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Romania U21 is one win away from Euro 2011

The narrow defeat from Norwich, plus the lucky away goal scored by CFR’s winger Ioan Hora, have injected enthusiasm and confidence in a team that forgets one little thing: this time, Sandoi’s men will have to show that they can play football, not just kill it.

Probable eleven against England, in Botosani

The coach will make just one change in the eleven used four days ago: Sabrin Sburlea will replace Ionut Neagu. So, it’s a striker for a midfielder, and a switch from a theorethical 4-3-3 used in England to a 4-2-3-1 that has one big problem: the absence of a player capable to play in the hole, as a central attacking midfielder. The three players behind the lone striker are natural wingers, all three are right footed (which brings up another issue on the left side, where the full back, Barboianu, is right footed, as well!), and, instead of being equipped to find space through the middle (Gardos and Bicfalvi usually stay too close to the back four and will have problems in linking up play, a through ball is basically excluded),  Romania will have only one attacking plan available – move the bal on the flanks.

The problem is problems are that Sburlea will have a hard time winning balls in the air against stronger opponents – his aerial game isn’t his main weapon – and that most of the crosses will come from the right side, after Hora’s lack of confidence in his left foot will make him waste the first opportunities to send the ball in the penalty area. Once England will realize that the danger comes from the small Gabriel Torje, Romania will have no other option than to kick it upfield and try to impress the ref with dives just outside or just inside the box, waiting for our plan A to defeat Pearce’s men: score from set-plays.

Unfortunately, after Mihai Radut suffered an injury, Sandoi is left with just one name for the creative midfielder role: Andrei Ionescu. A talented, but fragile player, who is playing second division football, for Steaua’s reserves, after he failed several times to get hold of a place among the seniors. His backup plan could have been to sacrifice either Hora or Alexe – doubt that he would have done it – and field a second striker, trying a 4-4-2 that would have made a bit more sense and given Romania the chance to put more pressure on England’s centre-backs. He might have done it with Liviu Ganea available, but Dinamo’s forward couldn’t shake an injury in time and Unirea Urziceni’s Raul Rusescu isn’t considered reliable enough to take the place of those who played a decent game in Norwich.

Key moves that could allow Romania to impose their game: Bicfalvi to leave Gardos in front of the back four and work box-to-box as much as possible, linking-up play and playing the forwards ball into feet; Alexe to act more as a second striker and make late appearances in the box after the ball has reached one of the wide men; Sburlea to try and stick to a central position, in order to keep both centre-backs busy, as he has a habit of drifting wide, which will leave Romania without a man to cross the ball to.

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