Make or break time, for both Romania and Razvan Lucescu Jr.
It could have been a wonderful start, with Belarus defeating France and Romania sweating working as a unit for a 1-0 win against Albania, but yet another stupid goal from a set-play encouraged everyone to speak up and against the current coach, his poor selection and the mediocrity of the current generation of players. Everyone but the players under Razvan Lucescu, represented with bitterness and his usual class by the team’s captain, a certain Cristian Chivu. The Internazionale defender… defended the young coach – “who prepares games like no one else I’ve seen at the national team” – in front of the press and from attacks that have been launched by the (in)famous agents Ioan and Victor Becali. It’s an oustdanding gesture, knowing that he’s related to the Becalis through contracts and even religious matters, as Victor is his child’s godfather, but one that probably has been forgotten already, as the media’s busy promoting two of the names ready to take over from Lucescu Jr., in case of a poor result in Belarus: Gheorghe Hagi and Laszlo Boloni. In the background, the lobby for Adrian Mutu’s return to the national team becomes more and more obvious and it’s no surprise, given the fact that the player’s ban determined the Becali’s to go for Lucescu’s jugular.
The coach isn’t a saint, though, and deserves to get the stick, as he looked willing to sacrifice quality in order to bring full discipline in a team that now looks to be lacking creativity and skill upfront, being doomed to struggle in games similar to the one against Albania. He also went for a 4-4-2, even though most of his players are used to play in a 4-2-3-1 at club level, failed to find a central midfielder with playmaking ability, promoting an average number 10 like Florescu, and returned to the most uninspired pairing upfront, Marica-Daniel Niculae, both counter-attacking weapons, useless in the air and against crowded defenses.
Judging by the players’ reactions, I expect another determined performance tonight, with Chivu back from suspension at the heart of the defense. Still, it’s difficult to predict if Romania can earn a vital result in Minsk, as the central defenders look more technically gifted than the central midfielders, but this is a team built for away games and matches against tougher opposition, so Belarus should be aware that this underdog can bite!