Ahead of the World Cup qualifying game against Moldova, what can we tell you about the Eastern European countries footballing history?
1. Moldova became a member of FIFA after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1990 and played their first game in July 1991 losing to fellow former Soviet state Georgia 4-2.
2. After an impressive run of form between 2007 and 2008 including wins over Bosnia Herzegovina, Malta, Hungary, Latvia and a draw with Turkey Moldova achieved there highest ever World Ranking of 37. To out that in context the current world number 39 ranked team is Ukraine, the team England play next week.
3. Currently however Moldova have a lowly ranking of 141, just shy of their all time low of 149 sandwiched between nations such as Malta and Kazakhstan.
4. Their assistant manager is former Bristol City defender Ion Testimitanu.
5. There biggest win came in the form of a 5-0 thrashing of a lowly Pakistan team way back in August 1992. There biggest loss however is much easier to trace with a 6-0 demolition at the hands of Sweden in 2001.
6. Moldova’s current talisman is Alexander Epureanu a defender contracted to Dinamo Moscow and on loan at Krylja Sovetov. He is however unavailable for the game giving the minnows even more cause for concern. There is also no place for Igor Armas of Kuban Krasnodar or Serghei Alexeev of Yenisey.
7. If the name Alexeev sounds familiar he scored an excellent lob for the Moldova Under 21s against their English counterparts in a famous 2-2 draw. In Theo Walcott’s Under 21 debut an England side including Leighton Baines, Tom Huddlestone and James Milner were left embarrassed by the result. Many of that team now form the crux of a youthful Moldova side.
8. Moldova’s record goal-scorer is Israeli football legend Serghei Clescenco with a whopping 11 goals whilst Radu Rebeja has the record for most caps with 74.
9. England have faced Moldova twice before during qualifying for France 98. Glenn Hoddles first game in charge of England saw the international debut of David Beckham in a 3-1 triumph away from home. England thrashed Moldova 4-0 at Wembley in the return fixture.
10. The latter result saw British comedian Tony Hawks make a bet that he could track down all 11 starting Moldovan players and beat them in a game of tennis. A quest he took up that is now immortalised in the brilliant book Playing the Moldovans at Tennis that has been made into a film released this year.
So now we know all about Moldova let’s hope England can produce an impressive performance to get their World Cup qualifying campaign off to a flying start
image: © Ethan.K