A sensational first half laid the foundation for World Cup qualification

1-1 (25) Gavril Balint
2-1 (38) Ioan Sabău
3-1 (61) Gavril Balint


0-1 (6) Flemming Povlsen

1990 World Cup Qualification
UEFA Group 1
Video: Highlights
Wed. 15 November 1989
Kick-off: 2.00pm
Stadionul Steaua, Bucharest
Att.: 28,000 ¹
Ref.: Tullio Lanese (ITA)
L 1: Pierluigi Magni (ITA)
L 2: Angelo Amendolia (ITA)
¹ Some sources, for example Wikipedia, claim 30,000.


It was decision time in the race for the top berth in one of the most exciting duels across the UEFA zone of the World Cup qualification: Both Romania and Denmark had displayed some delightful attacking brand of football during the course of the qualification, and they were wonderfully positioned ahead of the decider, with the visitors having a point’s advantage on this afternoon’s hosts.

Denmark had torn into the Romanians in Copenhagen and won 3-0 just five weeks earlier, and having lined up an impressive run of results during the calendar year, they must have felt confident of obtaining the necessary result in Bucharest: A draw would suffice to qualify them for Italia ’90. However, the Ghencea was a sell-out on the day, and the capacity crowd made sure of a party atmosphere, something which must have brought the home players renewed energy and belief.

The increasing levels of opposition against governments among the populations in countries across Eastern Europe had also reached the Romanian capital, although any revolution was yet in its very infancy. Their people had seen how the East Germans had torn into the infamous Berlin Wall in search of political freedom less than a week earlier, and president Nicolae Ceaușescu must have felt a certain level of uneasiness already. It is not unlikely to assume that this would have served to underline the feeling of unity and expectation among those present.

The table read thus coming into the game, and with Greece v Bulgaria to come later in the afternoon:


Team news Romania

After the big defeat in Denmark last month, Romania manager Emeric Jenei would have to make do without suspended libero Mircea Rednic, who had seen red late in that game for a second bookable offence. Rednic had filled in as libero since Miodrag Belodedici became absent having defected to Yugoslavia. For this crunch game, Jenei would have to decide upon a third libero of the qualification.

Another absentee from that squad was big striker Rodion Cămătaru, who had started all of Romania’s five qualifiers in the number 9 shirt. The burly centre-forward, now working in Belgium for Charleroi, was not suspended; his omission was due to injury. Drafted in as a possible replacement striker was Steaua’s 26 year old Gavril Balint, a player who had won 18 caps for his country, although just two of those had come in qualification matches. His last inclusion at national team level had come more than two and a half years earlier, when he’d appeared as a late substitute during a splendid 3-1 home win against Spain in qualification for the 1988 European Championships. He was a European Cup winner, however, as he’d played the full 120 minutes of the 1986 final for Steaua Bucharest against Barcelona in Seville, and he’d indeed been one of just two players to score in the ensuing penalty shoot-out, helping Steaua to the country’s first ever major European club title. Balint, though, was not even a first team regular with Steaua at the time, and would also appear in midfield or out wide.

Importantly, forward Marius Lăcătuș had returned to the squad. The 25 year old Steaua livewire had been sorely missed in Denmark, so one felt that he was a certain starter on this occasion. He had been part of an exciting right-hand side offensively, and would often combine well with Ioan Sabău and Ştefan Iovan, the latter coming forward from the full-back position.

A total of five players had been replaced from the party of 16 which had been present in Copenhagen. In addition to Rednic and Cămătaru, experienced left-sided defender Michael Klein was out, though there was already a tried and capable replacement for him in the squad in the shape of Iosif Rotariu, who had played the full 90 minutes in four of their five qualifiers hitherto. Rotariu had played in midfield in Denmark, but was certainly not foreign to slotting in at left-back.

Unused substitutes in Copenhagen, Emil Săndoi and Zsolt Muzsnay, were also nowhere to be seen seen, though young Dinamo Bucharest midfielder Dănuț Lupu, who had made his debut coming on as a second half substitute in Denmark, was once again included. Perhaps a surprise inclusion, although as another possible candidate to replace the absent Klein, was veteran Steaua full-back Nicolae Ungureanu, who had not featured for his country since a 3-0 friendly home win against Israel in November ’88.

The final two players making their way into this squad of 16 were big defender Adrian Bumbescu, who had featured twice at centre-half earlier in the qualification, but who seemed to be a second choice behind Ioan Andone, and teenage forward Florin Răducioiu, a possible debutant from Dinamo. This meant again that 15 of the players in the squad hailed from either of the ‘big two’, with only ‘Gica’ Popescu of Craiova the exception.

After the failed attempt at a more compact 4-5-1 last time around, surely, Jenei would return to more attacking principles on this occasion. Romania were better going forward than trying to deny the opposition attacking space, and as they were in need of winning, they could not afford a defensive approach throughout the course of the game. They would need to recreate some of that attacking vigour from earlier in the qualification. They were well capable of it.

Denmark team news

Sitting atop the table after that result on home soil the previous month, albeit with an incredibly difficult final fixture yet to deal with, Denmark must have contemplated what tactics to turn to in order to get the desired outcome. A point would see them through to the World Cup, whilst defeat would mean that they were most likely out. Later in the day, both West Germany and the Netherlands would play winnable home matches in Group 4, against Wales and Finland respectively, and this would take the second placed team in that group up to 9 points.

Denmark’s highly impressive 3-0 against the Romanians last time out had been one of the more eye-catching results during the qualification. Could they replicate that performance to see them through to a second successive world cup participation?

Alas, we have no certain information of the non-playing substitutes which were gracing the Danish bench on this occasion in Bucharest. We just have confirmed names of those twelve who would appear during the course of the game. However, we have been able to dig out a total of five further names, of which four would’ve sat on the substitutes’ bench this early afternoon in Ghencea.

The Danes had six players who had started each of their five qualifiers so far: goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, defenders John Sivebæk, Lars Olsen and Kent Nielsen, as well as midfielder John Jensen and forward Flemming Povlsen. Manager Sepp Piontek, who had led them to the round of 16 in Mexico ’86, had only made use of 18 players over the course of the qualification.

Among the 12 players featuring during the 90 minutes of this clash in Bucharest, veteran midfielder Søren Lerby, one of four Danes on the books of Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven, had returned to the national team for the first time since the 2-0 loss against hosts West Germany in the 1988 European Championships. His inclusion was a surprise, though it could be seen as a way for Piontek to bolster up his midfield. Lerby, an all-action midfielder, was renowned for his tigerish style, and perhaps could he complement John Jensen, a similar kind of player, well to wrestle the grip of the game into their favour?

