Romania is one of the only four national teams from Europe – the other three being Yugoslavia, France, and Belgium – that took part in the first FIFA World Cup in 1930. Since that performance, Romania have qualified for the 1934, 1938, 1970, 1990, 1994 and 1998 editions. Led by playmaker Gheorghe Hagi, the team's finest hour came in 1994 when it reached the quarter-finals. They were eliminated by Sweden on a penalty shoot-out after having previously defeated Argentina.
At the European Championships, Romania's best performance was in 2000 when they advanced to the quarter-finals from a group with Germany, Portugal and England, before falling to eventual runners-up Italy. They also reached the last eight in 1960 and 1972, and qualified for the 1984, 1996, 2008 and 2016 tournaments.
The Romanian Football Federation (Federația Română de Fotbal) was established in October 1909 in Bucharest. Romania played their first international match on 8 June 1922, a 2–1 win over Yugoslavia in Belgrade, being coached by Teofil Moraru. Several temporary coaches were employed, before Moraru resumed control in August 1924, managing the side for nearly four years. Romania enjoyed some success during the 1930s; manager Costel Rădulescu took them to the first three FIFA World Cup tournaments, a feat matched only by Brazil, Belgium and France.
At the 1930 World Cup, Romania won their first match against Peru, 3–1, with goals from Adalbert Desu, Constantin Stanciu and Nicolae Kovács and Samuel Zauber as goalkeeper, before being thrashed 4–0 by hosts and eventual winners Uruguay.
Romania qualified for the next World Cup in 1934 after beating Yugoslavia 2–1 in a repeat of their first international. At the finals, Romania played only one game in a new knock-out format, losing 2–1 to Czechoslovakia in Trieste, Italy, with Ștefan Dobay scoring their only goal of the tournament.
Romania qualified by default for the 1938 World Cup after their qualifying playoff opponents Egypt withdrew. They suffered a shock defeat in the finals in France, losing to minnows Cuba, who, like Romania, had only qualified due to the withdrawal of their qualifying opponents, the United States. The first match at the Stade Chapou in Toulouse ended 3–3 after extra time, but Cuba won the replay four days later 2–1.
Participation in the World Cup was finally achieved once again in 1970 in Mexico, although qualification came on the back of a 3–0 thrashing by Portugal in Lisbon and two unconvincing draws against unfancied Greece. Angelo Niculescu's promising side were given the toughest of draws, in Group 3 with holders England, giants Brazil and Czechoslovakia.