Romania, the perfect sparring partner
We all knew that Razvan Lucescu would have a very difficult task in renewing Romania’s national team, but we all hoped that he would at least try to do it. Since he took over, he managed to lose matches with the team, the public’s respect for the promising club coach he was before his appointment and all sense of logic in his actions. Here we are, almost sure that we’ll be missing out on yet another final tournament, facing an important friendly match that would test his choices even more than some of the recent official games.
With the controversial Mutu out of his hair for at least one more month (don’t worry, he didn’t drug himself by accident, when brushing his teeth in the morning, after a looong night, this time he’s injured), he should have enjoyed a pressure-free contest, the sort of game that cannot do more harm and, if the planets stay in line for 90 minutes, could offer the sort of result that might turn things around from then on. Instead, with only one important absence – his reserve captain, Mirel Radoi, announced his retirement -, Lucescu Jr. managed once again to make the public take the eyes away from a couple of good calls (Steaua’s Gardos has been the nicest surprise of the season so far, while Dinamo’s Torje deserves this just as much as a transfer abroad!) and wonder if he’s been hired to revive careers or contribute to some dull CV’s…
Goalkeepers: Ciprian Tatarusanu (Steaua), Costel Pantilimon (Poli Timisoara)
No Lobont, as you can see, but AS Roma’s keeper will surely continue to feature in the official games. Tatarusanu should start, as he’s been in terrific form for the past month, but it’s a shame that Universitatea Craiova’s very promising keeper, Silviu Lung Jr., has lost his place in the team lately – and not because of his form -, as this would have been a good opportunity to make his debut. Probable starter: Tatarusanu
Defenders: Cristian Sapunaru (FC Porto), Cornel Rapa (Otelul Galati), Vasile Maftei (Unirea Urziceni), Florin Gardos (Steaua), Dorin Goian (Palermo), Gabriel Tamas (WBA), Cristian Chivu (Inter Milano), Razvan Rat (Shakthar), Mihai Nesu (Utrecht).
Rapa and Gardos deserve this, but they’ll be very lucky to make their debut for the senior national team. Rapa is the third choice at right back, while Gardos should hope that Lucescu won’t park the bus and lock the doors, with Tamas and Chivu in central defense. Besides this, the young centre-back is probably as surprised as anyone else to see Dorin Goian back in the squad, after a long absence and some very poor performances for Palermo. Probable starters: Sapunaru, Tamas, Chivu, Rat.
Midfielders: Cristian Tanase (Steaua), Gabriel Torje (Dinamo), George Florescu (Alania), Adrian Ropotan (Dynamo Moscow), Dan Alexa (Poli Timisoara), Ciprian Deac (Schalke 04), Silviu Ilie (Otelul Galati).
This is probably the weakest midfield Romania has every selected! The seven players have a total of 26 caps and there are some strange decisions here as well. Tanase has been playing miserably for Steaua in the past month, but when you see that Lucescu goes for Ropotan (1 cap and never impressive since his move to Russia), you’d think that he’s looking for another Florescu (who was selected in similar conditions and has been under fire on every occasion). If he was only trying to alienate the fans and the press, Alexa’s call-up should definitely help. Timisoara’s captain is 31, has only one selection for the national team and is a very limited anchorman, nicknamed “The Surgeon” not for his tackling accuracy, but for his precision in finding his opponents’ tibia. Looking at the options available, I won’t be surprised to see Maftei deployed in Radoi’s place, in front of the back four, and the probable starters should be: Torje, Maftei, Florescu, Deac.
Forwards: Ciprian Marica (VFB Stuttgart), Bogdan Stancu (Steaua), Marius Bilasco (Steaua), Gheorghe Bucur (Kuban Krasnodar).
Bucur (19 caps / 4 goals) comes back in the team after a long absence, taking Daniel Niculae’s place, and this is the only surprise. For the first time in a long period, Marica is in the squad based on form and, if this would be the selection criteria, he should partner Steaua’s Stancu, as Bilasco has never played above average since his transfer to Steaua. Unfortunatey, the two do not look suited for a successful partnership, yet with their pace and agility, should keep Italy’s defenders on their toes. Probable starters: Marica , Stancu.