A must read for Laurent Blanc. This one’s on the house!
Looking at the players selected for the vital game versus France, it’s fair to say that Lucescu Jr. has bigger problems than who should wear the number 10 shirt, an artificial issue which kept the media occupied for days. With Sapunaru and Radu back in the squad, Romania looks solid enough at the back to worry “only” about the rest of the team.
- Goalkeepers: Costel Pantilimon (Poli Timisoara), Bogdan Lobont (AS Roma), Ciprian Tatarusanu (Steaua)
Lobont will definitely start in goal, in spite of his obvious fear to catch a ball, with both reserve keepers inconsistent and, in my opinion, in mediocre form. Rapid’s Bornescu had a string of top performances, is mature enough and very confident, and I wonder why an ex-goalie like Lucescu overlooked him.
- Defenders: Cristian Sapunaru (FC Porto), Vasile Maftei (Unirea Urziceni), Gabriel Tamas (WBA), Cristian Chivu (Internazionale Milano), Marius Constantin (Rapid), Stefan Radu (Lazio), Razvan Rat (Shakthar Donetsk), Mihai Nesu (FC Utrecht)
The ultra-deserved call-up by Rapid’s Marius Constantin, who’s having the season of his life so far, won’t change the central defensive pair, formed by Tamas and Chivu – who’s been playing only at left back under Rafa Benitez! -, while Rat should keep his place on the left, in spite of Radu’s return. The Lazio left footed defender will be on the bench (so Constantin just earned a trip to Paris!), given his ability to play both at left back and in central defense, which also raises the question about Nesu’s call-up, a third, even fourth choice at left back, a player with no future and who has never impressed at club level. On the right, there will be a fair battle between Maftei – used in central defense at club level, this season – and Sapunaru, the FC Porto defender having the type of physique that would help a lot on the set plays that have the biggest chances to hurt Romania on Stade de France.
- Midfielders: Mihai Roman (Rapid), Razvan Cocis (Al Nassr), Costin Lazar (Rapid), Iulian Apostol (Steaua), Mirel Radoi (Al Hilal), George Florescu (Alania), Ciprian Deac (Schalke 04), Ianis Zicu (Poli Timisoara)
When I was drawing the possible first eleven, I had to stop and think things through in midfield. Radoi is sure of his place, although he’s been playing poorly lately, so I would have dropped him. On the other hand, I’d be glad to see Florescu replaced with Lazar, Rapid’s skipper, who is a complete box-to-box midfielder, skilled with better technique and vision, the kind of midfielder that could help the team retain possession when under pressure, but also organize the build-up. He’s been in top shape this season, which can’t be said about Steaua’s Apostol, who’s still working on his match fitness. Moving on to the flanks, now. On the left, Timisoara’s Zicu earned a call-up and, judging by the way he’s been playing, he should start ahead of Deac, who failed to feature in Schalke’s last four matches, confirming my expectations. Still, Deac has been a regular in Lucescu’s team, knows the game plan, works harder than Zicu, so I won’t be surprised to see him in the first eleven. The choice for the right midfielder spot isn’t easier. Roman made a nice impression last time he featured against France, with his brave, direct attacking style, but he’s been playing within himself lately, struggling to add quality to his service from the flank and looking like a blonde Banel Nicolita. Hard working, but inefficient with his delivery. But Cocis isn’t a natural winger and either his appearance on the right or the “surprising” use of a left footed player there, wouldn’t make much sense, with Maftei and Sapunaru too defensive to take advantage of the free space for overlapping runs…
- Forwards: Bogdan Stancu (Steaua), Marius Bilasco (Steaua), Daniel Niculae (AS Monaco), Ciprian Marica (VFB Stuttgart)
One thing is for sure: Daniel Niculae deserves to start. He’s been in top form for Monaco, scoring goals, working for the team, and I would have seen him as a surprise solution on the right wing, but I doubt Lucescu will have the guts to field three natural forwards on the pitch at the same time even when he’s trailing by three goals. And, yes, it would be strange to move away from the goal your most in-form striker, but Stancu, Steaua’s prodigy, isn’t a good partner for Niculae and produces the best results when he’s having a centre-forward beside him. Putting Bilasco in the first eleven would make sense, given the fact that he and Stancu had enough time to gel at club level and keeping in mind that Bilasco makes Lucescu’s gameplan (organized deep defending, with direct balls on the front men) have a bit of logic, as too often we’ve seen the Niculae-Marica pair struggling to get win a ball in the air or connect with one thrown behind the opposition’s defense.