While others prepare for the World Cup, Romania defeated Albania 1-0 after yet another mediocre performance, in the build-up for the probably easiest ever qualifying campaign for the European Championship. Still, Victor Piturca, the manager who still has a job only because the new head of the Romanian Federation refused to pay him 300.000 Euro, the price for an early termination of his contract, stated afterwards that Romania has the ability to defeat any team. Probably by boring it to death.
Piturca will also show great proud for his incredible courage of fielding the 16 years old Cristian Manea in a friendly, meaningless match, the Viitorul defender breaking a very old record about the youngest player to feature in Romania’s senior team.
The truth is, Piturca, as always, is not really keen on rebuilding this team. He sticks pretty much to the same players and he keeps on using the national team as a stage for players who really need these caps to get new contracts at club level. It’s no coincidence that 5 out of 11 starters are currently out of contract. And I also take this opportunity to present Piturca’s starting eleven vs Albania in a different key, based on club performances in the season that recently ended.
And a bit of math: average age of this starting 11 is 26.3 years. Without Manea, it’s 27.4 years!
Goalkeeper: Tatarusanu (27) – Champion with Steaua. Will probably sign with Fiorentina, as a free agent.
Right back: Manea (16) – Youngest ever player to feature in Romania’s senior team. Avoided relegation with Viitorul in the last round of the season.
Central defender: Chiriches (24) – Not so sure about his future with Tottenham, 6th in the Premier League, in spite of some bright performances.
Central defender: Grigore (27) – Won a Europa League spot with Dinamo. Will move to Toulouse, on a free transfer.
Left back: Rat (33) – Avoided relegation with Rayo Vallecano. Currently out of contract.
Defensive midfielder: Bourceanu (29) – Contribution to Steaua’s title and Trabzonspor’s Europa League spot.
Defensive midfielder: Pintilii (29) – Champion with Steaua. Wants to leave the club.
Right winger: Nicolita (29) – Average season with St. Etienne and Nantes. Currently out of contract.
Supporting striker: Chipciu (25) – Champion with Steaua.
Left winger: Maxim (23) – Avoided relegation with VfB Stuttgart.
Striker: Marica (28) – Avoided relegation with Getafe. Currently out of contract.
No worries, I also am quite sure Piturca will be able to take Romania to Euro 2016. But mostly because this one, with 24 teams at the start, will be almost impossible to miss.
After helping Hercules promote to Primera Division last season, the veteran striker, now 34, received a blow when he was informed that the club from Alicante decided to release him, paying under 50.000 Euros in compensation, in a moment when most of the clubs had defined their rosters for the next season. He decided to return to Dinamo, in spite of a good offer from newly promoted club FCM Targu Mures, “choosing with the heart”, and faced fierce and sometimes unjust competition for a place in the team. Mostly a reserve in the first half of season (7 appearances as a sub, only 5 starts), he scored two goals and needed one more to become the third all-time scorer in the Romanian league.
THE goal was scored and the objective – achieved, four games in the second half of the season, although he had his share of criticism, in the previous matches. But Danciu-gol delivered in the last home game, against the team that wanted to sign him last summer, and he signed his 190th goal in the Romanian first division, in 439 matches!
Top scorers in Liga I:
- Dudu Georgescu – 252 goals
- Rodion Camataru – 198 goals
- Marian Radu and Ionel Danciulescu – 190 goals.
On Monday, Razvan Lucescu will start training for a series of three friendlies: against Ukraine (29th of May), Macedonia (2nd of June) and Honduras (5th of June). Here’s the team:
Goalkeepers: Pantilimon (FC Timisoara), Bogdan Lobont (AS Roma), Silviu Lung Jr. (Universitatea Craiova)
Defenders: Maftei, Galamaz (Unirea Urziceni), Dananae (Universitatea Craiova), Tamas (WBA), Dorin Goian (Palermo), Cristian Chivu (Inter Milano), Razvan Rat (Shakthar Donetsk), Laszlo Sepsi (FC Timisoara)
Midfielders: Roman (FC Brasov), Radut (International Curtea de Arges), Radoi (Al Hilal), Florescu (FC Midtjylland), Ghioane (Dynamo Kyiv), Cocis (FC Timisoara), Tanase (Steaua), Deac (CFR Cluj)
Forwards: D. Niculae (Auxerre), Andrei Cristea (Dinamo), N. Dica (CFR Cluj), Bilasco (Unirea Urziceni), Mazilu (FC Arsenal Kyiv).
Well, a more balanced team from Lucescu Jr. this time! Only one player from Steaua, Tanase, and this one called not as a reward for his form, but more to give him credit and try to exploit his potential. One player from Dinamo as well, the only one who deserved a call-up, while Craiova, who almost paid a huge price for fielding a very young team all season long, has two players – Lung (very promising, consistent enough for his age, should play ahead of Pantilimon and Lobont, who both lack match practice!) and Dananae, a right back who just returned from a long lay-off, isnt’ at his best, but could be a solution for the future. I would have called Sapunaru, who was by far the best Romanian right back in the league in the second half of season, but I think Lucescu made some choices and, when a team looks balanced, with old players and hot prospects fighting for a place in the team in almost every position, it’s fair to keep quiet.
