My first ever visit to Bucharest and what a stunning stadium. The Arena Nacional was buit in 2011 and has 55,500 seats under a closed in roof and awesome architecture. It will proudly host 3 group and one round of 16 games at UEFA 2020 championships that will do the rounds of thirteen cities for the first time. Its a category 4 stadium and hosted the 2012 UEFA Europa League final between Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao.
Last October in Yerevan the Armenians had Malakyan sent off in the 3rd minute and it finished with a 5-0 defeat in front of only 5,500 spectators. Both teams are no hopers for Russia 2018 with 4th and 5th place in the group, only ahead of hapless Kazakhstan with 3 points after 7 matches. Poland top the group with 16 points followed by Montenegro 12, Denmark13, Romania 9, Armenia 6 points. Romania is one of only 4 European countries to compete at the first World Cup in Uruguay in 1930 along with Yugoslavia, France and Belgium.
The Armenians held out for 91 minutes with only 10 players for the last 36 minutes after a red card for Taron Voskanyan for a hand ball in the penalty area. Bogdan Stancu tipped the shot past his goalpost for a fantastic save,. 27,000 fans showed up, just less than half full. I was given a VIP seat on the half way line in a comfy padded seat after enjoying a massive buffet before the match and at half time.
The only goal was in the first minute of added time from Alexandru Maxim to save home blushes. Gone are the glory days with Gheorghe Hagi and Adrian Mutu. Manager is the controversial German Christoph Daum. Hagi is now manager of Farul Constanta 'the Sharks' on the Black Sea.
On 4th September Armenia host Denmark and Romania trael to Podgorica, Montenegro.