- Capital: Chișinău / Кишинёв
- Official Languages: Romanian
- Recognised Minority Languages: Bulgarian, Gagauz, Russian, Ukrainian
- Nicknames: n/a
- Association: Federația Moldovenească de Fotbal (FMF)
- FIFA Code: MDA
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best Euros Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best Euros Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 37th (April 2008)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 81st (December 2017)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 177th (November 2020-Present)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 107th (June 2007, December 2007)
- Most Capped Player: Alexandru Epureanu – 100 caps [as of April 2021]
- Top Scorer: Serghei Cleșcenco – 11 goals
The Republic of Moldova (Republica Moldova) is a landlocked country situated in Eastern Europe, bordered by Romania to its west and Ukraine to its north, east, and south. Historically part of the Ottoman Empire, Russian Empire, Romania (who they share strong cultural and linguistic ties with), and the Soviet Union, Moldova gained its independence in August 1991 after the fall of the USSR. The country later joined UEFA as a full member in 1993 and then FIFA in the following year with Moldova playing its first game as a FIFA member in April 1994 in a 1-1 draw against the United States.
Moldova had a fantastic start for their debut qualification campaign, first taking part in the qualifiers for Euro 1996 and winning their first two competitive games as an independent nation – a 1-0 win away at Georgia, and then achieving a famous 3-2 home victory against Wales [a result which still haunts the editor]. They would subsequently finish fourth in the group, finishing above both Wales and Albania. Alas Moldova’s history during qualifying hasn’t been as stellar with the national team often finishing in the lower-end placements of the groups, although traditionally performing better in the European Championships qualifiers rather than World Cup qualifiers. Their best performances for the Euros came in the 2008 edition, when they won three and drew three, coming fifth in the seven-team group, whilst their best World Cup performance came in the 2014 World Cup qualifying when they accumulated eleven points by winning three and drawing two games. Since becoming an independent nation, Moldova have only won five games in their history during various World Cup qualifying campaigns with over half of them coming in the 2014 campaign.
Currently Moldova are considered one of the lowest ranked sides with UEFA, being positioned in ‘Pot 6’ of the 2022 World Cup qualifying draw, and ultimately being drawn as the lowest-ranked team in a group with Denmark, Scotland, Israel, Austria, and the Faroe Islands. They are also at threat of getting relegated back to the bottom tier of the UEFA Nations League after finishing bottom of their respective League C group. The Moldovans are scheduled to play a two-legged playoff against Kazakhstan in Spring 2022, with the losers of the tie getting demoted to League D.
To talk about a team who are traditionally one of the underdogs within the UEFA confederation but have achieved some fantastic results and performances against more illustrious teams throughout its short history as an independent nation, we interviewed the excellent Radu Caragiale. He is a Moldovan writer for the French-speaking website Footballski.fr, a football site which focuses and reports on football played in Eastern Europe. To find their social media accounts and website, follow the links below:
- Twitter: @RCaragiale
- Footballski’s Twitter: @footballskiFR
- Footballski’s Website: https://footballski.fr/
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
First of all, it is needed to be mentioned that the Moldovan national team was created only in 1990, during the breakup of the Soviet Union, and played their first friendly match just before declaring independence, in July 1991. However, they had to wait until the Euro 1996 qualifying campaign for their first official competitve match [a 1-0 victory away at Georgia in September 1994].
In that period of time, I’d say the best ever manager was Igor Dobrovolsky, a former Olympique de Marseille, Atletico Madrid, and Dynamo Moscow player, who was in charge of the national team during their best run of form which was during the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign. Moldova then managed to grab a fifth place (out of seven teams in the group) and managed to beat teams such Bosnia-Herzegovina [1-0 away at Sarajevo] and Hungary [3-0 at home]. They scored 12 goals in 12 games, which is seemingly unthinkable nowadays.
Ion Caras deserved a mention as he was the very first manager of the national team and the one to lead the team to two massive wins in the first two Moldovan international matches in major tournament qualifying. In the autumn of 1994, Moldova came back from Georgia with a win (0-1) before bringing Wales down in Chișinău a month later (3-2) in what was the first official match at home. A splendid atmosphere in the now destroyed Stadionul Republican and a stunning volley from midfielder Serghei Belous earned them, for a brief moment, the first place spot in the group with six points! However, it is worth mentioning that the favourite for the group, Germany, hadn’t played a qualifying game at that moment of time.
As for the best ever player, I’ve never seen him play but I’d go with the current top goalscorer of all time, the Zimbru legend Serghei Cleșcenco (11 goals in 69 games), who had a successful end to his career in Israel playing and scoring regularly for Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Tel Aviv.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
There is no-one I can think of who could be considered as a ‘cult hero’.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player from Moldova currently?
Alexandru Epureanu, by a mile [34-year-old centre-back currently with Turkish side İstanbul Başakşehir]. He’s currently the most capped player for Moldova and it will take a while before someone gets near to his appearance record. Epureanu is an elegant defender, sometimes playing as a sweeper with the national team, and is a leader on and off the pitch. Even if occasionaly he commits some blunders, he still remains the first name to be included in the starting XI, and it was not a surprise he was asked to return from international retirement recently because the defense doesn’t look as confident as when he’s leading it.
