With all the focus on Romania’s double against Turkey and Holland, there was little attention paid to the U19 national team that played three games in Scotland, against the home side, Switzerland and Armenia. But that’s not news, just like the information that the team just missed out on the tickets to the Elite round, which would have been the last stage before the final tournament of the European Championship.
Romania started by earning what looked like a valuable point against Switzerland, Mihai Vodut‘s goal being cancelled by Endogan Adili just before the break. The game was followed by a 0-1 defeat against Scotland, who had won 4-0 their opening game against Armenia, the only change in the starting line-up seeing Alexandru Dan take the place of Iulian Rosu in a midfield line that had a more obvious defensive approach given the profile of the three players used.
Still, the race wasn’t over, as Romania needed to win against Armenia in the final match and a Scotland success in the duel with Switzerland, who had won as well against the group’s weakest team. Unfortunately, although both conditions were met (the home side trailed twice, yet came back and pushed for a win that wasn’t even necessary at that point), Adrian Vasai’s boys won’t make the next step. Dinamo’s Darius Buia scored very late, in the 82nd minute, and Romania failed to add a second goal that would have seen it through to the Elite Round.
It’s a bitter defeat for a decent team formed mainly with players from Steaua, Dinamo and Viitorul Constanta, who would have needed some more experience in its’ ranks. A look at the Swiss starting eleven, where several starters are already used on a regular basis at club level, in the top flight, is enough to see and explain the difference. A small one, if we look at the standings, a bigger one, if we dare to look at the bigger picture.
Victor Piturca has assembled a squad for a training camp that will take place in Antalya, starting the 21st of January, a period that should make the national team coach realize which players from Liga I should enter/stay in his plans for the next qualifying campaign. A decision that was obviously criticized by some clubs, especially afterthe news that the 6 players from Steaua will be allowed to return to their club after the first few days and the friendly game vs. Turkmenistan. A double standard that won’t help Piturca, but should offer more time to impress to those from smaller clubs.
Let’s have a look at “the squad”:
Goalkeepers: Ciprian Tatarusanu (Steaua), Silviu Lung Jr. (Astra), Cristian Balgradean (Dinamo)
With Tatarusanu and Pantilimon the first two choices, Balgradean will have to confirm the excellent first half of season this spring, with Lung still promising, but not as convincing as the Red Dogs’ 24 years old who conceeded only 10 goals in the first 18 matches.
Defenders: Cornel Rapa (Otelul Galati), Srdjan Luchin (Dinamo), Valerica Gaman (Astra), Paul Papp (FC Vaslui), Dragos Grigore (Dinamo), Vlad Chiriches (Steaua), Laszlo Sepsi (Poli Timisoara), Constantin Grecu (Universitatea Cluj)
In central defense, we have Gaman and Papp who could challenge Chiriches – impressive in the game vs France and looking forward to a second half of season under constant pressure at Steaua -, as I don’t believe Grigore can play better than he does right now. Consistent, reliable, but only decent, and there are lots of options for Piturca in the middle. Things are a bit different on the left side, where Piturca is looking for a reliable back-up solution in case anything happens to Razvan Rat, while on the right I don’t feel that Rapa and Luchin are in direct competition, being quite different in terms of qualities, but the absence of Marian Pleasca (Pandurii) is a(nother) sign of inconsistency from Piturca, as the youngster was getting a call-up last November ahead of the relegated to the U21 Cornel Rapa…
Midfielders: Mihai Roman (Rapid), Claudiu Bumba (FCM Targu Mures), Alexandru Bourceanu (Steaua), Ionut Neagu (Otelul), Mihai Pintilii (Pandurii), Florin Gardos (Steaua), Cristian Tanase (Steaua), Alexandru Chipciu (Steaua), Lucian Sanmartean (FC Vaslui)
Roman is a disappointment at club level and just like Chipciu, who just took a step forward in his career, will need to prove themselves in the league, while the likes of Neagu, Pintilii and even Bourceanu have already proved their limits, at least in my eyes. Good to see Bumba getting a call-up, he’s the youngest player (just turned 18) in Liga I who gets to play on a regular basis, but I’m sure it’s a too discrete signal for the club owners/managers/coaches to start promoting talents at a very young age. When this will become a habit in Liga I, there will be once again some hope for the national team.
Strikers: Dorin Goga (Poli Timisoara), Marius Niculae (Dinamo), Costin Curelea (Sportul Studentesc)
The latter is wanted by Steaua and Rapid, so this is just one of Piturca’s usual involvement in the market, not the first time it happens. Niculae will feel a bit awkward, as he’s 30, the league’s topscorer and still bitter for not getting a call-up when it really mattered for the national team, while Goga is coming for a second divison club where he was often attacked by the club’s officials for not giving 100%. In talks with FC Vaslui, apparently willing to move to Universitatea Cluj – pretty much a similar scenario to the one described above. So, we have just Dinamo’s striker really tested, one possible solution for what’s probably the weakest area of our national team…