We know five names which would’ve been competing for the four non-appearing substitutes spots: goalkeeper Troels Rasmussen, defenders Jan Heintze and John Larsen, midfielder John Helt, as well as the versatile Kim Vilfort. But who would’ve been the odd man out? Heintze, one from their PSV contingent, seemed a regular both for club and country, but a change in tactics could’ve meant he was overseen on this occasion. It should be noted, though, that he featured at club level both immediately prior to and straight after this qualifier, suggesting that he was at least not seriously injured. Rasmussen, as the back-up goalie, was surely among the four, and the reliable Larsen, too. Vilfort and Helt? Who’s to say.

Update Dec 10 2019:

An email from the Danish FA states that the four unused substitutes in Bucharest were indeed Rasmussen, Larsen, Heintze and Vilfort (who would want to celebrate his 27th birthday in style and with a win!). Helt, who had been among that party of six possible substitutes, had been sacrificed on the day. Thank you, Henrik Andersen (who, incidentally, is not the former national team player, featuring around that time).


Tullio Lanese, a 42 year old Italian, was in charge of the game. He had made his first appearance internationally nearly three years earlier, when he’d run the rule over a friendly between Israel and Northern Ireland (1-1). In November 1988, he’d had his second international assignment, which had been the World Cup qualifier between Austria and Turkey in Vienna. He’d overseen a 3-2 home win on that occasion, whilst he’d refereed the 0-0 clash between France and Yugoslavia in Paris in April. Hence, this was Lanese’s third appearance in the on-going qualification, and his fifth international game in charge altogether. Needless to say, he was a well-respected referee, who had officiated in Serie A since 1978.

Previous meetings

This was the 13th meeting between Romania and Denmark since their inaugural clash back in 1963. They had met three times in qualification for the 1964 Olympic football tournament in Japan, when they’d needed to play-off in order to pick a winner after they’d won each their original away fixture by 3-2. The replay on neutral ground in Turin had ended in a 2-1 win for the Romanians, to see them through to the tournament proper. Then they’d met again in qualification for the 1972 Olympics in West Germany, with Denmark winning both ties, and ultimately qualifying.

Further Olympic qualification clashes (ahead of Canada 1976) coupled with encounters in qualification for the 1976 European Championships in Yugoslavia, saw plenty of meetings between the two in the mid 70s. 5-1-3 read the total statistics in favour of the Romanians following those fixtures.

Two friendlies early in the 80s apart, they’d not meet again until this very World Cup qualification, and following Denmark’s impressive 3-0 home win in October ’89, the record read 6-1-5 in favour of today’s hosts.

Romania (3-5-2)

1 Silviu Lung (c)32Steaua Bucureşti
2 Dan Petrescu21Steaua Bucureşti
3 Ioan Andone29Dinamo Bucureşti
4 Ştefan Iovan29Steaua Bucureşti
5 Iosif Rotariu 35′27Steaua Bucureşti
6 Gheorghe Popescu22Universitatea Craiova
7 Marius Lăcătușsub 77′25Steaua Bucureşti
8 Ioan Sabău21Dinamo Bucureşti
9 Gavril Balint 57′, sub 88′26Steaua Bucureşti
10 Gheorghe Hagi 4′, 62′24Steaua Bucureşti
11 Dănuț Lupu22Dinamo Bucureşti

x Bogdan Stelea21Dinamo Bucureşti
x Adrian Bumbescu29Steaua Bucureşti
x Florin Răducioiu19Dinamo Bucureşti
15 Dorin Mateuțon 77′24Dinamo Bucureşti
16 Nicolae Ungureanuon 88′33Steaua Bucureşti
Manager: Emeric Jenei

Denmark (5-3-2)

1 Peter Schmeichel25Brøndby
2 John Sivebæksub 73′27Saint-Étienne
3 Kent Nielsen27Aston Villa
4 Lars Olsen (c)28Brøndby
5 Ivan Nielsen 85′33PSV
6 Jan Bartram27Bayer Uerdingen
7 Søren Lerby 13′31PSV
8 John Jensen24Hamburg
9 Flemming Povlsen22PSV
10 Michael Laudrup25Barcelona
11 Brian Laudrup20Bayer Uerdingen

x Troels Rasmussen28AGF
x John Larsen27Vejle
x Jan Heintze26PSV
15 Lars Elstrupon 73′26Luton
x Kim Vilfort27Brøndby
Manager: Sepp Piontek

Tactical line-ups

Match Report

First half:

It was time for kick-off in this highly anticipated clash, the fixture which would decide who would be the World Cup participants from Group 1 of the UEFA zone of the qualification. This early afternoon kick-off had seen a festive mood in the stands since early morning, as people had been let through the gates since the 8am opening. It was a breezy afternoon, though few would’ve cared, and it would be the hosts to get the action going through Gavril Balint and Gheorghe Hagi, who would perform the kick-off.

There were impressive noise levels in the stadium, and the visitors must have felt the atmosphere somewhat intimidating. Clearly, there are some early nerves on display, from players in both camps, though anything else would’ve been a major surprise, considering what was at stake. Romania’s wonderfully talented midfield virtuoso Gheorghe Hagi wants to set the tone right from the word ‘go’ with a mazy run in which he’s brought down cynically by Denmark midfield hard man John Jensen with five seconds on the clock.

The Danish team had been far superior in the teams’ meeting in Copenhagen last month, though this was a completely different test, and considering how well Romania had performed in their two home qualifiers hitherto, the Danish defence would need to show their resolve if the visitors were to maintain their peak position in the group also upon the final whistle.

Back in the side: Lăcătuș. Here seen with Denmark’s Bartram

There was a key player returning to the Romanian side, with forward Marius Lăcătuș available for selection again after he’d missed the game in Denmark. Often operating as a right-sided forward, the speedy and unpredictable Steaua livewire would often stretch the opponents’ defence, and he would create open spaces for team mates with his intelligent running both on and off the ball. It could be seen right away that Lăcătuș would be playing up top, although he would continue to display his desire to orientate himself towards the right hand side. So far in the qualification, the Romanian right hand flank had looked very strong, with big defender Iovan bombing on from his full-back position, and the highly energetic Sabău typically assisting the other two along that side of the pitch. This triumvirate had been among Romania’s greatest assets since the start of the qualification.

Before the clock has made even four turns, we have a player in the referee’s book. And it is not just any player: The hosts’ midfield general Hagi has his name taken for a foul against Jensen. Perhaps it was a reminder to the Hamburg man that more could play that game? Hagi accepted his yellow card without too much protesting, but perhaps would he need to tone down somewhat on his enthusiasm? It could be easy for any player with huge reserves of built-up anticipation to let it flow over.

