George Pușcaș and his countrymen are lining up for their final Nations League 2020-21 encounter this Wednesday, as Romania travel to Belfast to meet Northern Ireland at Windsor Park.
It has been a strange build up to the final group game, too.
Like the October international break, Romania were set to have another three international matches during this fortnight away from domestic affairs. But it hasn’t quite panned out like that.
Their first outing went ahead as planned – a goal-laden game against Belarus in Ploiești, 40 miles north of Bucharest. Romania came out of the blocks and were 4-0 up at the break – Pușcaș scoring the fourth on the night, his eighth for the senior team. The visitors managed a bit of a fight-back in the second half, and it ended 5-3.
But their penultimate game in Group B1 of this year’s Nations League had to be cancelled. Originally due to take place at Arena Națională on Sunday, the game had to be cancelled when Norway were deemed unable to travel due to a positive Covid test within their camp.
That means that Northern Ireland could leapfrog Romania and sending Puski’s nation to bottom of the league standings with a win by two or more goals on Wednesday. That would effectively leave Romania waiting to hear the outcome from the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body as to what will happen to the cancelled fixture… whether it will be rescheduled, forfeited, or decided by the drawing of lots.
So there’s certainly something to play for – he got on the scoresheet last time Romania played Northern Ireland when the sides met in September… so best of luck in Belfast, George!
Meanwhile Tom McIntyre and Scotland U21 have a chance to qualify for next year’s European Championships – it’s all in their own hands as they visit Greece on Tuesday.
Group leaders Czech Republic are three points ahead of Scotland… and while Scotland currently have an inferior goal difference, all they need to do is win.
The first tiebreaking criteria in the U21 Euros for teams on equal points totals is their head-to-head record… Scotland beat the Czechs home and away, and would leapfrog them to go top with a win of any description against Greece!
A draw would leave them sweating on other results to ensure that they go through to the finals as one of the five best-placed runners-up from the nine groups. Defeat is not an option.
McIntyre was an unused sub in the Scots’ first game of this international break, as they came from two down to earn a vital draw against Croatia.
But the Royals Academy graduate, who helped Scotland U21 keep clean sheets in wins over Czech Republic and San Marino last month, will be hopeful of celebrating qualification for the tournament in Hungary and Slovenia next year.