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.
|1 Silviu Lung (c)||33||Steaua|
|2 Dan Petrescu||21||Steaua|
|3 Ioan Andone||29||Dinamo|
|4 Ştefan Iovan||29||Steaua|
|5 Iosif Rotariu||27||Steaua|
|6 Gheorghe Popescu||22||Universitatea Craiova|
|7 Marius Lăcătuș||sub 78′||25||Steaua|
|8 Ioan Sabău||21||Dinamo|
|9 Gavril Balint||, sub 86′||26||Steaua|
|10 Gheorghe Hagi||, 62′||24||Steaua|
|11 Dănuț Lupu||22||Dinamo|
|12 Dorin Mateuț||on 78′||24||Dinamo|
|13 Bogdan Stelea||21||Dinamo|
|14 Adrian Bumbescu||29||Steaua|
|15 Nicolae Urungeanu||on 86′||33||Steaua|
|16 Florin Răducioiu||19||Dinamo|
|1 Peter Schmeichel||25||Brøndby|
|2 John Sivebæk||sub 73′||28||Saint-Étienne|
|3 Kent Nielsen||27||Aston Villa|
|4 Lars Olsen (c)||28||Brøndby|
|5 Ivan Nielsen||33||PSV Eindhoven|
|6 Jan Bartram||27||Bayer Uerdingen|
|7 Søren Lerby||31||PSV Eindhoven|
|8 John Jensen||24||Hamburg|
|9 Flemming Povlsen||22||PSV Eindhoven|
|10 Michael Laudrup||25||Barcelona|
|11 Brian Laudrup||20||Bayer Uerdingen|
|14 Lars Elstrup||on 73′||26||Luton|
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.
3 K Nielsen
4 L Olsen
5 I Nielsen
10 M Laudrup
11 B Laudrup