Why Romania have no reason to despair

Romania lost to a Dimitri Payet wondergoal and were profoundly frustrated at the final whistle last night, but team reporter Paul-Daniel Zaharia knows all is far from lost.

Romania troop off disconsolate after defeat against France
Romania troop off disconsolate after defeat against France ©Panoramic

Romania experienced a dark night of the footballing soul in the early hours of Saturday morning. Anghel Iordănescu and his players were left reeling after the hammer-blow of a late French winner in the EURO opener in Saint-Denis.

However, while players were using phrases like "we are scratching our eyes out after losing like this" in their post-match interviews, hundreds of supportive messages from fans on social media should have lifted their spirits.

"We have no reason to be demoralised," said midfielder Adrian Popa after the game. Quite right, and here is why.

Respect back home
The local media are rarely merciful in the aftermath of a defeat for the national team, but Saturday morning's reports were extremely encouraging. There is genuine respect for the way Romania played, and how they managed to square up to a team with home advantage and top-class players in every position.

Romania did not buckle
Against top-tier opponents, in a hosile atmosphere, Romania did not retreat into their shells, but showed immense professionalism and experience, and came out fighting. After conceding Olivier Giroud's opener, they might have caved in, but the Tricolorii stuck to their guns for the equaliser, and were minutes away from what would have been a superb point.

Discipline, discipline, discipline
'Old fox' Iordănescu sent his side out with a very specific tactical plan and his players followed it very well. It was not an exclusively attacking or defensive plan, but one that encouraged Romania to go with the flow of the game, sitting back when necessary and attacking when the opportunity arose. Iordănescu will know what tweaks need to be made for their next game, against Switzerland, which will be an entirely different challenge.

Kudos from the neutrals
Dimitri Payet's wonder-winner was the front-page image in every paper, but there was universal praise for the way Romania had conducted themselves. Everyone saw they gave France a scare. For a smaller nation competing on the biggest stage, that sort of positive coverage means a lot.

Hope for the future
There was no doubt in the post-match interviews – Romania's players all said that they still had an excellent chance of qualifying, and these were not empty words. It was a performance that convinced the players of their worth.

Had they shrunk under the big spotlight at Stade de France, they would have had every reason for despair. They did not. Switzerland and Albania, their remaining opponents, are good sides, but they are not in France's bracket. All is not lost.