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History 9. Romania 3 Argentina 2 (1994)

Monday 6th May 2002

Gheorge Hagi, nicknamed the Magician, began the day of July 3, 1994 with a little prophecy.

"Today Argentina will play a very tough game, and the only thing they will take away from it will be bad memories," he dictated sagely.

Never averse to self-promotion, Hagi surprisingly tipped his team-mate Ilie Dumitrescu to be the star of the day. "Ilie will be the fatal weapon we use to break the Argentine defence. It will be his day," added the inspirational playmaker.

A capacity crowd of 90,000 packed into the blazing sunshine of Rose Bowl in Pasadena for Romania versus Argentina, with these words ringing in their ears.

Yet the clash between Diego Maradona and his heir apparent, Hagi, had been called off. Maradona failed a drugs test and had been kicked out of the tournament.

Argentina had only squeezed through to the second round as the best runners-up, but were still expected to brush aside their Eastern European opponents.

Against Bulgaria in the group stage, Argentina looked lost without Maradona. Coach Alfio Basile felt that Romania would be similarly impotent if the threat of Hagi could be snuffed out.

Basile made two crucial decisions before the game. To entrust the 17-year old Ariel Ortega with filling Diego Maradona's boots was inspired, to assign Jose Horacio Basualdo a man-marking role on Georghe Hagi was an exercise in futility.

Basualdo had no previous experience of man-marking, and was to endure a torrid afternoon failing to keep tabs on the Romanian Magician.

The game got off to an explosive start with both sides galloping from end to end. But nobody was watching the football - all eyes had turned to a flurry in the press box.

The commotion, inevitably, centred around Maradona. In an inspired move, an Argentine TV channel had signed him up to commentate on the game. The master was in attendance.

The apprentice was doing his best to upstage him however. Hagi was everywhere, prompting Romania's attacks with neat flicks and slide-rule passes.

It was his compatriot, Ilie Dumitrescu, who set the tone in what was to be the most inspired performance of his career.

In the ninth minute, Romania won a free kick out on the left wing.
Dumitrescu trotted up to deliver what fans expected to be a routine cross, but instead bent an audacious shot into the top corner of the net.

The goal took everyone by surprise, not least Argentina's goalkeeper Luis Islas.

The order went some way to being restored only six minutes later. Gabriel Batistuta eagerly crashed to the turf under Miodrag Belodedici's challenge, before dusting himself down to convert from the spot.

"I didn't touch Batistuta, but he was clever to fall and it was suddenly a penalty. If the same thing had happened in our box, I'm sure we would not have been given a penalty," Belodedici complained.

The 40,000 Argentinians in the Rose Bowl breathed a collective sigh of relief, and soon found their voice as they anticipated their team to go on and dominate the remainder of the match.

However, just two minutes later, the wall of noise from the Argentinian fans returned to stunned silence when Dumitrescu latched onto Hagi's expert through-ball and applied a classy finish to restore Romania's lead.

Suddenly Romania looked lethal, calmly absorbing Argentina's best efforts before pouncing on the break.

"This is not the team I left," bellowed a frustrated Maradona from the press box, his voice cracking with emotion. "They never make this many mistakes in defence - I don't understand it."

Maradona then watched in dismay, as his country's World Cup hopes were unravelled by a flowing Romania counter-attack that was finished imperiously by Hagi's clinical left boot.

Abel Balbo raised Argentina hopes by tapping in after Florian Prunea spilled the ball, but they had two penalty appeals thrown out in a tense final half-hour.

When the whistle blew for full-time, Batistuta burst into tears, while Dumitrescu was carried from the pitch shoulder-high by his team-mates.

Anghel Iordanescu, Romania's coach, was in shock. He refused to believe they had actually won.

Maradona, however, had left the building. The press fruitlessly tried to find him, but he had left before the final whistle to brood upon what he regarded as a national disaster.

Bucharest went wild. Thousands upon thousands streamed onto the streets to kiss, cry and dance. Cars put their head-lights onto full-beam, turning night into day.

Chants went up: "Hagi for president, Iordanescu for prime minister."

An quick-thinking contingent of Romania fans forged towards the Argentinian embassy, and burst into a spontaneous rendition of 'Don't cry for me Argentina'.

The embassy responded in good spirit, applauding the impromptu choir and raising the Romanian flag.

In a moment of hubris, the crowd moved on to the Swedish embassy, who Romania were to face in the quarter finals, crying: "Look out Swedes, here we come!"

