Only one German club was involved in the UEFA Cup first qualifying round draw as Hertha Berlin drew FC Nistru Otaci. Last year Hamburg, this year Hertha… that’s right, we’re off to Moldova again! Last year Hamburg won 5-1 on aggregate, and nothing less than a win is expected of Hertha Berlin either. The team may have been lucky to receive a Fairplay spot in the UEFA Cup, but should advance easily to the second round. In anticipation of July’s tie, we therefore bring you a reasonably exhaustive overview of the Moldovan opposition, FC Nistru Otaci.
How did they get here? 3rd in the Moldovan National Division.
Where do they play? Stadionul Calarasauca, a tiny 3000-seat stadium (note: the Hamburg fixture will take place at Stadionul Zimbru in the capital, Chisinau). It would, no doubt, fit comfortably inside the underground parking garages of Berlin’s Olympiastadion. Nevertheless, its capacity is slightly more than 1/3rd Otaci’s population. The city itself is located in the extreme northeast of Moldova, famous for its wine (maybe) and, no joke, sharing a name with a Turkish skin care company. Otaci is situated along the banks of the Danube across from Ukraine (which no doubt explains the presence of so many Ukrainians in the squad).
Domestic Pedigree: 2005 saw FC Nistru lift the Modolvan Cup after defeating FC Dacia 1-0, the club’s only success to date. Incredibly, however, FC Nistru have been losing finalists eight (8!) times, including two defeats in extra time and three more in penalty shootouts. The team’s “almost, but not quite” form is mirrored in its league performances. It has been unable to break the duopoly of FC Zimbru Chisinau and FC Sheriff Tiraspol atop the table, who between them have won 16 of the 17 championships contested since 1992 (Constructorul Chisinau being the exception in 1996-97).
European Glory: In short, none. If forced to choose, well, they were unlucky to go out to Honved on penalties in last year’s UEFA Cup first qualifying round. Honved was the team of Puskás, Kocsis, et al. who comprised the bulk of the Hungary’s Magical Magyars in the early 1950s. So European glory by distant, distant ridiculously tenuous association.
Well, that’s interesting: After Moldovans and Ukranians you might be surprised to learn that Cameroonians (all two of them) make up the team’s third largest contingent. I haven’t the slightest idea why.
Prediction: Hertha Berlin will settle for a draw away and play for the win at home, leading to a comfortable (and conservatively estimated) 3-1 aggregate victory.