Romania kicks-off another qualifying campaign and Victor Piturca won’t have to resign in case he misses out on the tickets to Brazil. His goal is to make it to Euro 2016 – that what his contract says, if you believe it or not – and already some of the players say that it’s not vital to take six points from the first two games, versus Estonia and Andorra. Makes sense, considering there’s no real pressure to finally reach a final tournament…
So, quite relaxed, Piturca should be looking to find the right setup, so he can take the best out of the current set of players and, as I think the current 4-2-3-1 isn’t delivering, I’ll share my thoughts on how I’d see the starting eleven and best tactical setup, using a selection that should have included goalkeeper Dani Coman and attacking midfielder Lucian Sanmartean, both from FC Vaslui.
In goal, I’d go for Pantilimon, who has been training with some of the best players and coaches and has the brightest future of all. Lobont lacks competitive games and the kind of size that will be required at least versus Estonia, while Tatarusanu is so inconsistent that he’s a rotation player even at club level.
The back four poses another problem: who deserves to pair Vlad Chiriches in central defense? Luchin played in the center for Dinamo last weekend and could be a solution, but I’d go for Astra’s captain Valerica Gaman. Would have preferred a quicker centre-back or at least one with a lot of experience and ability to sweep any activity that might happen behind Chiriches, who’s very comfortable on the ball and loves to show it. This way, Luchin can return at right back, as I don’t consider Matel back to his best (and not sure that his best is national team material either).
I’m sure Piturca will pair Steaua’s Bourceanu and Pintilii in front of the defense, in a 4-2-3-1, but I think Pintilii is a natural anchorman and, just like Bourceanu, is more effective when operating alone there. That’s how he earned his first call-ups, that’s how he got the chance to move to Steaua from Pandurii. And I’d prefer him instead of Bourceanu, who’s a hard working guy, aggressive and all, but more limited in terms of vision and timing, vital attributes at this level.
In front of the only anchorman, three dynamic attacking midfielders would push back Estonia and keep its’ defense and midfield very busy, with Tanase and Torje in their favorite positions and the in-form Alexandru Maxim deployed in the central attacking midfielder role that lacks solutions in Liga 1 at this point. He’s great on the ball, mobile, works well on tight spaces and should not miss from Romania’s starting eleven tonight. With an option for the number 10 position, I would have left on the bench Torje and started Maxim on the right side instead – he’s definitely playing better these days!
Upfront, I’d go for a pair of strikers. Definitely! Marica lacks the qualities to play alone upfront, he’s a second striker, useless when forced to play with the back at the goal and to challenge for high balls, sent from the defense or from the flanks. Niculae is this type of player, able to win balls, hold them up, create spaces and also finish and I’m sure Marica and Romania as a team would benefit from his presence on the pitch. It would finally make sense to develop the play on the flanks and go for the cross when opportunities appear…
With Cristian Chivu, Razvan Rat and Stefan Radu out injured, Razvan Lucescu offered Gabriel Tamas (transferred in January to West Bromwich Albion) the chance to reclaim his spot in the team. Another surprise is the absence of the first two choices for the goalkeeper postion, Lobont and Coman, but, looking at the likes of Gaman, Sepsi, Florescu or Deac, it’s obvious that the National Team coach is trying to evaluate some of the promising, yet established players in the first division. Here’s is the full list of players:
- Goalkeepers: Mircea Bornescu (Rapid, 29), Costel Pantilimon (FC Timisoara, 23)
- Defenders: Cristian Panin (CFR Cluj, 31), Vasile Maftei (Unirea Urziceni, 29), Gabriel Tamas (WBA, 26), Dorin Goian (Palermo, 29), Mirel Radoi (Al-Hilal, 28), Valerica Gaman (Universitatea Craiova, 21), Laszlo Sepsi (FC Timisoara, 23), Mihai Nesu (FC Utrecht, 27)
- Midfielders: Banel Nicolita (Steaua, 25), Mihai Roman (FC Brasov, 25), Iulian Apostol (Unirea Urziceni, 29), Paul Codrea (Siena, 28), Tiberiu Ghioane (Dynamo Kiew, 28), George Florescu (FC Midjtyland, 25), Ciprian Deac (CFR Cluj, 24)
- Forwards: Gigel Bucur (Kuban, 29), Andrei Cristea (Dinamo Bucharest, 25), Ciprian Marica (VFB Stuttgart, 24), Daniel Niculae (Auxerre, 27), Marius Niculae (Dinamo Bucharest, 28).
Update: Lucescu decided that the third keeper will be Steaua’s Ciprian Tatarusanu (22), while the injured Iulian Apostol has been replaced by his colleague from Unirea Razvan Paduretu (28).
- Ronny Levy signed a contract with champions Unirea Urziceni. He will earn 20.000 EUR per month + bonuses, until June 2011. Levy inherits a strong team, which finished third in a tough Champions League group (played against Sevilla, VFB Stuttgart and Glasgow Rangers) and will continue to play in Europe this spring. Defending the title in the league is another objective still in reach, as Unirea has the same number of points (41) with CFR Cluj and Steaua. Only two players departed this winter, the wingers Dacian Varga and Tiberiu Balan, who were loaned from second division club Sportul Studentesc. Levy probably has been promised a transfer budget, although Urziceni was an expert (under Dan Petrescu and Mihai Stoica) in reviving the careers of players released or sold almost for nothing by smaller clubs.
- Steaua seems to have reached an agreement with Bulgarian striker Hristo Yovov (32), who should get 10.000 EUR / month until the summer, a substantial bonus (100.000 EUR according to http://www.gsp.ro) in case the club wins the title and the option to extend the current deal for one more year. The problem is that, so far, nobody from Steaua contacted Levski Sofia, but coach Mihai Stoichita will try to get the green light from the club during the weekend, when he’ll travel to Bulgaria.
- FC Timisoara will keep Pedro Manuel Taborda Moreira (31) until the end of the season, when his contract will expire. The club gave full (sometimes too much) credit to the very promising Costel Pantilimon (22) – on Arsenal’s shortlist – and also bought last summer Nemanja Supic (27), but Taborda impressed in the three appearances for the club this season (a solid display in Europa League against Dinamo Zagreb!) and, with Supic quite injury prone, will be kept as backup. Of course, the club will have to offer/promise something to a player who has every reason to look for another club right now.
- Otelul Galati released Gjorgji Mojsov (24), a central midfielder bought last summer from Rabotnicki. Played in seven games this season, three times as a starter. Otelul also terminated the loan of Arthur Patras, who came from Timisoara and is a regular for Moldova U21. This way, the club for Galati makes room in the first eleven for the promising Razvan Ochirosii, recently transferred (and partially bought) from Steaua, as part of the Zhivko Zhelev deal.