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
Poor or very poor, if catastrophic is not an option. I’ve been following them since late 2014 but I have to say it’s been somehow a downward spiral since then. The lowest point was reached, I think, when they lost against Liechtenstein (0-1) back in 2015, during the Euro 2016 qualifiers. Even Zlatan Ibrahimović scored one of the clumsiest goals ever during this campaign when he visited Chișinău in a 2-0 win for Sweden. All in all, they have won only one game during the last three qualifiers, and it was against Andorra, which they lost against in the principality!
There have been slightly better performances during the first edition of the UEFA Nations League, but was it because Moldova played similar opposition? Hard to tell. The latest results, including their largest defeat in history against Denmark (8-0) in March 2021, and they haven’t shown any improvement yet under the new manager, the Italian coach Roberto Bordin.
Q. Are there any Moldovan players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
First of all, I have to mention it’s quite difficult to predict how a wonderkid in the Moldovan Divizia Națională will perform at a higher level in Europe because the gap is quite huge.
He’s been around for a couple of years already but I’d mention Vitalie Damașcan whose nose for a goal always impressed me. He was extraordinarily precocious when he successively played for Zimbru and Sheriff, before being bought by Torino. The Italians loaned him first to Dutch side Fortuna Sittard where he scored important goals, but since he returned to the Netherlands and joined RKC Waalwijk on loan, it’s not been the same success story for the forward. So we’ll see how he develops as the kid is still young at just 22-years-old.
Oleg Reabciuk is another young Moldovan player who already plays for one of the best clubs in Europe, Olympiacos. The 23-year-old left-back impressed during his spell at Paços de Ferreira last season and he’s been a regular starter for the reigning Greek champions since he arrived in January 2021. Reabciuk represents also a typical Moldovan story as he and his family emigrated to Portugal at the age of four, and as so many Moldovans do, he started to play football in that country. It is a similar story for Virgiliu Postolachi, a young 21-year-old Moldovan striker which joined the academy of PSG but whose career hasn’t taken off yet [currently at loan at Danish club Vendsyssel from Belgian side Mouscron].
Lastly, among players from the Moldovan league, I would point Marius Iosipoi [20-year-old midfielder at loan at Russian side Veles Moscow from Dacia Buiucani], Vadim Gulceac [22-year-old forward playing at Petrocub Hîncești], and Victor Bogaciuc [midfielder also at Petrocub Hîncești] as the young prospects to watch in the near future.
Q. Looking at Moldova’s international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
Since I’ve been following the team, the most exciting game I’ve watched was definitely the one against France, in the Stade de France in November 2019. Moldova just hired a new manager, the Turkish coach Engin Firat, and they were so impressive that the result (a 2-1 defeat) seems secondary. The early goal from Vadim Rață put unexpected pressure on the World Champions to perform, but they managed to get goals only by a referee mistake for the first one, and an avoidable penalty for the second. Unfortunately the next few games were not as convincing and Firat only stayed until end of 2020.
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
I would say the Liechtenstein game because I lived it through and it was my first visit to the home stadium of the Moldovan national team. On a cold November night, there were around six thousand people gathered in the Zimbru Stadium and everyone expected a win. Although Moldova had suffered two losses to start the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, in Montenegro [0-2], and against Austria [1-2], they were confident enough after a heroic point saved in Moscow, against the big brother Russia, thanks to a decisive header of Alexandru Epureanu.
Moldova dominated the first half, but inexplicably failed to find the back of the net and started to lose patience in front of a well-organized defense. It shouldn’t be that hard to bag a goal against Liechtenstein, should it? Then, what would happen in those kind of games happened: a free-kick for the opponent, a perfect execution, and the incapacity to get back into the match. The game ended 0-1. Moldova’s performance that night ranks among their poorest game ever, in my opinion.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Moldovan national team?
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
When they meet Russia, there’s this famous song echoing around the Zimbru Stadium:
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
My favorite shirt is the last one, designed by a fan following a contest organized by the Federation in 2016. The best three designs were submitted to a vote on social media and the winning one features traditional Moldovan patterns on the side and in the fabric, while the three kits are plain colours of the flag: yellow, red and blue. The kit is so popular that the Federation extended this design and the team still plays with it five years later, where other big national teams are changing design every single year.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Moldovan national team?
Now with Roberto Bordin, we have a coach who knows the country and who knows how to win. I would expect better results (as always, I must admit!) and unfortunately, the three first games are already concerning. Moldova really blew it against the Faroes as they were leading early on and could have bagged another goal to get the win, inexplicably they let their opponent take a point with a 1-1 draw. The visit in Denmark was a complete disaster and features as the largest defeat ever for the Moldovan team. Then no reaction was shown against Israel with a disappointing home loss (1-4). Now the battle for the fifth place is even more difficult than ever, while in the Nations League, Moldova will have to face Kazakhstan next year in a playoff to avoid being relegated to League D.
A massive mulțumesc to Radu from Footballski.fr for answering our questions on the Moldovan national team. Remember you can find their social media accounts in the links at the top of the blogpage.
If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at email@example.com or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.