Povlsen: early chance

The game has not settled properly as the visitors attack through the free-kick succeeding Hagi’s booking. Denmark midfield man Jan Bartram, who had given a fine account of himself throughout the qualification, and certainly this calendar year, hit a diagonal ball from the left into the area, where striker Flemming Povlsen managed to escape a dreadfully executed offside plan from the Romanian team. All of a sudden, Povlsen found himself one on one with the gigantic Silviu Lung, and it appears that he is also equipped with a certain stress level. Povlsen has a moment of indecision which sees him deliever something of a mix between a shot and a lob, and eventually it is a comfortable parry for Lung to make once he’s come off his goalline. The hosts could breathe a big, collective sigh of relief having avoided going a goal behind inside the game’s opening five minutes.


Brian Laudrup’s about to assist Povlsen (centre) for 0-1

If Romania felt they had used their ‘get out of jail free’ card when Povlsen had failed to convert his huge opportunity on four minutes, they would not be so lucky on Denmark’s next approach. Romania, who had just conceded once in their first four qualifiers, but who had been found out by the Danish in their last meeting, conceding three times in the process, looked in disarray early on, and the visitors would accept the invitation to score a precious goal on six minutes. Jensen had angled a pass out from the centre towards the right, where Brian Laudrup received the ball. Almost 30 yards from the byline and with a plethora of opponents even between him and the edge of the penalty area, there appeared to be little imminent danger for the hosts, but then they were caught ball-watching as neither of the three players approaching the younger Laudrup brother would intervene. The tricky number 11 wriggled his way into the area, and then left Andone, Rotariu and Popescu in his trail as he proceeded to the byline. Iovan approached him in order to intervene, but before the big defender could close him down, Laudrup had squared the ball for Povlsen to side-foot home with an empty net to aim at. The PSV striker had redeemed himself after that miss just over a minute earlier, and Denmark had made a giant leap towards World Cup participation, even if the game still had around 85 minutes left for play. Sensational stuff from the 20 year young Brian Laudrup! How would the two teams continue from this opening?

What next?

It was a remarkable and early turn of events which would leave a big print on proceedings, surely. Denmark now had a major advantage, as they could even afford to lose a goal and still qualify, and if they managed to shut the Romanians out until the home side begun to get frustrated, then you could imagine vast spaces opening up for Denmark on the counter. Players like the two Laudrups and Povlsen would relish such a prospect, you would think. However, it was not as if the Romanians would need to throw caution to the wind immediately, but they certainly could not just sit back and wait for their opponents to come at them.

Brian Laudrup looking for a way through

The boys in yellow and dark blue need some time to shake off the goal which they’d already conceded, and Denmark looked eager to pounce on any lingering thoughts which may be occupying the minds of the Romanian players. They look energetic going forward, do the visitors, and in particular Brian Laudrup is proving himself as a huge torn in the hosts’ side. His pace, flair and ability to keep on to the ball even in situations where he’s surrounded by not just his marker Andone, but also other home defenders, is hugely impressive, and there’s a couple of occasions when he almost darts through, ball at feet, inside the area. Still, the Romanian defence manage successive last gasp clearances. There’s also a shot on target from 20 yards out, to the left of centre, from the older Laudrup, who has been outshone by his younger sibling so far, but whose capabilty is par with his excellent reputation. Goalkeeper Lung was well equal to Michael Laudrup’s not too troublesome effort.

Lerby wins his yellow

The home side will grow into the contest step by step, and once they regain their touch and belief, they will start to put the visiting defence under pressure. One senses that already by the time when Søren Lerby goes flying into a poor tackle against Hagi just outside the Danish penalty area twelve minutes into the game, Romania are already about to find their feet. You see how some of their more energetic players, most notably Hagi and Sabău in midfield, as well as young Petrescu along the right hand side, start to dictate the tempo, and when Romania engage several players with pace in the forward direction simultaneously, then they look like they have the ability to cause the visiting defence problems. Denmark’s rear line does not look unbreachable, although big ‘keeper Peter Schmeichel has yet to be tested. Lerby, by the way, had his name taken by the referee for that foul on Hagi, and deservedly so. A minute and half earlier, he had cynically stopped Hagi’s attempt at a quick counter through a foul in the centre circle on the rapidly advancing Romanian playmaker.

A closer look at the hosts

Emeric Jenei had learnt from the defeat last time around, and having seen his defence struggle plenty against the resourceful Danish attackers, he had decided to add another central defender into this afternoon’s mix. They were organised in a 5-3-2 formation this time around, and between the sticks they once again had Steaua Bucharest’s Silviu Lung, the team captain. The 32 year old, featuring internationally for the 62nd time, had captained Romania in all of the five qualifiers which he’d participated in.

Gheorghe Popescu (second half shot)

Gheorghe Popescu, the sole player in the matchday squad of 16 to hail from outside of Bucharest, had been tasked with the spare man job among the three centre-backs. This meant that the man who had impressed in a defensive midfield capacity so far in the qualification had been moved back, but he would soon display qualities which were both wonderfully useful and not least suitable for this new position of his: The 22 year old of Universitatea Craiova was a composed player with some big forward strides in him, and on many an occasion would he be the instigator of attacks from his deep-lying role, as he would advance several yards into the Danish half of the pitch in transportation of the ball.

Around the young, but already majestic Popescu, were man-markers Ioan Andone and Ştefan Iovan, both 29, and from each their major Bucharest club. Andone had played three times earlier in the qualification, and he did seem to be Jenei’s prefered choice at centre-half, alongside a libero, ahead of Adrian Bombescu. He was a big and powerfully built defender who certainly was committed, and on this occasion he was working in tandem with Iovan, who until now in the qualification had done very well from an attacking right-back position. Iovan was hardly your traditional full-back as he was big and burly, but his marauding forward action had seen him supplement Sabău and Lăcătuș really well along their potent right hand side. Still, he was of good size for a centre-back, and now he’d need to try and keep quiet Denmark forward Flemming Povlsen.

Dan Petrescu

21 year old Dan Petrescu had not played until now in the qualification, but he’d been among the substitutes for their previous three Group 1 matches. Now, with Iovan occupied in the centre, there was an available slot for the Steaua man, who won his fifth cap. He was a very enthusiastic performer, and indeed willing to participate in coming forward. Oddly, perhaps, Petrescu did not always look to make use of the channels right ahead of him. Instead, he would at times look to engage himself more in field, albeit in attacking areas. He almost resembled an inside right midfielder in the way he entered the opposition’s territory.

Along the left was 27 year old Iosif Rotariu, another highly competent member of the squad, even if he was probably one of the more unsung heros. Rotariu had switched from his usual left-back position within the national team and into a midfield role in Copenhagen, but here he was back where he’d started three out of the other four qualifiers. He was not foreign to assisting inside the Danish half of the pitch, but his attacking credentials were not quite of the same standards as those of Petrescu, and perhaps did coming forward not appear quite so natural to him as it did to the opposite full-back.

