their play-off disappointment they were beaten 4-0 by Norway in Oslo and suffered a 1-0 home defeat to Austria in the UEFA Nations League last month. TACTICS Romania typically play in a 4-3-3 formation, which appears more like a 4-5-1 without the ball. The Tricolorii have also occasionally deployed two strikers up front in a 4-4-2 formation with a diamond midfield in behind. After experiencing success as manager of Romania’s U21 team, Mirel Rădoi was appointed as manager of the senior national side in November 2019. There appears to have been a shift in playing approach under his management compared

Many thanks to journalist Fabian Zerche (www.spox.com/at) for his assistance in the writing of this article. Many thanks to journalists Radu Baicu and Emanuel Rosu (emanuelrosu.ro) for their assistance in the writing of this article.

Football clubs and teams across Northern Ireland are being encouraged to unite against bullying this week. FOOTBALL FAMILY URGED TO SUPPORT ANTI-BULLYINGWEEK

have the rewarding and positive experience they deserve.” He explained everyone has a part to play in uniting against bullying, noting that coaches can have a significant impact on a child’s life. “Simply displaying positive behaviour and being an approachable and trusted adult will encourage a child to confide in a coach if they are being subjected to bullying behaviour,” he insisted. Anti-Bullying Week highlights the fact that help and support is available through club welfare officers. Kevin explained: “Parents and carers want nothing more than to see their children play football with a smile on their face. Participating in a team sport, making new friends and enjoying both the physical and mental health benefits of playing football should never be underestimated. “If they have any concerns about their child we would encourage them to talk to them calmly about their experience, reassure them that they are safe and seek support from their club coach or welfare officer.” He also said a young person experiencing or witnessing bullying behaviour should always remember that they can help either themselves

‘Uniting Against Bullying’ is the theme of this year’s Anti-Bullying Week and the Irish FA and Irish FA Foundation are asking the wider football family here to support the campaign. The Anti-Bullying Alliance defines bullying as the repetitive, intentional hurting of one person or group by another person or group, where the relationship involves an imbalance of power. It can happen face to face or online and have a potentially devastating impact on young footballers. Kevin Doyle, the association’s Safeguarding Service Delivery Manager, said: “During a year which has been blighted by Covid-19 it is perhaps more important than ever that we make sure our football clubs provide a platform for young players to come together to play the game they love free from bullying and harmful behaviour. “We’ve had the lockdowns, the school closures and the self-isolation. We’ve lost out on sporting and recreational activities, and how we socialise with friends and family has changed dramatically. “Many of us have lost loved ones due to the current pandemic. When it is safe for football to return as outlined in the Irish FA document ‘Return to the Everyday Game’ let’s make sure our children

Niall McGinn shows his support for Anti-Bullying Week

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Conor Washington promotes Anti-Bullying Week, which this year is urging everyone to unite against bullying

promoted by the Anti-Bullying Alliance (anti- bullyingalliance.org.uk). Kevin added: “Let’s celebrate our individuality, acceptance and tolerance. Try and be creative but ensure any activity is in line with current guidance from the Northern Ireland Executive. “We all have our own interests and are different in how we look and behave. It’s OK to be different. Don’t forget to share your images or videos on your club’s social media as we unite together against bullying.” Words Nigel Tilson

or one of their friends. He said they should seek help by telling a trusted adult – a family member, a sports coach or a teacher – about their experiences. They can also contact Childline on 0800 1111 in confidence. Kevin further pointed out that the risk of cyberbullying has increased in recent times and further information on staying safe online and parental controls is available from www.net-aware. org.uk and www.thinkuknow.co.uk. The Irish FA is also urging clubs to support the special week by getting involved in activities being

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Words Liam Blackburn

Radoi was rewarded for his work with Romania’s Under-21s at the 2019 European Championship where his side reached the semi-finals. The Under-21s managed to beat Croatia 4-1 and England 4-2 during the group stage and a 0-0 draw with France ensured they topped a difficult group. Although they were beaten 4-2 by Germany in the semi-finals, Romania’s performance meant they qualified for their first Olympics in 56 years. “He is the right coach to integrate the players who have participated in the Under-21 European Championship,” Romanian Football Federation president Razvan Burleanu said upon Radoi’s hiring. “He has managed to build a team, a united group, which we also want to happen.” The current senior boss has promoted many of the players he used in that tournament to his senior squad, such as George Puscas, Ionut Nedelcearu and Dennis Man. Radoi’s first game in charge was the UEFA Nations League encounter with Northern Ireland in Bucharest in September, when Gavin Whyte scored a late equaliser to make it 1-1 on a night when goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell was in inspired form. Romania then won 3-2 in Austria, but they came into this international window on the back of three successive defeats under Radoi, including a 1-0 Euro 2020 play-off semi-final loss to Iceland last month. In his playing days Radoi was a centre back or defensive midfielder who represented his country 67 times between 2000 and 2010. He played for ROMANIA THE COACH Mirel Radoi was promoted to be Romania’s head coach a year ago following the resignation of Cosmin Contra, signing a two-year contract with the national federation that runs until the end of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

