Romania start brightly but fade badly en route to early Euro 2016 exit
Romania almost grabbed a draw vs. Euro 2016 hosts France in the opening game but fell apart from there. Emanuel Rosu reviews their tournament.
At a glance
Romania's trip to Euro 2016 started on a high note but ended in disaster after a defeat to Albania in the final group game. Their tournament was divided into two clear segments. Everything fell apart at half-time in the 1-1 draw against Switzerland. The minutes that followed, and the game against Albania, made Romania forget everything that went right.
The highlight has to be the first 45 minutes at Stade de France, on the opening night of the Euros.
Romania made France suffer, missed a few chances, and had a fierce attitude that made life uncomfortable for the tournament hosts. The beautiful "yellow wall" could gladly jump and scream for a set of players that looked capable of spectacular things. It was only a mirage, though, because Dimitri Payet 's 89th-minute goal made the dream fold. The 2-1 defeat to France wasn't a disaster. It was a happy defeat. Fans, journalists and pundits all agreed the attitude was right and expected some steps forward against Switzerland and Albania. Unfortunately, Romania took the message badly and abruptly went backward.
When Russian referee Sergey Karasev blew the whistle for half-time at Parc des Princes, Romania was up 1-0 against Switzerland in their second group game. Optimists were already speculating about Romania's future opponents in the knockout stage, but what happened next was a surreal turn of events that ended in dramatic style.
Manager Anghel Iordanescu's men conceded only one goal despite the Swiss trying over and over again, and the game ended 1-1. Starting from the lack of concentration that led to the goal, before abandoning any positive intentions throughout the second half, and ending with the players' reactions after the game, Romania was absolutely pathetic.
From that moment on, it became clear that these players weren't here to win, push their limits or inspire future generations to follow in their footsteps. They were here to be happy with anything that was more than nothing. The 1-0 defeat to Albania was just a logical consequence that followed the reality Switzerland provoked.
No kid in Romania will want any of the current players' names written on the back of his shirt. This national team can't make you dream. This national team doesn't challenge you. They no longer have a Gheorghe Hagi, an Adrian Mutu or any other player who could make people around the world look forward to watching. Considering the results, I'd say Romania's star wasn't anywhere near Euro 2016.
The game against Albania was one of the best examples of what not to do at an international tournament. Romania focused its entire campaign on this single game, which the players were too tired to play. After some decent play in the opening 20 minutes, Romania disappeared, conceded after a horrible mistake from three defensive players, and ended Euro 2016 in tears. It was a small-team attitude from a group of players who never looked capable of playing for more, really.
Maybe next time they play at a major competition -- hopefully the wait will be shorter than the eight years it took before successfully qualifying for Euro 2016 -- Romania will start by going back to its identity. There aren't new players to call upon yet and the shortlist for a new manager is vague. No matter who gets picked next time, I hope the fight will be to make the team remembered for something good and not for the disappointment of an early exit.
Emanuel Rosu is ESPN FC's Romania blogger for Euro 2016. Twitter: @Emishor