Before the Sweden game, Iordanescu ordered a video-tape of the Bucharest celebrations to inspire the players in the quarter-finals.

But it was not to be. Eccentric goalkeeper Thomas Ravelli was the hero a week later as Sweden eliminated Romania 5-4 on penalties.

Buenos Aires was devastated by the anti-climax. Clarin ran the headline; 'Dying on their feet', while La Nacion was equally scathing: 'Argentina's illusion is shattered into a thousand pieces'.

In the sobriety of the morning after, Argentina had to wake up to life after Diego Armando Maradona.

The World Cup had a new star by the name of Gheorge Hagi. "It's incredible," he said after watching the scenes in Bucharest. "I'm so happy about being able to give the people a performance like that.

"These people suffer from so many different problems every single day, I'm just so moved that our performance has given them this moment of happiness.

"I have only one regret - I wish I could have been in Bucharest to celebrate with them," he grinned.

Romania: Prunea, Petrescu, Prodan, Belodedici, Lupescu, Popescu, Munteanu, Mihali, Selymes, Hagi (Galca), Dumitrescu (Papura)

Argentina: Islas, Sensini (Bello), Ruggeri, Caceres, Chamot, Basualdo, Simeone, Ortega, Redondo, Balbo, Batistuta

Referee: Pairetto (Italy)

Attendance: 90,469
 

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That's a good article. I was at this game, also the game before vs USA. I was a student in Ottawa, Canada. My uncle and family live in LA, so he told me he had tickets for the USA game, and invited me to come. That day it was 52C on the pitch. I was sitting in a section with hundreds of Romanians. It was amazing. Somebody had a huge Romanian flag, so for the whole time our national anthem was playing, I was suffocating under this huge flag! Not a cloud in the sky, it was a 1pm start, and we were sweating just sitting in our seats all day. Anyway that day was won on Petrescu's goal past Tony, it was amazing. Imagine my surprise that Romania won the group, and would be playing the round of 16 in the Rose Bowl as well. I extended my trip by two days so I could see this game too. Actually, my plane boarded at halftime of the USA-BRA on July 4th, the pilot gave updates every five minutes. I was taking a summer course in Psychology (though I studied Economics and History), and skipped a mid-term thus making my final worth 100%..

Anyway, my further surprise, we would be playing Argentina, and then the shock of Maradona. And the game was beautiful, the stadium was packed, Argentinians in their colours singing VAMOS VAMOS, ARGENTINA....some gorgeous girls as well! This time I was sitting just with my uncle randomly in the crowd, behind the net where Romania scored twice in the 1st half, surrounded by mostly ARG fans, Mexicans and a few Romanians and Americans here and there. Well, what a show Hagi put on. That was for me the best international game he ever played, but I didn't see them all. At the time I was very happy Maradona wasn't playing because I was most interested in Romania winning the game, but in retrospect I kind of wish I had been able to see the great Maradona live. Put it this way, I have been to 3 'real' soccer games in my life, these two and a Tottenham-West Ham game. But I don't think I could have chosen a better one to see live. It was really unbelievable. This article doesn't mention how gorgeous the second goal was, Hagi and Dumitrescu worked the ball from their own half, Hagi just created magic. Ilie's finish was spectacular, just deflecting the ball inside the near post. One of the many amazing goals Romania scored that year. The players danced 'hora' after the game, well my uncle was in tears just saying I can't believe we won, much like Iordanescu in the article. The players were so happy, it was just tremendous. And it was a great, exciting game also, one of the best that year.

I remember leaving the stadium and a Mexican guy saying ( I was wearing a Romania t-shirt and had a flag on me) 'Man, you guys have a good team.'
 

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Contra said:
That's a good article. I was at this game, also the game before vs USA. I was a student in Ottawa, Canada. My uncle and family live in LA, so he told me he had tickets for the USA game, and invited me to come. That day it was 52C on the pitch. I was sitting in a section with hundreds of Romanians. It was amazing. Somebody had a huge Romanian flag, so for the whole time our national anthem was playing, I was suffocating under this huge flag! Not a cloud in the sky, it was a 1pm start, and we were sweating just sitting in our seats all day. Anyway that day was won on Petrescu's goal past Tony, it was amazing. Imagine my surprise that Romania won the group, and would be playing the round of 16 in the Rose Bowl as well. I extended my trip by two days so I could see this game too. Actually, my plane boarded at halftime of the USA-BRA on July 4th, the pilot gave updates every five minutes. I was taking a summer course in Psychology (though I studied Economics and History), and skipped a mid-term thus making my final worth 100%..