Steaua Bucharest/FCSB for eight and a half years before spending the latter stages of his career in the Middle East. He initially moved to Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia – reuniting with his former FCSB coach Cosmin Olaroiu – and later played for Al-Ain and Al-Ahli in the United Arab Emirates and Al-Arabi in Qatar, eventually retiring in 2015. The 39-year-old returned home to manage FCSB and then took charge of another Romanian club in SCM Pitesti before becoming coach of Romania’s Under-21s in March 2018. » Radoi won 67 caps for his country, scoring twice - against Luxembourg and Honduras - and he was in Romania’s squad for Euro 2008. » During his time with Steaua Bucharest/ FCSB he won three league titles, two Romanian Super Cups and he was captain for their run to the 2005-06 UEFA Cup semi-finals when they were beaten by Middlesbrough 4-3 on aggregate. » Radoi left for Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia in 2009, bringing the Bucharest club a record €6million fee. » He was nicknamed ‘The Warrior’ during his time in Saudi Arabia. He won two league titles and was the Saudi top flight’s player of the year in 2010.

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ROMANIA SQUAD

Words Liam Blackburn

GOALKEEPERS

VALENTIN COJOCARU VIITORUL CONSTANTA

CIPRIAN TATARUSANU AC MILAN

DAVID LAZAR ASTRA GIURGIU

Age Caps

34 72

Age Caps 0 Goals 0

29

Age Caps 0 Goals 0

25

Goals 0

Former Fiorentina, Nantes and Lyon goalkeeper Tatarusanu joined Serie A giants Milan in September to be the back-up stopper at San Siro. Previously a two-time league champion in his home country with Steaua Bucharest, Tatarusanu first featured for Romania in 2010 and is the most capped player in this squad.

Cojocaru started his career with Steaua Bucharest and then went to Italy and Cyprus before returning to Romania. He spent last year on loan with Voluntari but has been Viitorul Constanta’s first choice this term. Cojocaru had his first call-up to the Romania senior squad in November 2016, though he is yet to make an appearance.

Won his first call-up to the senior squad in September but was an unused substitute in Romania’s first five games of the 2020- 21 season. A one-time Romania Under-21 international, he has spent most of his career in his homeland and has been a regular with Astra over the past three years.

DEFENDERS

VLAD CHIRICHES SASSUOLO

ALIN TOSCA GAZIANTEP

IONUT NEDELCEARU AEK ATHENS

Age Caps

31 59

Age Caps

28 21

Age 24 Caps 11 Goals 0

Goals 0

Goals 0

Became Romania’s most expensive player when he left Steaua Bucharest for Tottenham Hotspur in 2013 in a €9.5million transfer. He spent two seasons at Spurs, playing 27 times in the Premier League, before moving to Napoli and he has remained in Italy. Chiriches made his Romania debut in 2011 and has captained his country.

Tosca has played club football in Romania, Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey, but has never scored a league goal in his career. He made his senior international debut in 2016 and started as one of the two centre backs in the 1-1 draw with Northern Ireland earlier in this campaign.

A product of Dinamo Bucuresti’s youth system, Nedelcearu moved to Russian club Ufa and then switched to Greek side AEK Athens only last month. He started at centre back in AEK’s Europa League loss to Leicester on 29 October. Has not yet started a game for his country this season.

CRISTIAN GANEA ARIS

BOGDAN TIRU JAGIELLONIA BIALYSTOK

IULIAN CRISTEA FCSB

Age Caps 5 Goals 0

28

Age Caps 2 Goals 0

26

Age Caps 1 Goals 0

26

Ganea is another who plays his club football in Greece. He was previously on the books of Viitorul but grew up in the Basque region of Spain and spent time at Real Mallorca, Athletic Bilbao and Numancia. He won all five of his caps three years ago.

Made over 150 appearances across nine seasons in Romania for Viitorul, with whom he won a top flight title in 2016- 17. Moved to Polish side Jagiellonia in February of this year. Was in the squad for three 2018 World Cup qualifiers but did not get on the pitch. Last played for Romania in June 2017.

Plays his club football with Romanian high flyers FCSB, having joined from Gaz Metan Medias, with whom he made over 100 appearances after coming up through the academy. Cristea’s international career before this international break was limited to one appearance against Malta in 2019, when Romania won 4-0.

