Australia and Romania have history

The upcoming friendly may mark the first time Australia and Romania have met at international level, but links already exist between the two.

The upcoming friendly in Marbella may mark the first time that Australia and Romania have met at international level, but strong football links already exist between the two countries thanks to the major influx of Aussies into the European nation's domestic league during the 2000s.

The likes of Jacob Burns, Michael Baird, Ryan Griffiths, Daniel McBreen, Josh Mitchell, Josh Rose and Wayne Srhoj all plied their trade in Romania's top flight, Liga 1, as did Jon McKain and Michael Thwaite who were team-mates at FC National Bucharest.

"I probably experienced the best and worst moments of my career out there," Thwaite recalled.

"The first 18 months playing at that level basically got me into the national team setup which obviously was fantastic.

"But when I started being involved in the national team, the club saw some potential future sell-on opportunities and put a ridiculous transfer fee on my head.

"By then I didn't want to stay in Romania, I wanted to experience other countries, but they ended up not playing me for six months and that put an end to my hopes of playing at the 2006 World Cup.

"Having played in the lead-up games, that was probably the lowest point of my career."

McKain, who spent two seasons at National and a further three with Politehnica Timisoara, echoed the sentiments of his former house-mate and fellow Socceroo.

"I was one of the first to go over there," he said. "The first year was difficult, but then the other Aussie boys came and it was easy to adjust.

"But if you go to any foreign country, you've got to make the effort in terms of learning the language and adapting to the culture and you've got to go with an open mind.

"It's a great life experience and if you go with that open-minded attitude, it can't be anything other than a success.

"I learned a hell of a lot in Romania, not only about football, but about life and although the last few months were a bit tainted, I have fond memories."

And while the Aussie imports found the rampant corruption and constant financial disputes difficult to stomach off the field, they were hugely impressed by the quality of the local talent.

"In football terms, they are outstanding players and technically among the best I've seen anywhere in the world," Thwaite said.

"They have a lot of Italian coaches over there and through the training, I really learned a lot about defensive structure.

"They do a lot of shadow play and pretty much everything is with the ball."

That technical ability was showcased in spectacular style on the global stage during the 1990s when Romania reached the knockout stages of three consecutive World Cups.

And although the country's fortunes have slumped dramatically in the intervening years, McKain believes that the success inspired by legendary figures such as Gheorghe Hagi, Dan Petrescu, Gica Popescu and Marius Lacatus could be replicated by the men in yellow in the not-too-distant future.

"That's always referred to as a golden generation," he said. "And it's been hard because although they've had a few unbelievable players come through more recently like Cristian Chivu and Adrian Mutu, they just haven't done well at international level.

"A lot of coaches and players have come and gone and I know for a fact that they are hanging to do better than they have in recent times.

"Their Under-21s did well during the qualifiers for the 2011 European Championships, so that's encouraging for them and hopefully there's a new generation coming through."

With traditional powerhouses Steaua Bucharest and rising force FC Cluj continuing to make their mark in the Champions League and the country taking major strides forward at an economic level, both Thwaite and McKain believe that Romanian domestic football could also be on the up.

"FIFA have got onto them about how they treat players over there and a lot of improvements have been made," Thwaite said.

"Becoming part of the EU is a big step for them as well."

McKain said: "A lot of teams are building new stadiums and they had the Europa League final in Bucharest's new national stadium last season.

"They are trying to get the infrastructure right and once they get that right, they'll hopefully get a lot more benefits on the field as well.

"The passion for the game is definitely there. The people live and breathe football."

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