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Euro 2024: How Romania legend Gheorghe Hagi still inspires national team

Romania celebrate


The majority of the players in Romania’s team at the Euros have never seen Hagi senior play live, but the highlights that invaded social media made sure his iconic goals and dribbles are well known.

And there’s Ianis, the holder of the brand and number 10 for Romania at Euro 2024.

Before leaving for the World Cup in the United States in 1994, Hagi senior said at the airport that Romania should only be happy if they won the trophy.

There were laughs at home, but the national team managed convincing wins over Colombia, USA and Argentina to reach the quarter-finals, only to be eliminated by Sweden after a dramatic penalty shootout. Brazil would have been next in the semi-finals.

“We should be happy with what we achieved. It stopped when it needed to stop. That way, we’re leaving the road open for another generation to do more than we did,” Hagi said over the years.

With a team that is nowhere near the one of the ’90s in terms of skill, Romania built a new side to be proud of.

It took years of suffering and accepting who they had become. More than anything, the team Romania took to Euro 2024 has impressed with its big heart.

A group of normal players were convinced by manager Iordanescu that they could do extraordinary things if they stuck together.

The 3-0 win over Ukraine, the fair fight they put up against Belgium during a 2-0 defeat and the 1-1 draw with Slovakia that sealed qualification built momentum for a nation that had buried football joy somewhere deep in its past.

Romania had only scored three goals in their previous 13 games against the Netherlands, winning just once, but stats should not matter too much for a side that came to Germany undefeated in the qualifiers after topping a group that Switzerland were also part of.

Today’s Romania takes inspiration from the past to build a realistic, new future.

“I think this team is capable of reaching the last four,” Hagi Sr predicted before the tournament.

The Dutch must already be aware of Hagi’s success rate with prophecies.



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