Dănuț Lupu (left)

With Popescu moved back into the heart of the defence, Romania would need to replace him with a player of decent size in midfield. When they’d dismantled Greece and Bulgaria in their home matches hitherto, Romania had opted for Dorin Mateuț alongside Hagi and Sabău. They were all quite small in size, and against a physically well equipped opponent such as Denmark, having a bit of height and bite in the centre of the park wouldn’t go amiss. This could go some way to explaining why the national team manager had chosen to involve Dinamo’s Dănuț Lupu on this occasion, relegating Mateuț to the substitutes’ bench. Lupu did not quite possess his comrade at club level’s exquisite range of passing and excellent vision, but he could well be something of a balancing act in this team of attacking plenty. He was operating slightly behind the other two central midfielders, and also to the left of them both.

Gheorghe Hagi: maestro

The other two were obviously Gheorghe Hagi, easily the talismanic Romanian player, still just 24 years of age, and already winning his 53rd cap, as well as Ioan Sabău. The latter, just 21, had emerged as perhaps the finest player in the well-rehearsed Romanian transitions. Sabău was quick, he played with a level of intelligence which belied his young age, and he linked up well with Hagi. Perhaps more importantly: Hagi appeared to enjoy playing with him. Sabău had felt the absence of forward Marius Lăcătuș during the defeat in Denmark, but that game apart, the Romanian right hand side had enjoyed a thrilling qualification. Sabău, from his inside right midfield position, had played a major part among them, and if he continued his development, he would surely be a lovely asset to the Romanians for years to come. In the mean time, Hagi was working with somewhat more freedom than the rest of his team mates, and from his position at the helm of their midfield, he would orchestrate most of their attacking play. He had a hand, or a foot, rather, in most things inside the Danish half of the pitch. He was also massively involved at set-pieces, and the obvious pick for free-kick execution from shooting range.

Marius Lăcătuș

25 year old Marius Lăcătuș was back having been sorely missed in Copenhagen, and though he had often been prefered by Jenei in something of a right-sided forward role, he was not quite as wide in his origin on this occasion. The speedy Steaua ace was another player of fine reputation, and he would need to be on his game in order to triumph in the duels with Denmark’s colossal centre-back Kent Nielsen. It was the latter’s job to look after Lăcătuș.

In their five previous qualifiers, the hosts had played with the big, bustling Rodion Cămătaru in the centre-forward position. Now having moved abroad to play with Charleroi in Belgium, the striker was injured and unavailable, something which had prompted Jenei to include Steaua’s Gavril “Pele” Balint in his squad of 16. Balint had inherited Cămătaru’s number 9 shirt for this game, and he would be looking to shake off Denmark’s vastly experienced Ivan Nielsen, who was the central defender tasked with keeping Balint quiet.

Romania turn the screw

Popescu advancing

By the time that the first half approaches its 20 minute mark, it is well clear that the hosts have shaken off any nerves that they might’ve had. They are very dominant at this stage, and their brand of attacking football sure is an exciting one to watch. Romania build from the back. They are in no terms meticulous in their approach, and typically they’ll leave to Popescu to look ahead and ponder the next move. What the Romanian libero will often notice, is that the Danish pressure up top is lenient. Povlsen has shown good ability as first line of defence in previous matches, but on this occasion he just can’t get near enough to Popescu in order to halt the Craiova man until he’s made it well into the Danish half. Popescu also faces little resistance from Michael Laudrup, and with both Jensen and Lerby sitting deep in order to protect their defence, Popescu can time and again arrive until halfway inside the visitors’ territory before needing to shift the ball on. Often, there will be opportunities to play a team mate in ahead of him, and often this team mate will be found towards the right hand side of the pitch. This is Romania as we know them from earlier in the qualification. Once their tempo is at this level, you feel as though the Danish team struggles to cope. They simply do not have the necessary pace in their side to stand up to the barrage facing them.

Sabău contemplating another short corner move

Another prefered move by the Romanians is when they’ve won a right wing corner. They’ll dispatch Sabău out there to take it if the idea is to hit it short, and he’ll engage Hagi on three occasions in quick succession, with the number 10 attempting to work the ball towards the edge of the area and beyond in order to create a good angle for himself to try his shooting boot. So far, though, there’s usually a body in the way, and so Hagi has yet to test Schmeichel. The same has been the case when Romania have won two free-kicks in shooting range, with the wall doing its job to deny that sweet left foot of Gheorghe Hagi. Still, you feel that the hosts are getting closer to truly test the big visiting goalkeeper, and it is as though there’s an air of inevitability about the coming minutes. However, how will they find that elusive way through?

Brian L. deprived of a fine opportunity in a wrong offside decision

Denmark do not offer a whole lot in this period. They sit deep. They defend. What more can they do? Oh, they can counter, for sure. Romania are at times playing a high risk game with a high defensive line, something which looked ideal for quick forwards to exploit. Michael Laudrup will at times find himself in something of a no-man’s land, where he’s not a central midfielder, but also not the trequartista which is supposed to slip the ball through for either brother Brian or for Povlsen, the other flexible forward. Granted, there are opportunities for the visitors to break at pace, and there are vast pockets of space to take advantage of, but individually, the Danish attack players are not making the right decisions: Either they move too long with the ball and so get found out by an opposing player, or they move into offside positions, too eager to make an impression. Just a tad more composure by the player attempting to thread through, or even a slightly cooler head by either of the two up top, and Lung could’ve had to face some difficult one on ones. Mind, there’s a dreadful offside decision against Brian Laudrup when Povlsen tries to play him through on 16 minutes. He’d been probably a yard and a half onside, so it had been a major let-off for the home side. Down the other end, a rebound off the defensive wall from a Hagi free-kick ended up with Rotariu some 25 yards out, and loading his weapon, he struck it well with his left foot, forcing a save low down by his right hand post by Schmeichel.

A run down on Denmark

Bar for the first game in Greece, where Piontek had picked a 4-4-2 starting eleven, Denmark had so far been in 3-5-2 during the qualification. They might have wanted to appear identically here in Bucharest, but they certainly had a tail-heavy look about them once the hosts applied the pressure, and it feels more correct to dub them 5-3-2 this time around.

In goal, there was another cap for big Brøndby ‘keeper Schmeichel. He was making his 28th appearance for his country, and really, he faced no serious competition for the number 1 jersey, even if Troels Rasmussen had been the back-up right through the qualification.

Lars Olsen less pleased with the linesman. Sabău the Romanian player

Another ever-present was captain and libero Lars Olsen, a team mate of Schmeichel’s at Copenhagen club Brøndby, and three years his senior. The Denmark skipper was hardly someone very adventurous, but he was a physical, steady performer with some ability in mounting from the back. Pace was possibly a problem, and so, with big man-markers Kent Nielsen, the 27 year working his first season abroad with Aston Villa in England, and PSV stalwart Ivan Nielsen, now 33 and winning his 51st cap, speed appeared to be in demand among the visiting defenders. This could help explaining why Piontek opted for his team to sit so deep, as to minimize the level of space they’d leave in behind themselves.

