Russia tops the group on goal difference, having the same number of points with Romania, 21, with just two matches to go, and Emil Sandoi’s youngsters stand in with a chance that seems bigger than ever to make it into a final tournament. Here’s the selected team, including the replacements for Paul Parvulescu (Gaz Metan Medias) and Cosmin Gangioveanu (Universitatea Craiova), who suffered injuries during the weekend:
Goalkeepers: Cezar Lungu (Steaua II), Silviu Lung Jr. (Universitatea Craiova)
Defenders: Cornel Rapa (Otelul Galati), Alexandru Matel (Astra Ploiesti), Valerica Gaman (Universitatea Craiova), Paul Papp (FC Vaslui), Florin Gardos (Steaua), Vlad Chiriches (Pandurii)
Midfielders: Stefan Barboianu (Universitatea Craiova), Andrei Ionescu (Steaua), Eric Bicfalvi (Steaua), Ionut Neagu (Otelul Galati), Ioan Hora (CFR Cluj), Dragos Firtulescu (Universitatea Craiova), Liviu Antal (Otelul Galati), Marius Alexe (Dinamo), Gheorghe Grozav (Standard Liege)
Forwards: Sabrin Sburlea (Rapid), Liviu Ganea (Dinamo), Mihai Costea (Universitatea Craiova), Alexandru Ionita (FC Koln), Raul Rusescu (Unirea Urziceni)
When Astra Ploiesti announced the transfer of three players from last season’s runner-up, Unirea Urziceni, it all looked very strange, especially with a certain George Galamaz (team captain, national team player) among them. A week later, the deal that had been announced even on Astra’s official website was off: Gigi Becali, Steaua’s owner, who had to receive around 4 million Euros from Dumitru Bucsaru, discussed a deal that makes the Bucharest club extremely well-equipped for a title race that looks less demanding than in the past three seasons. Six players will move to Ghencea: George Galamaz (central defender), Ricardo Gomes (central midfielder), Iulian Apostol (central midfielder), Laurentiu Marinescu (attacking midfielder), Marius Onofras (forward), Marius Bilasco (centre forward). Number seven is still in talks with Steaua, but is definitely worth waiting for: Pablo Brandan, the Argentinian left back who was so close to VFB Stuttgart last winter and waited in vain for an offer from abroad, which, surprisingly, didn’t arrive. This extraordinary move on the transfer market comes as a blow for Steaua’s rivals, who had already enough problems on their own, but brings good news especially for Universitatea Craiova, where Victor Piturca gets an unexpected gift: some of the players brought by him to Ghencea this summer are available either for free (Todorov) or for low fees (Dorel Stoica – 100.000 Euros).
Linked with clubs like Newcastle, Eintracht Frankfurt or Brescia, all summer long, Dinamo’s top scorer from last season is very close to a move to 2. Bundesliga. According to the Romanian media – with the reports confirmed with discretion by the player himself -, Karlsruhe offered around 400.000 Euros for a one year loan, having the option to make the deal permanent for one million Euros next summer, and the Red Dogs have every reason to accept such a bid:
- The veteran Ionel Danciulescu returned from Spain, Marius Niculae is the team’s captain, while the young talented Alexe, Torje and Liviu Ganea need to have maximum of exposure this season, hoping that the high-scoring games will get them on the score-sheet often enough to get the much craved attention from abroad.
- Cristea comes after his best season in Liga I in terms of efficiency, having scored 16 goals in 27 appearances, and it’s unlikely to repeat such a feat.
- He’s not the most popular player in the squad, since he realized close to the end of last season that he needs to think about himself rather than the team, working hard to end the previous campaign as the league’s top scorer. His attitude didn’t change during the summer break and he was involved in an incident two rounds ago, when he insisted to take a penalty, even though the team’s specialist, N’Doye was on the pitch. Read more…
It’s a strange and delicate moment for a player with an impressive career close to the end, as Cosmin Contra, the former AC Milan and Atletico Madrid full-back, who also played an UEFA Cup final with Getafe, could be out of contract starting the first day of September. FC Timisoara, his beloved team, the club that tried so much to convince him to return to Romania, didn’t even try to have a conversation with the player on this subject. The story became public right before the second game against Manchester City, when Contra had announced that the derby versus Steaua could be his last official appearance. I guess he wasn’t expecting then to come on in the second half, score a wonderful equalizer and get a call up to the national team… Well, with or without a contract at club level, Contra has every chance to add two more caps to the 72 collected so far, as he’s been asked to replace the injured Cristian Sapunaru and should fight for a place at right back with Ovidiu Dananae.
Romania’s squad for the double against Albania (home) and Republic of Belarus (away): Read more…
After putting together a good team at Steaua – 14 buys during the summer – which Ilie Dumitrescu almost eliminated from Europe, with his defensive approach in Zurich, Victor Piturca took his staff to Craiova, where he signed a three years long deal.