VASILE MOGOS CHIEVO

MARIO CAMORA CFR CLUJ

VALENTIN CRETU FCSB

Age Caps 1 Goals 0

28

Age Caps 1 Goals 0

34

Age Caps 0 Goals 0

31

Has spent his entire career in Italy and he signed for Serie B side Chievo in September. Mogos is a threat in front of goal having notched seven league goals across the last two seasons. Back in the squad after making his Romania debut a year ago against Sweden.

Born in Portugal, CFR Cluj captain Camora only obtained Romanian citizenship in August. However, he was quickly added to the national team, making his debut in the nation’s Euro 2020 play-off semi-final loss to Iceland last month. Camora is a four- time league champion with Cluj having joined in 2011.

Cretu is in his second season with FCSB and he was part of the squad that won the domestic cup last term. He has spent most of his career in Romania, though he did have a short spell in Germany with Energie Cottbus in the 2015-16 season. This is his first call-up to the squad.

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*All stats and information correct before Romania’s 5-3 victory over Belarus in a friendly last Wednesday

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DEFENDERS

MIDFIELDERS

RAZVAN MARIN CAGLIARI

BOGDAN MITREA SEPSI SFANTU GHEORGHE

ALEXANDRU MAXIM GAZIANTEP

Age Caps

24 23

Age Caps 0 Goals 0

33

Age Caps

30 42

Goals 1

Goals 6

Marin became the third most expensive Romanian player of all time – behind Adrian Mutu and Cristian Chivu – when he joined Ajax from Standard Liege for €12.5million in 2019. He moved to Cagliari on a loan deal with an option to buy ahead of this season. Scored his only Romania goal in 2016.

Mitrea has played club football in Romania, Italy, Cyprus and Slovakia. He scored six times for Spartak Trnava last term and once registered 14 goals in a single campaign with Viitorul. Prior to this international window his last call-up to the Romania senior squad was in 2014.

Joined Espanyol’s academy as a 17-year- old and later moved to Germany, playing for VfB Stuttgart and Mainz 05. Maximmoved to Turkish club Gaziantep permanently ahead of this season after scoring seven goals in 15 league games on loan last term. Has scored already for Romania this season.

ERIC BICFALVI URAL YEKATERINBURG

ALEXANDRU BALUTA PUSKAS AKADEMIA

DAN NISTOR U CRAIOVA

Age Caps 6 Goals 0

32

Age Caps 5 Goals 1

27

Age Caps 4 Goals 0

32

The well-travelled Bicfalvi currently plays his club football in Russia after spells in Romania, Ukraine and China previously. He comes into this international window in good form having scored eight times in 14 league and club games for Ural this season. His most recent international appearance was back in 2017.

Baluta plays his club football in Hungary and scored in the final game before the international window. He includes Slavia Prague among his former clubs. Baluta had an international debut to remember, coming off the bench against Chile in June 2017 and scoring the winner in a 3-2 victory

Officially made his Romania debut in a 2013 friendly, but his three appearances since, including the one against Northern Ireland in September, have all been brief cameos off the bench. Nistor spent some time in France with Evian earlier in his career but has largely operated in the Romanian top flight.

FLORIN TANASE FCSB

CRISTIAN ALBU UTA ARAD Age 27 Caps 0 Goals 0

Age Caps 3 Goals 0

25

Previously described by Romania great Gheorghe Hagi as the best player of his generation, Tanase has started the season in electric form, scoring 10 times in as many games for FCSB. This is the fourth successive season in which he has reached double figures for the club from Bucharest.

The left-sided Albu can also play in defence and has received his first call-up to the senior Romania squad in this international window (friendly v Belarus followed by NL games v Norway and Northern Ireland). He is a long-serving player with Concordia Chiajna but is currently on loan with UTA Arad after spending time with Academica Clinceni last term.

STRIKERS

DENNIS MAN FCSB

GEORGE PUSCAS READING

DENIS ALIBEC KAYSERISPOR

Age Caps 4 Goals 1

22

Age Caps

24 19

Age Caps

29 15

Goals 7

Goals 2

Man is one of the top scorers in the Romanian top flight after registering nine goals in nine games so far. He also netted a hat-trick in a Europa League qualifier in September, then slotted away the winning penalty in the shootout for good measure. The game against Serbian side Backa Topola had finished 6-6 after extra time!

Debuted for Inter Milan as an 18-year-old and had a series of loan spells before joining Palermo and then Championship club Reading. No-one has scored more goals for Romania’s Under-21s than Puscas, who has continued to be prolific at senior level. He netted against Northern Ireland in September.

Another who appeared for Inter Milan as a teenager, Alibec scored 14 league goals for Astra in Romania’s top flight last term and that earned him a move to Turkish club Kayserispor. Scored his second senior Romania goal in September against Austria, four years after his first in a friendly against Ukraine.

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*All stats and information correct before Romania’s 5-3 victory over Belarus in a friendly last Wednesday

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