EURO 2020 qualifying continues on Friday and Chris Bland (@blandc_1996) is on-hand to share his favourite selections from a crunch clash involving Romania and Sweden.
Romania v Sweden | Friday 15th November 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Romania host Sweden in a crunch clash in Bucharest, as the two sides battle it out for the final Euro 2020 qualification spot behind Spain in Group F.
Sweden sit second on 15 points, knowing a draw will leave qualification in their own hands as they host Faroe Islands on Monday, in a game they will be highly confident of taking take three points from.
This leaves Romania realistically requiring victory, and they follow up this game with a daunting trip to Spain, meaning that a success will still leave their hopes in the air.
Sweden won the opener between these two sides back in March 2019, as Robin Quaison and Viktor Claesson fired them to a 2-1 victory, and they will be hoping for a similar scoreline outcome to clinch qualification.
Romania’s emerging squad
Romania possess an upcoming side with a mix of experience and youth, as they look to build a successful campaign off the back of an excellent showing at the U21 European Championships last summer. There, the Tricolorii embarked on an impressive run to the semi-finals with George Puskas and Ianis Hagi impressing and since making the transition into the first team.
But whether this campaign has come too soon for Cosmin Contra’s men awaits to be seen.
There are injury concerns for Romania, as they head into the game without defenders Vlad Chiriches and Dragos Grigore, whilst star striker Florin Andone suffered an knock over the weekend and means changes will be required up top.
Puskas is expected to start in attack. Andone was utilised from the bench in the previous fixture, so his presence will certainly be missed. Cosmin Contra’s side are short up front, and could be left to rely upon veteran striker Claudiu Keseru in a similar substitute role if in search of a goal as the tie moves on.
A late equaliser from Norway last time out moved Romania into third and placed qualification in the hands of Sweden, meaning the hosts will be required to take the game to their opposition at some point.
Lining up 4-2-3-1 last time, a similar formation is expected as they try and get the best out of attacking midfielder Nicolae Stanciu, who is often given the free role to try and link midfield and attack.
Stanciu’s role will be extremely important in trying to breakdown a Swedish defence who have shown they are adept at holding out for long periods in games and their defensive solidity, with three goals conceded in six games either side of a 3-3 draw with Norway, and a 3-0 defeat away at Spain.
Sweden led for a long period against Spain, before a 92nd minute equaliser from Rodrigo earnt La Roja a share of the spoils and their own qualification for the tournament. However, this point highlighted the defensive solidity, and shows how Janne Andersson’s side are more than happy to sit and frustrate opponents, whilst possessing the ability on the break to hurt teams.
Against Spain, the Blue-Yellow only had 25% possession, but were still able to muster 11 shots on goal, of which seven were on-target. Marcus Berg had an important role as target man, of which he fulfilled excellently, and allowed the pacey Quaison, and box-to-box midfielders in behind to get up the play and link the game excellently.
Defending deep suited the experienced Andreas Granqvist and Victor Lindelof, who will look to do the same against the pace of Puskas once again. Stopping the creative Stanciu, and possible Hagi off the bench, will be key to their hopes in front on the midfield, and the midfield pairing of Kristoffer Olsson and Albin Ekdal will need to work hard to so.
The betting angles
It promises to be a fascinating, albeit potentially cagey affair, and with so much on the line, it opens up two promising angles of attack.
The game is to be refereed by Italian whistleblower Daniele Orsato, and his record this season of 59 yellow cards and four reds in 10 games shows his lack of leniency when it comes to dishing out the cards.
This, coupled with the high stakes of the game, could see tensions boil over, as well as a highly competitive battle in the midfield areas, as Sweden in particular will be willing to try and break any momentum the Romanian side get. Unfortunately, at time of writing, the card markets haven’t been priced, but this is certainly an area I’d be wanting to keep a keen eye on
Given the nature of the game, with Swedes realistically only requiring a point, and their adept nature of defending for long periods and looking to frustrate opponents, a cagey first-half is expected.
As the Romanians will look to chase the game, gaps will certainly start to appear and chances could become a plenty for both sides. Sweden certainly have the ability to pick off the Romanian side if they choose to do so, and a win would mean that they have no concerns heading into Monday’s tie with Faroe Islands.
Priced at 5/6 (Bet365), a goal after 70:59 minutes is appealing, as if the game takes the shape that is expected, and with one side needing to push on for a result, space should start to appear and chances should be plentiful, and it will come down to a matter of quality of up front as to whether they are taken.
Furthermore, priced at 53/10 (Marathon), Draw HT/Sweden FT takes my interest, as if the context of the game pans out as expected above, they will be looking to finish the job in Bucharest.
A resolute defence will fancy their chances of seeing the game out to half-time, whilst Romania will be keen to make sure the game doesn’t slip away in the first half, before being more attack minded in the second.