The two wide defenders were experienced John Sivebæk to the right, still with Saint-Étienne in the French top flight, playing in his 61st international, and West Germany Bundesliga man Jan Bartram to the left. The latter, 27 years and earning his 24th cap, had made a good impression so far in the qualification, but his stand-out performances had come from an inside left midfield role. Would he cope just as well as their wide left alternative in the absence of the reliable Jan Heintze? So far, he found himself crowded out by the opposition, as Romania would often work their right hand side when moving forward. Bartram did not always seem comfortable when facing his own goal. He would still be delievering the majority of their corner kicks.

Lerby covering defensively, up against Sabău

Søren Lerby, the Dutch based hard man in central midfield, was making his international comeback, and it must be said that perhaps the timing was a bit odd. The PSV man, 31, was the lead cap in the side with 67, but he’d watched the entire qualification until now from the sidelines. Would his presence disrupt the team in any way? So far, he was sitting deep in tandem with John Jensen, the other proclaimed hard-man in the centre of the pitch, as the pair were wanting to provide a shield in front of their central defence. Had it worked so far? Well, to a certain extent, yes. But Denmark surrendered possession too easily, and they could’ve felt it useful to hold on to the ball for longer spells rather than having to give chase constantly. Against a team boasting so much pace, they’d inevitably find it tough. Lerby had shown a couple of times that his left foot could be used for finding team mates higher up in the pitch, and he’d had a few clashes with Hagi already, one which had earned him a 13 minute booking. As for Jensen, well, he did seem to live in the shadow of Lerby somewhat, and he too would often focus his attention towards Hagi, as Denmark seemed to have identified Romania’s greatest threat to come from the home team playmaker.

Michael Laudrup (with Bartram)

Michael Laudrup, still only 25, was ahead of the two other central midfielders, operating in the ‘hole’ just behind the two strikers. It appeared the ideal position for such a gifted player, although he had failed to make use of his strongest abilities hitherto, as his touch seemed to evade him. He would often look for Brian Laudrup, and it could not be denied that the pair had a special bond and understanding between them, but so far it had had little effect. The younger brother had conjured up situations on his own rather than through Michael’s involvement, and he’d done wonderfully to set Flemming Povlsen up for that early, precious goal. Yes, Denmark were, let’s not forget it, still in front, and they could let the clock work in their favour to frustrate the opposition’s players and the crowd alike.


Lăcătuș wins in the air against Kent Nielsen to assist Balint for the goal

The equalizer occurs on 25 minutes, and really, it is no more than Romania deserve for forcing the visitors on to their back foot for the best part of 15 minutes. We’ve earlier mentioned that Rotariu had not always contributed inside the final third of the pitch, but when he gets the opportunity to do so from Lupu’s fine, angled ball out to the left, hit by the outside of his right boot, Rotariu whips one into the edge of the six yard area. However, you’d expect an aerially superior defender like Kent Nielsen to deal with the cross without too much fuss. Problem was that he failed to spot the danger from behind, where Lăcătuș had sensed that he could get on the end of it. With the advantage of a few steps’ jump, the home forward outsprung the big defender, and though he didn’t connect cleanly, the ball came off Lăcătuș and fell invitingly for Balint inside the six yard area. He’d shaken off his marker Ivan Nielsen, and the stand-in centre-forward had a comfortable task in prodding the ball under Schmeichel and into the back of the net. Cue delirium in the stands! Romania were level.

Petrescu played through

Just wide from Petrescu

Three minutes after the goal, there’s a major opportunity for attacking wide right player Petrescu, who so far is lively. Distributing with the outside of the foot is not just something which Lupu is capable of, but also Sabău. The 21 year old midfielder is having a very good half, and he picks out the forward-rushing Petrescu with a 30 yard pass which finds the wide player in behind Bartram’s back. He enters the area from the right edge, and with just Schmeichel left to beat, he attempts to chip the goalkeeper, only to see his effort end a yard to the left of the upright. He did everything right, Petrescu, apart from guiding the ball into the back of the net. Still, the hosts were in no mood to ease their grip on the game, as they continued to go forward in search of further goals.

Still little improvement from visitors

They concede quite a few free-kicks, the Danish, and it is usually a result of their players arriving too late in challenges. It could well be manager Piontek’s wish that Denmark are sitting deep inside their own half, but at the same time he would probably have wanted less distance between Michael Laudrup and the other two central midfielders. The Denmark number 10 was having a difficult game, and he had not managed to influence on proceedings in the way that he was capable of. Danish breaks were also fewer and further between, and arriving on the 35 minute mark, it is looking like an assured and convincing display by the hosts, even if they still need at least another goal to achieve their aim.

Iovan after his shot

Denmark do have a let off on the half hour, when Lupu’s deft pass for Sabău, who goes on to take the ball around Schmeichel and tuck it into an empty net once he’s made sure that he’s out of Olsen’s reach, sees the number 8 just off. There are also further attempts, and big defender Iovan receives a ricochet off the defensive wall after yet another Hagi free-kick struck straight against an opposing player. Iovan’s hardly famous for his long range efforts, but 25 yards out he manages to get sufficiently over the ball to see it clear Schmeichel’s bar by just half a yard. It could’ve been some moment for the 29 year old Steaua man.

Is there to be no respite for the visitors? Denmark are under the cosh, and they are unable to lift their play. Wave after wave of Romanian attacks face them, and it does not help change proceedings that Rotariu goes hard in on Brian Laudrup around the edge of the centre circle inside the Romanian half some ten minutes from the half-time whistle. It is a third booking of the afternoon. Shortly after, the hosts, who seem to be reluctant to waste any time whatsoever, again move ahead with collective speed, and Hagi’s close to playing Lăcătuș through the centre one on one with Schmeichel. Seconds earlier, it had been Lupu who had given his left foot some air time, though his shot from 22 yards had been weak and failed to hit the target.

Romania go ahead

Sabău: shoots and scores

38 minutes and 2-1! And you could not say that Denmark had not been warned. Their unbeaten record looked to take a hit, and that at the worst possible time. After their convincing display in Copenhagen last time these two met, the Danes must have felt confident going to Bucharest. The early stages apart, they had been second best here. And again the dominant home players duly delievered: Hagi, who always looked like he had more time when in possession than anyone else, looked up and saw another Petrescu run towards the penalty area, this time diagonally towards the centre. Bartram had failed to track his run very well, and Hagi found him with a cheeky pass. However, Schmeichel did well in coming out to thwart Petrescu, and with the ball breaking loose in the area, Sivebæk would get a touch, although he only proceeded to dispatch it straight into the feet of Sabău, who managed to find the back of the net with Schmeichel committed, despite the presence of two Danish defenders between him and the goal. Again, the crowd found cause for wild celebration, and they were clearly sensing how this could take their heros all the way through to Italia ’90.

