Romania competed in the first three World Cups, winning just the once in the five matches they played across the tournaments.
They then only qualified for one World Cup (1970) over the next five decades before having their strongest spell in their history during the nineties where they qualified for every World Cup in that decade and made it out the group stages three times in a row.
They lost to Republic of Ireland on penalties in the second round of the 1990 World Cup, but they recovered from that disappointment to qualify for the next World Cup with a dramatic win in Cardiff against Wales where they were thankful for Paul Bodin missing a penalty.
Romania were placed in the same group as hosts USA and alongside fellow Europeans Switzerland. They would open with a fantastic win against Colombia, who were seen by some as a dark horse to win the World Cup.
They had been second best until Răducioiu gave them the lead. Romanian keeper Bogdan Stelea then pulled off two incredible saves to deny Rincon and Valencia. And then an inspired Hagi scored a wondergoal to put Romania two goals clear.
Valencia finally found a way past Stelea, but Răducioiu scored again to seal the game for the Romanians in the second half.
It was seen as an upset, however it seemed like the Romanians let the success get to their head as in their next game against Switzerland they were thrashed 4-1 by Roy Hodgson’s side. Their final group game was against the USA where they beat the hosts 1-0.
That win was enough to give them the group, and they faced Argentina who were reeling from losing Diego Maradona to a failed drug test.
The game got off to a flying start in front of over 90,000 people in the scorching hot Californian sunshine. Two goals by Ilie Dumitrescu sandwiched between a Batistuta penalty put the Romanians 2-1 up inside the first twenty minutes.
Just before the hour mark “The Maradona of the Carpathians” finishes off a brilliant counter attack to put the Romanians two goals ahead.
What Happened Next?
Argentina scored again, but Romania won 3-2. They faced Sweden in a thrilling quarter final where for the second World Cup running they lost on penalties.
Hagi was signed by Barcelona (he had signed for Real Madrid after impressing at the 1990 World Cup). The move wasn’t as successful as either party had hoped, however a move to Galatasaray would seal his legacy.
He led the Turkish giants to consistent success domestically and two European trophies in his five seasons there.
A spell in management at Galatasaray would prove nowhere near as successful as his playing days. He is still in management and led the club he founded, owns and manages, Viitorul Constanța, to the league championship last season.
A 12-year-old Landon Donavon was present in the crowd in the Rose Bowl that day and it inspired him to become a professional footballer.