On Friday the 15th of November, Romania will host Sweden in a Group F European Qualifying match. The match, taking place at Romania’s National Arena at 7:45 pm GMT, could hardly be more crucial in the final standings of Group F. Spain top the group and have already qualified for the pan-European 2020 tournament.
But, below them, the fates of Sweden and Romania still hang in the balance. Sweden is currently occupying the second spot after eight games and has 15 points after four wins, three draws, and one loss. Along the way, they have scored 18 goals and conceded nine, giving them a goal difference of +9. One point behind the Swedes, on 14, is Romania.
Romania’s record is similar, but they have lost one more match and drawn one less. Their goal difference too is very close to Sweden’s; they have scored 17 and conceded eight, meaning they too are on +9.
From the tiny gap between the two teams, it’s evident that this upcoming game will be crucial in determining which team gets the automatic qualifying spot for Euro 2020. For Romania, it is arguably more important than Sweden as Sweden are guaranteed, at the very least, a play-off place by virtue of their winning their Nation’s League group. Romania, on the other hand, does not have this luxury. If Romania lose on the 15th of November it could well be curtains for their European dream.
Both teams come into this fixture on the back of almost identical records in their last five games – both have won three, drawn two and lost one. Sweden’s last game came against Spain. The very impressive draw they claimed against the Spaniard is ultimately what separates Romania and themselves.
Romania, conversely, could only manage a 1-1 draw with Norway at home, a result which not only proved a stumbling block in their chasing down of second place, but also one that allowed 4th place Norway back into the race.
The last time Romania and Sweden face off was on the opening day of Euro 2020 qualification – it must seem like an eternity ago to them now. On that occasion, Sweden ran out 2-1 victors. Mainz 05 forward Robin Quiason gave the Swedes the lead in the 33rd minute with a near strike before Krasnador winger Viktor Claesson doubled their advantage just seven minutes later.
At half-time, the score was 2-0 to Sweden and there seemed no way back for Romania. However, whatever coach Cosmin Contra said to them at the interval had some effect and the Romanians rallied to make it 2-1 in the 58th minute through a Claudiu Keseru strike. Romania searched desperately for an equalizer, but it didn’t come and Sweden took what they couldn’t have known then would be a decisive three-point lead over Sweden.
After this fixture, both teams have another game left but, given that Romania face Spain while Sweden play the Faroe Islands (two games which, on paper, should be foregone conclusions), one would guess that this match will be the pivotal moment in Group F.