Romania keep on pressing

There is no resting on temporary laurels from the hosts: They are irresistible in this first half. What a performance they’re giving, and it is almost as if you feel pity with the Danish when observing how they’re being torn apart. Romania continue to dart forward at every opportunity, and they continue to commit several men in doing so. Libero Popescu, who’s hardly been inside his own half the last half hour, is often at the centre of the action, and along with Hagi and Sabău, they have just destroyed Denmark. It is a massively impressive performance so full of energy, dedication and quality that the visitors are fortunate to escape a third home goal before the break. Popescu comes perilously close when his left-footed effort from the edge of the area three minutes from the break agonisingly comes back off the upright with Schmeichel having shifted his weight onto the wrong foot, and in doing so the ‘keeper could just watch. There would’ve been some relieved players in the away camp at the sound of the half-time whistle, as this could’ve been worse than a 2-1 deficit.

Second half:

A player whom the Danish would benefit from neutralizing: Gheorghe Hagi

We are without the first 15 seconds or so of the second half, but there has been no changes in personnel for either side, so we still have the same 22 players out on the pitch as we had during the first half. We did not make much out of the wind during the first half, but it may have played a minor part, as it appears to be rather severe, judging by the various flags which are fitted atop the stand on the far side. In fact, it would have been Romania playing into the wind during the first 45, but they certainly did not make it seem like a disadvantage.

A reminder for the start of the second half: Romania are two goals to one up, but a second Danish goal will quickly turn the entire picture around. As we are aware of, the runner-up in this group will most likely be eliminated, as it should be expected that both the Netherlands and West Germany win their matches later in the afternoon.

Open start to the half

It could have been expected that Romania perhaps withdrew somewhat, protecting their lead, but at the same time, they knew they were stronger going forward than they were defensively, so it was not really in their nature to sit back and soak up pressure. Hence, the start to the second half was a topsy-turvy one, with chances at both ends. It was a refreshingly open game, and what was definitely clear was that the hosts were looking for a third goal with which to possibly kill the game. Denmark, too, had opportunities at the start of the second half, and if there were neutrals present, which was hardly likely, they’d have had a field day.

Ivan Nielsen clears Lăcătuș’ attempt

The desire among the Romanians is huge. They display this on plentiful occasions, but rarely more so than when they win two challenges in the air directly after a Danish right wing corner. Rotariu and Hagi (!) are the players in question, and from this sheer dedication, they break quickly and set up an opportunity for Lăcătuș to lob Schmeichel and find a third home goal on 49 minutes. It had been Hagi with the cross after a lengthy run on the ball, and as the visitors had committed quite a few players forward for their set-piece, they were a little short in defensive numbers. Ultimately, though, the big Ivan Nielsen managed to head Lăcătuș’ attempt away from his own goal line. Had he not, it would’ve meant that precious third Romanian goal.

Had Denmark learnt any lessons during the first half? Perhaps they had. That blisteringly quick home counter apart, they did look to have renewed appetite for the game after the break, and they were so far sound in possession, even if they were still very much aware of the threat posed by the hosts, primarily because the hosts had far more pace throughout their team than the Danish themselves had.

Denmark ought to have hauled themselves level

Brian Laudrup will set up Povlsen

It must be said, though, that Romania did not always look best organized at the back, and their wish to utilise what was, at best, a fragile offside trap almost came back to haunt them on 52 minutes. Bartram had fed Brian Laudrup a ball down the left hand side, and as Iovan stopped to have a look at the linesman, thinking it must have been offside, the quick forward strode unaffectedly into the area and brought the ball past the oncoming Lung. However, the younger Laudrup had got too close to the byline to have a direct go at goal himself, so he elected to play in the assisting Povlsen instead, and though the Netherlands based forward managed to connect with the tip of his boot, he could only direct it into the side-netting under severe pressure from Rotariu, who had done a tremendous job in recovering.

Michael Laudrup’s chance

Less than a minute later, there’s yet another major opportunity presented for the visitors, and again it is an error in the Romanian rear lines which lead to Michael Laudrup, this time, nicking the ball off a dallying Andone, who had seemed to have lost his whereabouts as he failed to find his feet just outside his own penalty area. The Barcelona ace took the ball into the area, but he delayed his shot until he had arrived at a relatively poor angle, and with Lung coming out to face him, Laudrup could only hit his effort straight at the ‘keeper. Poor decision-making, really, on the older Laudrup’s behalf, but it had not been for the first time during the game. He was, in all fairness, having a very mediocre performance by his standards.

Romania possibly commit fewer men forward

Perhaps were Romania after all a tad more cautious in their second half approach. While they had not hesitated to commit several players in the forward direction almost non-stop during the final 35 minutes of the first half, it would now appear as neither Popescu nor Petrescu, at least not to the same extent as before the break, were allowed to provide as much forward assistance as earlier. Still, it would seem to be engraved in the big libero’s DNA to cross the halfway line ball at feet if the opportunity arose. He’d been outstanding during the first half, and Romania were fortunate to have a player of his calibre at their disposal. He appeared to fit the libero description perfectly, although he was clearly a more attack-minded spare man than both Belodedici and Rednic had been before him.

After their two earlier opportunities, the visitors had not looked likely to score again. In fact, the pace of the game had died down a little, possibly as a result of the hosts no longer feeling the wish to be so attack-minded, whilst the Danish were somewhat laboured in their approach. Their midfield three still appeared to be working with too much of a distance between Lerby/Jensen and Michael Laudrup, and so when they won possession back, they had a long way to go in order to involve their three most forward players. And their two wide men, Sivebæk and Bartram, were predominantly pinned back, something which further hampered their progress.

A goal and a sending off

Balint for 3-1

Sivebæk had had a fairly average performance. He’d had a little tête-à-tête with Rotariu after a skirmish along their side of the pitch a few minutes earlier, and when he lost possession to the workmanlike Balint on the hour, it would ultimately prove fatal. Balint had picked up a yellow card on 57 minutes for kicking the ball into the stands after an offside decision against him. His workrate was fine, though, and even if Romania failed to take direct advantage of his endeavour in the situation with Sivebæk, Romania would quickly recycle the ball once again deep inside the Danish territory. Rotariu, who was indeed having a sound game, saw fit to deliever a cross towards the right edge of the area, where Lăcătuș managed to play in Sabău, who stormed into the area, only to collide with Schmeichel. The ball broke loose, and Balint was on hand to fire home past Olsen and into an empty net for that third home goal. No one could say it was undeserved, especially on the back of that first half performance. If the spectators had celebrated wildly Romania’s first two goals, they were by no means any more composed now. 3-1 was a massive lead in this decisive fixture, and Romania were eyeing their first World Cup participation since Mexico 1970.

