The friendlies against Albania and Algeria were indeed useful. They should have helped some clubs figure out if they should sign free players like Pantilimon, Tatarusanu, Nicolita, Rat or Marica and other clubs if it’s worth spending money for the signatures of Grigore, Pintilii or Tanase (I’d advise them for free against such a move…).
They also helped Piturca introduce some new faces into the team, like the very young Manea of the better-looking-with-each-season Matei, but they probably failed to convince the stubborn coach that this 4-2-3-1 turning into 4-1-4-1 lacks the right players to provide better results than we’ve seen in recent years.
I’ll just lay down my arguments:
– we’ve been searching for years for a right back and all we’ve came up with was Astra’s Matel. The 16 years old Manea is just a promise, while putting Chiriches there (like it happened vs Algeria) simply makes no sense.
– on the left side we have the ageing Rat, now 33, and not even a convincing backup solution in Latovlevici.
– we don’t have a no 8 type of midfielder, apart from PAOK’s Lazar. In front of the defense, Piturca uses Bourceanu and Pintilii; a poor choice, as having there two players with the profile of a no 6 simply keeps your team highly ineffective in keeping possession and building-up he game. Not to mention that their passing skill and vision also affect Romania’s ability to counter.
– we don’t have wingers who can combine pace, skill on the ball, finishing ability. All of them have either one or two of these vital assets. Chipciu, for instance, is one of them… and plays in the middle.
– our wide midfielders are Popa (who only has pace), Nicolita (who only has the will to run), Tanase (who can’t use his left foot and his brain), Maxim (who has skill and some pace, but feels better in the middle).
– we don’t have a number 10 (Chipciu is a winger turned into a supporting forward) or, better said, we don’t want a number 10, because we only counter.
– we don’t have the striker able to play alone upfront. Marica will speculate every once in a while a lucky ball behind the defense or an error from the opposition, but he cannot win aerial duels, hold up the ball, allow the team to come in support. He’s not the right type of forward for such a role.
If any of the above makes some sense, it’s bad. In fact, it’s really bad. Because I am not even a coach. I do, however, judge the players’ performances, ability and potential for a living and I can tell you this: in spite of Piturca’s efforts to promote different players (remember Grozav, who only convinced Terek and in the end failed to make it even there?), Romania’s poor looking 4-2-3-1 gets back at the very players that fail to make it work. And makes them look limited, inconsistent, promising at times, but eventually unconvincing.
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.