This was an extraordinary match but one Romanian football will want to forget. Beaten 5-2 at home in a game they could well have won, Romania subsequently lost their coach when Anghel Iordanescu announced afterwards he was quitting his post.
The scoreline did not reflect a game that for long periods Romania dominated, but a 45-metre effort and an own goal summed up their luck in an extraordinary encounter. "I don't remember seeing a game like this in my career," said the outgoing Iordanescu, whose resignation was followed by the news that Gheorghe Popescu and Iulian Filipescu have retired from the national team.
'Incredible bad luck'
Romania led 1-0 and 2-1 but ended up suffering a second successive home defeat in qualifying, as Denmark climbed to the top of Group 2 with their second win of the campaign. Iordanescu, who felt his team had suffered "incredible bad luck", said: "We've lost six vital points at home to Norway and Denmark and
I must assume my responsibility and the only logical thing to do is step down."
No one would have foreseen the post-match turmoil when Romania's early pressure earned them a goal after just five minutes. Vlad Munteanu curled in a free-kick from the right and Adrian Mutu dived in to beat Thomas Sørensen.
Rommedahl nets rebound
However, four minutes later, Denmark surprisingly pulled level on a sandy National Stadium pitch dubbed 'Copacabana' by the Bucharest press. Again the goal came from a free-kick as Thomas Gravesen's right-footed centre reached the head of Ebbe Sand. The striker's effort was saved by Bogdan Lobont, but Dennis Rommedahl was first to the rebound with a strong, angled shot.
Back in front
The home side could have fallen behind before the break when Jon Dahl Tomasson delayed his shot in a one-on-one with Lobont and the goalkeeper touched the ball away. Two minutes into the second period, however, Romania made it 2-1. Mutu broke down the left, left two Danish defenders for dead and cut the ball back to the onrushing Munteanu who made no mistake with his powerful shot. Again, though, the lead did not last long.
After Lobont emerged from his box to clear from the advancing Sand, Gravesen returned the ball with interest from 45 metres out. The Everton FC player's outrageous lob curled into the net on a perfect arc before the goalkeeper could recover. "It difficult to play away to a team like Romania, we were lucky to equalise so soon both times," said Denmark coach Morten Olsen, who admitted: "
It was a strange game."
Contra own goal
Despite this setback, Romania continued to attack but Denmark's defence held firm and a two-minute spell brought them victory. With 19 minutes left, substitute Morten Wieghorst sent a high cross into the home box, Laurentiu Reghecampf attempted to head the ball to Lobont but the alert Tomasson pounced to score. In the Danes' next attack, Rommedahl sent a cross in from the left which was missed by Tomasson but struck the luckless Cosmin Contra and deflected in.
Suddenly, the game was beyond Romania, despite good efforts from Mutu and a shot narrowly wide by Ioan Ganea. Denmark salted the wound with virtually the last kick of the game, Rommedahl playing a one-two with Sand and chipping the goalkeeper to seal a victory as stunning as the announcement that followed it.