Universitatea’s huge and passionate fan base has every reason to celebrate (around 3.000 fans watched the team’s first training session), but the new manager was wise cautious enough to calm everyone down, looking nervous, pessimist and overpreoccupied, as always. Still, this means nothing to the supporters that had to go through a lot in recent years, facing relegation and having to spend a lot of time in Severin, far from their beloved stadium, “Ion Oblemenco”. With Piturca back in town, their dreams can must come through: they should start beating the crap out of Steaua, Dinamo and Rapid, which is far more important than winning the league or the Romanian Cup. Which should come as a natural consequence and will look very pretty in the club’s trophy room, next to the four championships and six cups, if everything goes right. And why shouldn’t it go right? Read more…
The round kicked-off with a surprise just for those who thought that everything’s fine at the champion club. Sportul exploited the visitiors’ arrogance and lack of determination, putting three past Nuno Claro, but could not end Mandorlini’s contract, well defended by a clause of 800.000 Euros. Bad news for the numerous players who thought that this was the way to get rid of their coach, starting with Lacina Traore, who finished an embarrassing display with a criminal attack that killed any hope of a fightback conducted by the once out-of-favor Sixto Peralta. Read more…
- Sportul Studentesc – CFR Cluj
The newly promoted comes after a 3-0 defeat away at Gaz Metan Medias, but will have a difficult time bouncing back against the reigning champions. Even though CFR’s stars played poorly so far in the league and had the results they deserved, this is a good opportunity to put behind the 2-2 home draw against Astra Ploiesti. Sportul has the league’s worst defense, which isn’t at all surprising looking at the quality of the players available, their youth and lack of experience, starting from both keepers used so far and including pretty much all the defenders in the team. The fact that Sportul likes to attack without looking or holding back doesn’t help either and a lot of their games will produce goals at both ends, something that should be taken into account today, as CFR’s back four looked terrible since the start of the league and the trio Varga-Curelea-Balan boasts quality and desire to impress. The champions are favorites in my opinion, as they’re definitely tactically and physically stronger, especially in midfield, where Kivuvu is expected to start alongside Muresan, while Rafael Bastos showed nice playmaking abilities in his first game for CFR. There’s a dilemma wheather Traore will be fit enough to start, but Bud is in stand by, so there is quality backup for Bjelanovic, who will definitely miss through injury (expected to be out for almost two months!).
- Rapid Bucharest – Gloria Bistrita
This is the first difficult moment for Rapid and its coach, Marius Sumudica, who asked for the fans’ support, in order to help the players forget about the incredible 2-3 loss away against arch-rivals Dinamo, after leading 2-0 at half time. If we look back, we could think that Gloria’s visit comes at the right time, as Rapid won 10 of the last 11 meetings on their home ground, but Bistrita isn’t the same generous team from the past, at least not in the first half of the season . The Vampires come after a first and impressive win of the season, 3-0 against Pandurii, with the goals scored by the club’s top players: Muresan, Predescu and Ribeiro Moraes, the Brazilian brought to Bistrita by Rapid’s coach, Sumudica! They’re at the same level as last season, looking well organized and solid, but I have some doubts about their defense, which should be tested to the max this evening. Rapid welcome back Roman on the right side, which should move Juliano Spadacio in the middle, alongside Lazar, so the front men, Sburlea and Herea (scored an impressive brace against Dinamo!) can count on quality balls provided both from the well-equipped flanks, as well as the middle of the pitch.
The other games: FCM Targu Mures – Dinamo, Astra – Universitatea Craiova, Pandurii – Gaz Metan, Universitatea Cluj – Otelul Galati, FC Vaslui – Steaua, FC Timisoara – Victoria Branesti, FC Brasov – Unirea Urziceni.
All the praise received by CFR’s number ten this season seems to produced the expected results. Media reports from Germany speak today of Schalke’s interest in Ciprian Deac, the move that could take place for a fee around 3 million Euros being also described as “imminent”.
Knowing that Schalke also signed a certain Raul, I cannot wonder what recommends Deac for such a high profile transfer, besides the rather artificial hype created in Romania. The young international – who featured in Romania’s last friendly and is also regarded as an important player for the qualifying campaign that is about to kick-off – doesn’t seem ready for a move to a stronger league. He’s still quite inconsistent in Liga I, has had a rather poor start of season, being moved around on the pitch in uncomfortable positions, with Mandorlini trying him even as a central attacking midfielder, a role that has nothing in common with his main qualities. A natural winger, gifted with a decent left foot, Deac impressed only on the left side of an attacking trio, showing good control and pace, in a direct style of play that makes him eager to take on direct opponent. In fact, his game relies on his ability to free himself from his marking man and take his shots, still looking too selfish, and I believe that he’s rather poor when it comes to take the right decision under pressure. He also lacks the mentality that would allow him to cope with Bundesliga’s demands (same goes for the Premiership and the other leagues where referees aren’t encouraging professional divers), as he’s an expert in knocking the ball past his opponent (his favorite move) and going down at the slightest touch, a habit even Stuttgart’s Ciprian Marica fails to get rid of.
Ok, he has pace and a better left foot than most of the other Liga I players and has definitely developped as a player in the last two years, but he still has a lot to learn, which makes him look overrated at 3 million Euros…