This is Romania!
Desperate to keep a clean sheet. Trained to destroy, not to build. Hoping for a lucky counter or a well taken free kick. This is Romania. At any level. From the senior national team to the Under 0. We have it in our genes and we’re not making the smallest effort to change our mentality. And you can see it at club level. Where we’re defending. Destroying. Hoping for the counter-attacks that bring once in a lifetime 2-0 wins on Olimpico. And we still wonder why we have slim chances to see Romania at a final tournament in this lifetime…
For those not very familiar with the team in yellow, the weekend was looking promising on Friday evening, when Romania faced England, in front of a packed stadium in Norwich. Sandoi’s eleven that featured one keeper, five natural defenders and five natural midfielders, was trying to switch from a 4-5-1 to a 4-3-3, as the team got hold of possession, being probably the first in the world to try and use three forwards, without having at least one on the field! Having a bunch of good first division teams who use at least one-two young players on a regular basis, plus other 32 clubs obliged to field at least two each round, in the second tier (yes, Sandoi, you are allowed to look at second division matches and even select player from down there!), the selection pool is larger than ever and, surprisingly, offers enough solutions to put together a decent team. But not for our U21 coach! Leaving aside the back four and the presence of three defensive midfielders in the centre, useless when it came to building up the play, he decided to deploy upfront the following three (good) attacking midfielders: Gabriel Torje (natural right winger – started on the right), Marius Alexe (natural left winger – started as a striker) and Ioan Hora (natural right winger – started on the left). It wasn’t enough, obviously, so Torje, the smallest player on pitch, had his chance to play against England’s solid centre-backs a few times during the game!
A game that was heading towards a logical win to nil for the home team ended 2-1, though, offering Romania’s U21 enough chances to go through, after tomorrow’s second leg, from Botosani. Because, at times, this game makes no sense. Because, at times, players want to play football more than they’re allowed. This happened with Gardos, a natural centre back used as an anchorman, who got hold of the ball and, instead of the recommended, instructed and probably shouted in desperation from the bench lateral or back pass, decided to run with it through the centre. Show-off! Through England’s players! Stop it, you hear me? Deep into England’s half! Are you nuts? Close to the penalty area, from where he found Hora, who crossed… into the net, with a little help from an adversary.
This odd and underserved goal could have offered Romania the chance to reach a final tournament after 13 years of waiting, as playing for a 0-0 at home would have been the perfect scenario. At 1-2, we need to attack. We need to throw everything upfront. This would make sense. This is what Stuart Pearce expects, according to some of his statements. I don’t: “Have you seen England’s defense when Torje took those free kicks? We’re definitely going to score from set play”, said a Romanian player today, preparing for a second leg that will be played in front of 6.100 fans, without Alexandru Matel (right back), Mihai Radut (central attacking midfielder), Alexandru Chipciu (right midfielder), Mihai Costea (forward) and probably Liviu Ganea (forward). They’re all injured, but, rest assured, we have all the centre-backs available and Sandoi could use the same “unlucky” team from Norwich:
Goalkeeper: Silviu Lung Jr. (Universitatea Craiova) – promising, I agree, but his fear to try and collect a cross, eventually got Romania into trouble. And he received a second goal that should have got a better reaction from an agile keeper like him. Poor.
Right back: Cornel Rapa (Otelul Galati) – fragile, afraid to push forward, struggled to cope physically with his direct opponents. Had enough men around him not to be exposed to any direct attacks. Poor.
Right centre-back: Valerica Gaman (Universitatea Craiova) – looked classy at times, but still inconsistent. good in the air, quick to get down on the ground, forced by his team’s strategy and the opposition’s pressing to go for the long ball, although he’s composed and confident when in possession. Decent.
Left centre-back: Paul Papp (FC Vaslui) – quick to react, decent in the air, but prone to all sorts of errors in this game, from positioning to anticipation. Good thing it was a crowded defense, but this might have caused such a poor performance from the young lad. As I said, Poor.
Left back: Stefan Barboianu (Universitatea Craiova) – strong on his feet, looked unconfortable at times when in possession, but this is a right footed player, who is a natural right back! Credit to him for adjusting to the role, for looking solid one-v-one and having the guts to push forward at times. Decent.
Central defensive midfielder: Florin Gardos (Steaua) – the tall defender did a good job in front of the defense, looking solid both in the air and on the ground. Composed in possession, showed some quick thinking under pressure and a good technique for his size. All the credit for Romania’s goal must go to this youngster who played only second league football until the summer, when he was bought by Steaua. Continues to show great potential. Good.
Central (defensive) midfielder: Eric Bicfalvi (Steaua) – hard working. Too defensive, but this might not be all his fault. Created nothing, rarely tried to get hold of the ball and organize play, which spells lack of confidence and personality, both vital in the centre of the park. Decent without the ball, poor when in possession.
Central (defensive) midfielder: Ionut Neagu (Otelul Galati) – see above!
Right winger: Gabriel Torje (Dinamo) – has pace and skill, no doubt about it, but for the latter he does need a ball. Worked his socks off, was always on the move, did track back when he had to, even though he’s not of much help in his own half. Rarely had a decent ball to chase and was a threat only from set plays. Decent.
Striker: Marius Alexe (Dinamo) – alone upfront just isn’t his thing. Put him on the left and allow him to cut inside and this right footed winger can cause all sorts of problems, as he can dribble, shoot, but also go wide for the cross. Unfortunately, roamed around the pitch, without getting enough time on the ball and was seen more often defending close to Romania’s penalty box than sniffing around the opposition’s… Decent, but tipped for greatness.
Left winger: Ioan Hora (CFR Cluj) – hats off for his work rate, which also got him involved in Romania’s goal, but forced to remain a discrete presence upfront, just like his colleagues, by the team’s ultra-defensive attitude and its deep defending habit. Decent.