As qualifying action for the 2014 FIFA World Cup continues on Tuesday, a particularly intriguing match is set to take place between Romania and Netherlands in UEFA Group D. Each team will put its perfect record on the line as the Dutch travel to Bucharest for the fourth round of qualifying play.
Tied atop the group with three victories apiece, the Romanians and the Dutch each own nine points in the standings. Netherlands holds the slightest of edges in the group, with its +8 goal differential trumping Romania’s +7.
Romania, which will have the advantage of playing at home, is seeking its first World Cup qualification since 1998. The last time the two countries met was in 2007, and Romania took a 1-0 victory over the Dutch.
Where: Arena Națională, Bucharest, Romania
When: Tuesday, October 16, 2:00 p.m. EST
TV/Live Stream: ESPN FC
Tuesday’s hosts can take pride in the fact that they have defended their goal better than anyone in Group D thus far, even including the Dutch. With victories of 2-0, 4-0 and 1-0 over Estonia, Andorra and Turkey, respectively, Romania remains the only team in the group not to have allowed a single goal to an opponent.
The Romanians have found a capable scorer in qualifying play thus far in right-winger Gabriel Torje, who is one of just three players in all of Group D to have scored two goals in three matches. The 2011 Romanian Footballer of the Year was the first to score in each of his team’s first two matches, against Estonia and Andorra.
An injury concern for the home team has emerged in the form of Gheorghe Grozav, who provided the lone goal in Romania’s victory over Turkey on Friday. A groin injury forced his substitution in the second half of that game, and coach Victor Piturca will likely replace him with Alexandru Chipciu opposite Torje on the left wing, according to a Reuters report.
A key to the game for Romania will certainly be a continuance of its excellent defense—a task easier said than done considering the Dutch lead Group D with a total of nine goals through three matches.
Dutch coach Louis van Gaal’s squad, though unable to boast the clean slate of Romania, has only allowed a single goal itself, a lone score by Group D’s third-place team, Hungary.
Netherlands’ offense, meanwhile, has been unstoppable. Seven different players have scored for the Dutch, with Jeremain Lens and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar each scoring twice in three matches. Van Gaal will also look to striker Robin van Persie for offensive production against Romania.
The Dutch do face injury problems of their own, however, with Ruben Schaken (knee) and Arjen Robben (hamstring) expected to miss the match. Schaken scored a goal against Andorra on Friday before suffering his injury, while Robben has struggled with injury issues in the past.
The Dutch will have their work cut out for them in front of a raucous Romanian crowd. A key to the match for them will be to assert themselves by scoring early—something they have done well so far in qualifying play, notching four goals inside of the first 20 minutes of their three matches.
Tuesday’s match figures to be a thrilling competition, and a draw between these two capable squads is not unlikely. While Netherlands have had more recent success, finishing as runner-up to Spain in the 2010 World Cup, Romania has the advantage of home field and the motivation to work towards qualifying for the first time in well over a decade.
In a matchup of the best offensive and defensive teams in Group D to this point, the Oranje will take a hard-fought victory and the outright points lead in the group standings.
Romania 1-2 Netherlands