I like the fact that Radut gets a taste of the action, that Bilasco is finally in the team, but I wouldn’t have called N. Dica. Anyway, now that the team is decent, I am really looking forward to see if Lucescu has also some fresh tactical ideas, as I think we’re doomed if he sticks to that 4-4-2 with two defensive (or not creative enough) central midfielders, wingers keen to go back, not forward, and attackers that are too weak to count in the air, too often forced to come down for the balls, as they fail to connect with the long passes thrown behind the opposition’s defence. We’ll be playing against decent teams and I expect to see Romania working on a style that will allow this squad to lay siege on a weaker opponent, as we’re experts in defending and destroying, even when our chances are destroyed and there’s nothing left to defend…
- Gaz Metan Medias – Unirea Alba Iulia 5-0 (Eric 39, 63, Hoban 52, Akaki 70, Dudita 75)
- CFR Cluj – International Curtea de Arges 2-1 (Bud 32, Deac 74 / Apostu 67)
- Gloria Bistrita – Politehnica Iasi 5-0 (Ribeiro Moraes 4, A. Muresan 12, 72, Coroian 40, Bajenaru 90 pen)
- FC Brasov – Rapid 1-1 (Roman 26 / Sapunaru 90 pen)
- Dinamo – Astra 3-3 (Scarlatache 10, Fl. Bratu 13, Adrian Cristea 80 / Vadrariu 30, 76, Takayuki 48)
- Steaua – Universitatea Craiova 2-0 (Arman Karamyan 69, 78)
- Otelul Galati – FC Vaslui 1-0 (Papp 51 o.g.)
- Unirea Urziceni – Ceahlaul 4-0 (Bilasco 15, Frunza 38, Rusescu 53, 67)
- Pandurii Targu Jiu – FC Timisoara 0-0
Next Last round (22nd of May): Unirea Alba Iulia – Pandurii, Rapid – Gloria Bistrita, Universitatea Craiova – Otelul Galati, Ceahlaul – CFR Cluj, Astra Ploiesti – Gaz Metan Medias, International Curtea de Arges – Steaua, FC Timisoara – FC Brasov, FC Vaslui – Dinamo, Politehnica Iasi – Unirea Urziceni.
We’re close to the end, now, but I doubt that what’s going to happen in the last three rounds will change things. I’ll explain: CFR is still the favorite to win the title, but the team struggled so badly that Mandorlini should be dismissed even in case of a successful scenario. The only team capable of winning the league seems Unirea Urziceni, so Ronny Levy should be kept at all costs for the coming season, even if Unirea will fail to defend the title won last year under Dan Petrescu. But let’s take a look at the top clubs that should/will change coaches this summer:
- CFR Cluj – in spite of its position in the standings and the club’s chances to win the title, Mandorlini failed to connect with his players and to put his mark on a team that plays poor football for months. Period! He worked during the winter on a tactical system he had to abandon after the first official matches. He recommended three Italian players – Bottone, De Zerbi and Piccolo – who looked completely useless. He saw top players getting out of shape – Kone, Traore – and couldn’t do anything to get them back at their best. Was lucky to draw against strong teams and simply took advantage of his superior roster to win by a small margin – the Italian style – against the smaller clubs. Although he has the backing of the board (intelligent enough to keep the staff and the players focused on the title, hiding the obvious disappointment), Mandorlini will/should not be offered another deal. Verdict: change him!
- Unirea Urziceni – Levy did what few expected: take over from Dan Petrescu and keep what everyone still considers (in spite of everything these players have done even in the Champions League!) an average team, formed by decent, but mediocre footballers, at the top of the league with chances even to defend the title won last season. A solid coach, who tried to further develop the team, going for a more Latin/technical style, who should be kept at all costs. Levy’s problem is that next season he will probably find himself without the likes of Galamaz, Brandan, Bilasco and will be forced to show his recruiting ability, as well. Verdict: keep him! Read more…
FC Vaslui’s draw against league leaders CFR Cluj will make the final three rounds very interesting indeed, but Porumboiu’s club suffered three big losses ahead of the clash with Steaua: Lucian Sanmartean, Wesley and Carlo Costly. Although the Hondurian centre-forward was fearing that his presence at the World Cup is in jeopardy, it seems that the ankle injury isn’t that severe, as the doctors say that he could be back to full fitness in three weeks time. Bad news for Vaslui – the player had missed only one match since his arrival, scoring four goals and showing good understanding with the club’s star player, Wesley -, but very good news for Reinaldo Rueda!
Update: Unfortunately for him, Costly will probably miss the biggest competition of all, after a scan showed a fracture in his foot and the doctors of the national team think he cannot make it back in time for South Africa.
First of all, let me say “I’m sorry” to all those who thought “What? Milito is Romanian?”. I’m talking about International Curtea de Arges and Cosmin Bacila, the right back reinvented as a midfielder/winger, who just scored his fifth goal of the season for a team that will fight for survival until the very last round. Bacila made a late debut in the first division, playing mainly as right back for Farul Constanta, a team he left last summer to join the newly promoted International. The hard-working type of player, useful in both phases of the game, the 27 years old feels so good in a 4-1-4-1 system that he managed to become the club’s top scorer, with the four goals scored in the second half of the season. Let me just write down some of the players who have scored five goals this season: Bogdan Stancu (striker, Steaua), Yssouf Kone (striker, CFR Cluj), Lacina Traore (striker, CFR Cluj), Mike Temwanjera (striker, FC Vaslui), Lucian Raduta (striker, Rapid).
Now, I’m not saying that Bacila is a top class footballer, but maybe we should think twice before we talk about the millions Steaua, CFR, Rapid or FC Vaslui ask for their “star players”…