“Off you go!” Hagi, Olsen, Lăcătuș, Sabău and Lerby pictured

A minute after the goal, the hosts would be reduced to ten men. And it was not just any player who got himself sent off: The hosts’ playmaker, who had had a few run-ins with Danish midfield duo Lerby and Jensen, and who’d been booked as early as the fourth minute for a poor tackle on Jensen, once again lashed out against the Hamburg midfielder. Mr Lanese, who was doing well to see the game flowing, even if he’d dished out a few bookings already, did not hesitate in showing Hagi off. There appeared to be disbelief among some of his team mates, and the crowd went silent. “Surely, no…”. But yes. Hagi was off. It would take him the best part of a minute to leave the field. Romania would need to prepare for the final half an hour with just ten men on the pitch, and to make sure of qualification without their most prominent performer.

In the wake of the red card

How would Romania regroup without by far their most influental midfielder, and with just nine outfield players? The next few minutes after the sending off would give an indication. Defensively, Romania had, well, at times looked wobbly. Thankfully, from their point of view, they had not been tested all that much by the visitors, as Denmark were far from their fluent best on this afternoon occasion. Could the visitors sense blood, though, now they were a man to the good for almost half an hour?

John Sivebæk is helped back on to his feet after Balint’s awful tackle

Romania had been energetic, enthusiastic and full of endeavour since those shaky first ten minutes or so, and despite being reduced to ten men, they had no wish to surrender their grip on the game. Granted, they had acted somewhat more cautiously in the minutes before their third goal, but they would continue with two strikers even after Hagi’s dismissal: Lăcătuș kept himself towards the right-sided channel, where he would continue to engage Kent Nielsen in man-marking, while Balint, well, he would have been invigorated greatly by his two massively important goals, and he would be giving plenty of chase every time the ball was inside the Danish half of the pitch and with an away player. In fact, he would overdose on high energy levels, something which he took out in a terribly timed challenge on John Sivebæk midway inside the Romanian half. The Denmark right-sided defender was left in a heap on the ground, and would need treatment for a while. He would continue, but he did not look 100 %. How Balint, on a yellow already, did not get even a talking to from the referee for that abysmal challenge is beyond comprehension.

Iovan’s felled Brian Laudrup, but no call from the referee

Denmark seem unimaginative. It is as if they do not believe that they can recover from their two goal deficit. They work the ball around without much pace. Lerby remains somewhat deep in midfield, and plenty of balls are going through him, even if he either fails to spot whatever movement there is ahead of him, or he doesn’t have the ability. Michael Laudrup should have the necessary creativity in him to pick an opening, but he will move towards the right hand channel on several occasions, not always engaging in play. His brother, however, seemed to have a moment when he attempted to break free inside the penalty area, only to take a tumble across what definitely seemed like Iovan’s outstretched leg. No question of a penalty as far as Lanese was concerned, although the Bayer Uerdingen man clearly felt he was impeded. There was not a whole lot of protesting, though, and you got the sense that some of the Danish players already saw this as mission impossible, even if there was still around 20 minutes left for play.


Elstrup on for Sivebæk

There is a first substitution of the game as Denmark replace stricken right-back Sivebæk (although he left the pitch in a hurry, not looking particularly injured) with striker Lars Elstrup. The 26 year old, currently plying his trade with Luton in the English top flight, earns his 13th cap, and after he’s been on the pitch for a few minutes it is possible to spot a change in formation. Well, this would obviously be expected with Denmark 3-1 down and after replacing a defender with a striker. They went 3-4-3, where the central defensive trio kept defending, though with Bartram pushing further ahead along the left hand side in a midfield role now, and with Jensen switching from the centre and out to a right hand side position. Lerby and the older Laudrup make up the centre, with Elstrup and Brian Laudrup flanking Povlsen up top. Five minutes after the change, Denmark can still not muster anything in terms of danger in front of Lung, although there had been a moment of promise when Bartram arrived in a crossing position from the left, only to see Rotariu head the ball away to safety.

Dorin Mateuț is on

On 78 minutes, there’s a change also for the home side. Romania had been in something akin to a 5-2-2 formation after Hagi’s expulsion, so with Denmark adding another striker into the mix, Jenei surely must have felt it wise to slow down a little on his, after all, less than ultra-defensive approach. He brought off Lăcătuș, who had certainly kept big Kent Nielsen busy, even if he had not got his name on the scoresheet (he’d assisted for 1-1, though), and replaced him with midfielder Dorin Mateuț, a 24 year old from Dinamo Bucharest. Mateuț had featured from start in all five of their previous qualifiers, and he’d scored a goal in each of Romania’s first two. He was a busy little player, both skillful and energetic, and with a terrific left-footed shot. He was also well capable of spreading a pass from distance, and he’d certainly given a good account of himself throughout the qualification. Mateuț would probably have been upset not to have started this game, but at least he would be able to finish it. As it were, he would slot into the centre of their midfield three, with Sabău to his right and Lupu to his left. This was now a midfield consisting solely of Dinamo players.

Not much time left

There continues to be a less impressive flow in the game, something which has really been the case since Romania were reduced to ten. Denmark may have some possession inside the hosts’ half of the pitch, but they are seemingly unaware of how to make use of it, even if they now have yet another forward player among themselves. Elstrup has, in earnest, made no difference since coming on, and mopping up has been all too simple for the home players, who must be very confident at this stage that they will go on and represent their country in next year’s World Cup.

Ivan Nielsen sees yellow

Romania had had a shot from the right edge of the area at goal, a free-kick effort from substitute Mateuț’ left foot, with just over eight minutes left for play, and though it had looked to clear Schmeichel’s bar by a few inches, it must have taken a touch from the defensive wall on its flight, as the referee ordered a left wing corner. A couple of minutes later, Balint was kicked to the ground quite severely by his marker Ivan Nielsen, who certainly deserved the yellow card which the referee then issued to him. Perhaps had Nielsen wanted to revenge Balint’s tackle on Sivebæk? Actually, the veteran centre-back had brought Balint to the floor with a bad tackle just minutes earlier, but on that occasion there had been no retribution from the man in black.

There is an increasing festive atmosphere among the spectators, and it does sound like they’re making cries of “Italia! Italia!”, although I cannot say that for sure. They are realising, though, that this is about to end well, as there is not a whole lot of constructive football being played inside the final few minutes. Denmark have visibly surrendered, hardly even trying any longer, and with just a couple of minutes left on the clock, it can be understood why.

