1-1 (26) 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: –
Stadionul Steaua, Bucharest
Att.: 30,000
Ref.: Mr Tullio Lanese (ITA)
L 1: Pierluigi Magni (ITA)
L 2: Angelo Amendolia (ITA)



The day had come for the decider in group 1. Denmark would be through with a win or a draw, while Romania needed to win. Denmark might also progress with a loss, but would then be dependent on the results in group 4, in which the final matches would kick off later that day.

Romania welcomed back Marius Lăcătuș, who was badly missed in Copenhagen. Once behind against the Danes, Romania looked sterile in their 4-5-1 formation, with no Lăcătuș to cause havoc in the opposition defense. This time, however, he would not partner Cămătaru, as the big striker had sustained an injury. Jenei called upon Gavril Balint in the striker role, who made his debut in these qualifiers. Balint is a different kind of player: more opportunistic, less work rate. Another major change was the inclusion of Dănuț Lupu on the left side of midfield. Dorin Mateuț had gradually lost some of his excellent form from 1988, and the change could be justified. Iovan was drawn into central defense, and so Jenei introduced a relatively new face on the right back, the young Steaua starlet Dan Petrescu. And still there was space for one more major change in the team, as Popescu would position himself far deeper than usual, acting as a libero, with Iovan and Andone as man-markers. It is worth remembering that previous libero Mircea Rednic got himself sent off in Copenhagen, and therefore was suspended for this game. Thus, a big overhaul for Romania before the big decider.

But also Piontek made some notable changes before this game. Jan Heintze did not take part in this game at all. Why is that? Various explanations have been given, and we are not sure which to trust. It appears, though, that Heintze was an omission made by Piontek. In his place came Jan Bartram, who would in all likelihood keep an eye on Lăcătuș. But the major story was perhaps still the comeback of Søren Lerby in the Danish national team. Lerby had retired for international football after the disappointing 1988 Euros, but sensationally returned for this decider. He was of course still going strong for his club team PSV and if available, Piontek could impossibly let the chance to play him go by. The veteran player would bring spirited efforts and visionary passes, and took the place in midfield left by Bartram.

Officially, there’s no indication of the four unused Danish substitutes. We have, however, been able to retrieve the names of the six players who were non-starters from their matchday squad of 17, so from these six, five were on the bench: (goalkeeper) Troels Rasmussen (surely included), John Larsen, Jan Heintze, Kim Vilfort, John Helt and Lars Elstrup.

Referee? Italian Tullio Lanese. The 42 year old was in charge of his third fixture in the ongoing qualification, having previously run the rule over Austria v Turkey and France v Yugoslavia.

Romania (5-3-2)

1 Silviu Lung (c)33Steaua
2 Dan Petrescu21Steaua
3 Ioan Andone29Dinamo
4 Ştefan Iovan29Steaua
5 Iosif Rotariu27Steaua
6 Gheorghe Popescu22Universitatea Craiova
7 Marius Lăcătușsub 78′25Steaua
8 Ioan Sabău21Dinamo
9 Gavril Balint, sub 86′26Steaua
10 Gheorghe Hagi, 62′24Steaua
11 Dănuț Lupu22Dinamo

12 Dorin Mateuțon 78′24Dinamo
13 Bogdan Stelea21Dinamo
14 Adrian Bumbescu29Steaua
15 Nicolae Urungeanuon 86′33Steaua
16 Florin Răducioiu19Dinamo
Manager: Emeric Jenei

Denmark (5-3-2)

1 Peter Schmeichel25Brøndby
2 John Sivebæksub 73′28Saint-Étienne
3 Kent Nielsen27Aston Villa
4 Lars Olsen (c)28Brøndby
5 Ivan Nielsen33PSV Eindhoven
6 Jan Bartram27Bayer Uerdingen
7 Søren Lerby31PSV Eindhoven
8 John Jensen24Hamburg
9 Flemming Povlsen22PSV Eindhoven
10 Michael Laudrup25Barcelona
11 Brian Laudrup20Bayer Uerdingen

12 n/a
13 n/a
14 Lars Elstrupon 73′26Luton
15 n/a
16 n/a
Manager: Sepp Piontek

Tactical formations

Romania vs Denmark - World Cup 1990 Qualifier - Football tactics and formations


Romania is traditionally a great counter-attacking side, and they did of course go a bit deeper from the start of the second half, waiting for their chances. But they were certainly not safeguarding their slender lead, but instead threw a lot of players in attack in order to get that third goal. This led to a very open match, as the Danes of course also were looking for a goal. It was in fact surprising to see how big chances the Romanias did take, and this risky play led to three good Danish goalscoring opportunities. At one point Brian Laudrup was given acres of space down the Romanias right hand side, passing the ball to Povlsen who missed on near open goal. How close to 2-2! Romania equally got a clear-cut chance after a counter-attacking which Lăcătuș finished: his lob defeated Schmeichel but was cleared by Kent Nielsen on the line. Play was wide-open with big chances in both ends. A great watch, but one wonders why Romania did not play more carefully.

