Fueled by feeling insulted, Romania draws 1-1 with Slovakia to send both into Euro 2024 round of 16

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Romania coach Edward Iordănescu felt insulted by that pre-game chatter he called “shameful” of possibly contriving a low-key draw against Slovakia to send both teams into the European Championship knockout round.

It did indeed end 1-1 on Wednesday and Romania finished atop of Group E — ahead of favored Belgium — but not in the way those pundits throwing shade had predicted.

And Iordănescu let them know about it after a high-energy game played in severe weather which had wild mood swings, and earned his team a round-of-16 meeting with the Netherlands.

“There is some people that should apologize to us,” Iordănescu said, criticizing some of the commentary earlier in the week. “They should have waited to see and then judge us. So this was shameful.

“They throw this garbage to us, not just the team but to our fans. We showed we have character,” the Romanian coach said, in the only answer in English of his news conference.

The quirk of the 24-team Euros format is that Groups E and F playing on the final day of the group stage have an advantage. They know the result they need to be assured of being among the four best third-place teams who must advance to the last-16 bracket.

At the start of play Wednesday, all four teams were on three points before Romania and Slovakia drew in Frankfurt at the same time as Belgium was held 0-0 by Ukraine, which was eliminated.

Romania topped the group on the tiebreaker of more goals scored than Belgium, and both had a better goal difference than third-place Slovakia.

“Nobody could say my team didn’t play to win for the 90 minutes,” Slovakia coach Francesco Calzona said.

Both Iordănescu and Calzona were right to feel vindicated one day after questions at pre-game news conferences about the option of a contrive a low-energy draw to get the point both needed.

Both teams went for goals despite stifling heat in the first half that ended 1-1.

They really went for more goals through sheets of rain amid booming thunderclaps midway through the second half.

The fans, especially yellow-shirted Romanians filling two thirds of the Frankfurt arena, seemed energized by soccer in the crackling electric storm.

The teams still were chasing a game-winning goal in the steady rain until stoppage time before it ended 1-1.

“Both teams gave everything for 80 minutes, then of course everybody looks for each (other’s) interest,” Iordănescu said.

Slovakia’s standout player Stanislav Lobotka, a midfielder with Napoli, said he never experienced such in-game weather in his career.

“Heat and the very hard ground at the beginning and within 45 minutes the weather changed completely, with pools of water at some parts of the pitch,” Lobotka said in translated comments.

Slovakia led in the 24th minute when Ondrej Duda directed a powerful header down into the corner of the net.

Răzvan Marin leveled in the 37th from a penalty awarded after a two-minute video review to decide if Ianis Hagi was tripped inside the area.

Romania will now play in the knockout round for the first time since Euro 2000 when Hagi’s father, national soccer icon Gheorghe, was captain in the No. 10 jersey now worn by his son.

Romania’s reward is going into what shapes as the weaker half of the knockout bracket, separated until the final from in-form Spain and Portugal plus France and Germany.

Next for Romania is facing the Dutch in Munich with a five full days rest before that game on Tuesday.

Belgium plays France in a standout pairing on Monday in Duesseldorf. Slovakia will play England Sunday in Gelsenkirchen.

When the soccer anthem “Freed From Desire” played after the final whistle, both sets of fans were singing and jumping in celebration with the players.

“I think never in the history of Romania has the team had such a support, not even the golden generation (of Hagi),” said Iordănescu, whose father, Anghel, coached the national team at Euro 2016. “Romania has found its spirit that it mustn’t ever lose again.”


AP Euro 2024: https://apnews.com/hub/euro-2024

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up