Enter Nicolae Ungureanu

Romania make their second and final substitution, and it is a fine gesture towards a player who has been a national team servant for eight and a half years: Steaua Bucharest’s left-sided defender Nicolae Ungureanu, who made his international bow as a Universitatea Craiova player during a 2-1 away defeat to Israel in April ’81, replaced striker and two-goal hero Gavril Balint. The latter had continued to give chase, fully committed, even after that vicious foul by Ivan Nielsen, and he was naturally taken off to rapturous applause from the capacity crowd. Ungureanu had been an unused substitute twice, but this was his first appearance during the on-going qualification.

Not that it matters a whole lot; it is very academic, but Romania saw the game out in a 5-4-0 formation. When Ungureanu came on, he filled in at left-back, where Rotariu until then had done so well. The latter would move one step ahead and into a left-sided midfield position, with Lupu coming into the centre alongside Mateuț, and with Sabău to the right.

Upon final whistle

Just as Ungureanu is about to put the ball into position for a defensive free-kick to be taken, he’s approached by referee Lanese, and the game is over, 45 seconds into time added on. Romania have won 3-1 and qualified for the World Cup. The players can finally join in on the celebrations, which have since a few minutes already been going on in the stands. On the back of their performance, and certainly from what they showed during the first half, Romania are worthy winners, even if they had fallen behind early on. Their last World Cup proper game had been a 3-2 defeat against eventual winners Brazil, with a brace from a certain Pelé, in Guadalajara on June 10, 1970, and 20 years later they would once again grace the main footballing stage.

Congratulations, Romania! It is a lap of honour well deserved!


Romania begin the game somewhat nervously, knowing very well what’s at stake, and they have been dealt a warning already before Povlsen’s 1-0 for the visitors on six minutes. The hosts will improve dramatically, though, and they will again resemble the team which had impressed quite a lot in their two previous home games. Popescu, from his advanced libero role, Hagi and Sabău will be the more prominent contributors in their stunning dismantling of the Danish team, as they time and again attack with pace and precision against tempo-less visitors.

There’s an equalizer when Balint prods home from close range, and Sabău then puts his name on the 2-1 goal a few minutes before the break. Denmark do give a couple of early second half scares, but once 3-1 down, again through Balint, they are no longer a force to be reckoned with, even after Hagi’s red card, which sees the visitors play out the final 29 minutes with a man’s advantage.

The final half an hour is a stop-start affair, and Romania hardly need to defend with a lot of quality, simply because Denmark, on the day, do not have it in them to score again. Some of their big players failed to deliever, and their only and futile hope for qualification now is that Wales nick a point in West Germany later in the afternoon.


1 Lung 6.9
not an awful lot to do, but did well to tackle what came his way. Came out and closed down the angle when M Laudrup was through second half
2 Petrescu 7.3
highly competent performance in which he contributed well attack-wise. Was rarely put to the test defensively, one concession of a Bartram cross apart
3 Andone 6.8
the big centre-back did not always have it his way, and would struggle with Brian Laudrup, but came good eventually as Romania sat deeper and offered less space to the visiting forwards
4 Iovan 6.9
dealt well with Povlsen, but whenever up against the quick Brian Laudrup he would struggle to contain him. Close to spectacular goal with sliced first half shot from distance
5 Rotariu 7.4
a sturdy left-sided performance in which he played a big role in both the first and the third goals. Rarely so much attacking those situations apart, but would help out in trying to contain the dangerous Brian Laudrup
6 Popescu 8.0
reached double figures in venturing into the opposition’s half ball at feet, and his role was a hugely influental one. Distributed well, and Denmark never had a response to his forays across the halfway line. Composed beyond belief for a 22 year old
7 Lăcătuş 7.3
quite active as long as he stayed on the pitch, and he played a big part in both the first and the third goal. Tired late on, substituted to bolster the midfield
(15 Mateuț –
drew a save from Schmeichel after a free-kick, and showed some cute combinations with his fellow midfielders)
8 Sabău 7.8
explosive when coming forward, and carried the ball at frightening speed at times. Scored the second and played a big part in the third. Clever player, and excellent in combination with Hagi
9 Balint 7.7
scored two hugely important goals with a poacher’s instinct, and seemed to grow stronger the longer the game went on. Gave chase, kept his marker busy, and even drew a yellow off him (I Nielsen). Excellent comeback
(16 Ungureanu –
saw out time the last few minutes as the left-sided defender in his final ever international)
10 Hagi 7.9
massive game. Hugely influental for the hour which he played until he got himself sent off for a second yellow. Transported at such pace that the opponents could not get near, and linked up so well with Sabău. Disappointing free-kicks the only thing to let him down
11 Lupu 7.2
balanced the midfield well, displayed two fine passing feet. His physique came to fruition against tough opponents

1 Schmeichel 6.9
could not be blamed for either goal. No particular stand-out save, but had several characteristic huge throws in attempts to start counters
2 Sivebæk 6.3
no attacking contribution, and struggled defensively in that he conceded a few crosses from his side. Disappointing performance from such an experienced player. Off for tactical reasons, although he’d taken a big hit just before
(15 Elstrup –
came on at a time when Denmark were trying to get back into the game. Offered strength, but was dealt very few balls to work with)
3 K Nielsen 6.5
often stretched by Lăcătuș, and was even defeated in the air, a rare occurence during this qualification, for the equalizer. Did not reach earlier standards
4 L Olsen 6.4
not the necessary leadership qualities in a game where his contribution in coming forward would’ve been very useful. At times sluggish, and part of a disorganised defence
5 I Nielsen 6.4
looked like he could contain Balint, until he completely lost the Romanian striker for 1-1, and then struggled to raise his game again. Frustration got the better of him as he was booked for a late, cynical foul on the same Balint
6 Bartram 6.3
often outnumbered defensively, and he struggled to contain the highly aggressive Romanian players, where Sabău in particular was a thorn in his side. Offered little coming forward, and was far from as impressive as in his earlier inside midfield role
7 Lerby 6.7
saw plenty of the ball on his comeback, but his passing was hardly exciting or probing, and seemed confused in battle with the dominant Hagi
8 Jensen 6.7
often sat deep until the Danish substitution, when he was shifted out towards the right hand side. Twice kicked to the ground by Hagi, who was subsequently red-carded after the second incident
9 Povlsen 6.2
apart from his early goal, he was generally tamed by the home defence, and this was a very disappointing performance from the usually so lively forward
10 M Laudrup 6.3
plenty expected from him, so when he fails to perform, there’s bound to be reactions. He struggled with the pace, rarely managed to play either forward in, and failed on his one opportunity coming through against Lung in the second half
11 B Laudrup 7.2
totally unplayable early on, when he set up Povlsen’s goal with a mesmerising run. Looked to make use of the vast space which the Romanian defence left behind during the first half, but failed to convert when through. Easily the more threatening Danish player