3-1: The situation was created by Popescu who once again broke through the Danish lines. Twice the ball was recovered by the Romanians exerting high pressure on the Danish defence. And again Rotariu was involved with the decisive cross (but significantly only the second time he had gone forward in the game, unlike Petrescu). It is Sabău who slips on the ball, leaving it for Balint to again push it over the line. The Danish defence looks indeterminate.

Romanias third goal effectively killed off the game. One situation immediately after the Danish kick-off (5 seconds?) could however have changed the balance of the game, when Hagi was sent off for kicking Jensen on the shin. Could Denmark really stage a comeback? Again, a draw would send them through. There was more than enough time left. But while Romania had to play a half-hour with only 10 men, the Danes did not have much to offer for a late comeback. The Romanians finally decided to put men behind the ball and now eventually found some organization in their pressing, which had been so terribly unstructured so far in the game. In addition Lăcătuș and Balint largely frustrated the Danish players with “creating” free-kicks (some looked ok, others not so much). The Danes looked well beaten with that third Romanian goal and their efforts to find a consolation goal were disappointing. Barely a few half-chances were created. Elstrup came on the field with the team changing to a 3-4-3 formation that looked no good (as against Bulgaria at home earlier). And where was Michael Laudrup? Nowhere to be seen.

Today, an addition of 6 or 7 minutes would be warranted because of all the stops in play (the Hagi expulsion, a lengthy injury on Sivebæk). But, as often would happen in this era, Tullio Lanese saw no need to add any extra minutes to play. And there was no reason either, since the Danes had nothing to give. It ended 3-1 and Romania were through to the 1990 World Cup.



1 Lung
2 Petrescu
3 Andone
4 Iovan
5 Rotariu
6 Popescu
7 Lăcătuș
8 Sabău
9 Balint
10 Hagi
11 Lupu

1 Schmeichel
2 Sivebæk
3 K Nielsen
4 L Olsen
5 I Nielsen
6 Bartram
7 Lerby
8 Jensen
9 Povlsen
10 M Laudrup
11 B Laudrup

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Matthew

    The report doesn’t mention the first 3 goals? Certainly the Danish goal was typical of the Dynamite era, a lovley dribble down the inside right by Brian Laudrup and a pull back for an easy Poulsen goal from about 7 yards out. The Romanian goals were a lot messier.

    Denmark at their best could easily have reached the last 8 in Rome instead of Ireland. They had been completely reborn in the summer of 89, Brian Laudrup’s emergence was certainly something to do with that. Yes, they were European champions in 92, but that side had nowhere near the style or panache of Piontek’s sides, and Denmark 1990 is one of the great lost World Cup campaigns.

    Nice to see that the current Denmark side has recovered some of the Dynamite style, after decades of them being just another typical Scandinavian counter-attacking side.

  2. Matthew

    Oh sorry, I got confused, all the 1st half details are on Report 2, got ya!

    Still sorry Poulsen didn’t get that second goal when Brian set him up early in the 2nd half. I’ve seen the match with Danish commentary and the commentator is roaring as if it was a certain goal! It could’ve changed football history.

    1. kaltz

      Hi, Matthew.
      Thank you for both your comments. Your feedback is much appreciated.

      You are right – that early second half chance for the Danish was huge. However, Romania’s left-back Rotariu had done a terrific job in denying Povlsen a clean effort, which would surely have been rewarded with a goal. The Danish had also been robbed during the first half, when a poor offside decision against them as the roles had been reversed on that occasion, with Povlsen having attempted to thread the younger Laudrup through.

      Football consists, also, of an infinite number of ‘what ifs’, and these are just two such incidents. But yes, Denmark had showed in 1989 that they were a force to be reckoned with (hence I concur with your perception of them having been reborn that year), and one could argue that they had not been any inferior to the Romanians over the course of the two matches. However, they had failed to accumulate a high enough points tally to be rewarded with a ticket to the World Cup, and it was their misfortune that they had failed to achieve their aim. The world would have to wait another eight years before they’d get to see the ‘Danish dynamite’ on the global stage again.

      Who knows how they would’ve gone on to perform at Italia ’90. As it were, we were given the Romanians, and they for sure won a lot of hearts over, too, even if they perhaps weren’t quite as slick coming forward as that Danish team when the latter were on song. Still, it would’ve been a huge disappointment to miss out on seeing players like Popescu, Hagi and Lăcătuș, to name but a few, during those magic Italia nights.

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