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High stakes at Iasi summit meeting

Published: Tuesday 9 September 2008, 4.18CET
Romania are looking to extend an 18-match unbeaten run when they meet Wales in Group 10 tonight – with both teams knowing that while a win would earn them a play-off place, a loss could leave them with nothing.
by Paul-Daniel Zaharia & Trevor Haylett
High stakes at Iasi summit meeting
Romania hope to be celebrating on Tuesday ©Getty Images
Published: Tuesday 9 September 2008, 4.18CET

High stakes at Iasi summit meeting

Romania are looking to extend an 18-match unbeaten run when they meet Wales in Group 10 tonight – with both teams knowing that while a win would earn them a play-off place, a loss could leave them with nothing.

After failing to get the better of fellow Group 10 front-runners Romania when they met in Wrexham last month, an understrength Wales side journey to Iasi knowing that while a win would earn them a UEFA European Under-21 Championship play-off place, a loss could leave them with nothing. However, the same applies to their unbeaten opponents.

Statement of intent
Wales are currently enjoying the fruits of a rich crop of players, but the U21s have at times been a victim of their own success with many of their number promoted to the senior squad well before they become ineligible. Manager Brian Flynn was given the rare chance to field some of his precocious starlets when his side met Romania at the Racecourse ground on 20 August but despite creating a host of opportunities, they slipped to a 1-0 loss.

Staying positive
"The boys did enough to win, but we did not take our chances," reflected Flynn, who goes into the rematch without seven of the XI which started that day as the seniors have a FIFA World Cup qualifier in Russia. "But we have another chance out in Romania which will be very difficult. They are a difficult team to play, but we have proved we can score goals. The positive thing is that we have shown Romania that we are capable of beating them."

Unbeaten run
If they do, Wales will seal a place in Friday's play-off draw, though Group 10 is so tight that even a draw could relegate them to third and end hopes even of one of four best runners-up spots. Level on 15 points, Wales trail Romania by virtue of an inferior head-to-head record, with France just a point behind. And if the Iasi game ends all square and Les Bleuets beat Bosnia-Herzegovina, it will be Eric Mombaerts' team who finish top, not that Romania coach Emil Săndoi is giving that prospect much oxygen.

Unbeaten run
"Among the three qualification candidates we can be considered as favourites," he said, his side having failed to seal a top-two place when they were held by Bosnia-Herzegovina on Saturday. "We want to win, it's our only option, and that's why we also need the full support of our fans. It would be a pity if we wasted all our hard work over the past two years, going 18 matches undefeated, in the final game."

Last updated: 09/09/08 19.22CET

http://www.uefa.com/under21/season=2009/matches/round=15084/match=300194/prematch/preview/index.html#high+stakes+iasi+summit+meeting