Anyway, my further surprise, we would be playing Argentina, and then the shock of Maradona. And the game was beautiful, the stadium was packed, Argentinians in their colours singing VAMOS VAMOS, ARGENTINA....some gorgeous girls as well! This time I was sitting just with my uncle randomly in the crowd, behind the net where Romania scored twice in the 1st half, surrounded by mostly ARG fans, Mexicans and a few Romanians and Americans here and there. Well, what a show Hagi put on. That was for me the best international game he ever played, but I didn't see them all. At the time I was very happy Maradona wasn't playing because I was most interested in Romania winning the game, but in retrospect I kind of wish I had been able to see the great Maradona live. Put it this way, I have been to 3 'real' soccer games in my life, these two and a Tottenham-West Ham game. But I don't think I could have chosen a better one to see live. It was really unbelievable. This article doesn't mention how gorgeous the second goal was, Hagi and Dumitrescu worked the ball from their own half, Hagi just created magic. Ilie's finish was spectacular, just deflecting the ball inside the near post. One of the many amazing goals Romania scored that year. The players danced 'hora' after the game, well my uncle was in tears just saying I can't believe we won, much like Iordanescu in the article. The players were so happy, it was just tremendous. And it was a great, exciting game also, one of the best that year.

I remember leaving the stadium and a Mexican guy saying ( I was wearing a Romania t-shirt and had a flag on me) 'Man, you guys have a good team.'

what a beautiful story!


I wish I could assist to a match of our beloved NT!!! :scream:


The only experience that came close to yours was when I watched the Romanian team that participated in the Jeux de la Francophonie against Marocco in Ottawa...
 

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Contra, now that's an experience to remember :) I remember getting goose bumps everytime Hagi touched the ball. He truly was magical in 94.
 

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The Argentina vs Romania has got to be one of the best games I've ever seen. (even my Argie friend thinks so) I lost my voice from screaming in that game. By the time Sweden came around in the quarters I could barely talk to curse at refs (which is what I always do). When Romania scores I scream and run around the house, run up and down stairs, slide on my knee's. In the ARG-ROM game by the time I'd finished celebrating Argentina had scored. Fantastic game. Contra you are one lucky lucky guy to have actually had that experience. But I'm sure you know that already ;)
 

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Great stuff guys!!! One thing the article is wrong about: it wasn't Belodedici but Prodan that was marking Batistuta when he dove in the penalty box. I have the tape and I watched the incident over and over again. Batigol did a nice move turned around suddenly and even got by Prodan slightly and as soon as Prodan touched Batistuta's shoulder he went down…It wasn't a clear foul , but Batigol had the advantage on Prodan as he had dribbled passed him successfully. So the ref gave him the benefit of the doubt…
I remember I was in highschool at that time...I was watching the game with about 10 people, all of us stacked in my small living room in the apt. I was living at the time. I remember at half time I went to the kitchen to get a drink of water and my hand was shaking uncontrollably. I never felt like the way I felt during that game - I felt like my blood was boiling. It's the type of game that can cause a stroke... The only game that comes close is England - Romania at Euro 2000 when we scored in the last minute to qualify for the 2nd round. But as estatic I was after this game I was just as depressed after the Sweden game, which we should have won. We scored in Extratime and back then there was no 'golden goal' rule, so they actually tied on a idiotic mistake by our goalie...and then we all know what happened...

It's weird how Romania always has a flare for the dramatic - sometimes it works in our favour, other times against us...
 

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What fantastic stories!!!!!!!!
Once I read in a Web that the match ROM-ARG was in the Top10 of WC Games!!!!!!!!!!!!
It was really a great match,I was watching it in my grandparent´s home and I enjoyed with our "yellow heros"...I will remember this match until the day I dead.
When Dumitrescu scored his second goal,I scream my grandfather:"Rumania ha marcado!!!!Rumania ha marcado!!!!!" and my brother and me were impressed with Romanian game.

Some days later...the match against Sweden.We could play with Romario´s Brazil...but the penaltys:(

I´m sure that the future will give us more games like these :D :)

:( ;) :mad: HAI ROMANIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 

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Contra, that's fantastic man! Although I've seen hundreds of game live [98% of them being Farul games and some 3 NT games and a couple of others], I've mostly seen crap.

That was quite some luck to get to one of the most beautiful matches ever!
 
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