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Steaua needs only a 9 in order to deserve a 10

July 13, 2013 Leave a comment

The champions kicked off the season in style, winning 3-0 against the Cup winners, Petrolul. It might have been harder for the Bucharest side (Petrolul played in 10 men for more than an hour), but just as well the difference could have been bigger. With just one important player sold this summer, Laurentiu Reghecampf could focus on the players’ fitness, on helping the new faces blend in and on fine tunning a team that delivered not oly in Liga 1, but also on the European stage.

Steaua missed the injured Chipciu, who needs a few more months to recover from a nasty injury, so offered a start to the promising Gabriel Iancu as a number ten, a role he’ll be trying to keep from Nicu Stanciu, one of the players I enjoy following, and Mihai Radut, recalled after a loan spell with Pandurii. With Chipciu fit, there will be no less than four skillful players to deploy in what was Raul Rusescu’s favorite role, so there should not be too much fuss about his transfer to Sevilla.

imageWith a solid back four to protect a composed Tatarusanu, guarded also by the complementary midfield pair formed by Bourceanu and Pintilii, Steaua can contain the opponent and inspire those going forward to create and attack at will. That will be key, as the red and blue outfit continues to lack a quality number 9. In the SuperCup, Nikolic started and even scored the opener, but he’s rarely on the same page with his teammates. Unfortunately, Piovaccari, who came on as a substitute, raised eyebrows on National Arena after missing a sitter and failing to make an impact. “He needs more time” was the quote to defend the former Sampdoria man (looking at his career stats, I wouldn’t call him like that), but even though switching clubs and leagues is always a challenge, we are not talking about a 20 years old. The Italian is an experienced striker who’s expected to deliver. Or, better said, Steaua needed to find one player this summer: a no 9 who is at least at the team’s current level, if not better.

But, of course, it’s too early for definitive sentences, so Piovaccari is expected to file an appeal and win… some games. Preferrably in Europe, as the Romanian league looks destined to finish for a second consecutive season at the feet of Reghecampf’s army. Only CFR Cluj, a club more inspired in terms of imports, might pose a serious challenge, but the big difference is that Steaua built what CFR tries to buy: a winning team.

Piturca’s choices tackle Romania’s hopes to qualify for the 2014 World Cup

September 4, 2012 2 comments

Top scorer in Liga 1, Raul Rusescu gets a chance to impress for the senior national team.

Romania starts the campaign away in Estonia, a tricky opponent that would be followed by Andorra at home, and a six points tally is a must, before the qualifiers really get going, as Hungary, Turkey and Holland will stand in the way of a performance that’s been missing since 1998.

Victor Piturca – who always begs for a quiet atmosphere, friendly media and devoted, enthusiastic crowds – kicked it off with another debatable selection and a scandal involving FC Vaslui, a club that could & should have sent at least four players, instead of two. As much as he tries, Piturca won’t convince that Dani Coman and Lucian Sanmartean didn’t deserve to be in the team. We have three goalkeepers who are either out of form (Tatarusanu) or out of match fitness (Lobont & Pantilimon), while the argument that on the left side of midfield there’s Cristian Tanase and Sanmartean isn’t needed is a joke and puts the coach in a bad spot. Even if he was only backup, Sanmartean was a great solution on the bench or for the second match, not to mention that he would have offered Piturca the chance to even alter his tactical ideas to include two very good attacking midfielders in the same line-up…

To draw a parallel, it makes no sense calling-up both Bourceanu and Pintilii from Steaua. Bourceanu will start, so why have Pintilii as backup, especially after you’ve criticized him for playing below par since his transfer from Pandurii. But trying to find logic in Piturca’s choices is a waste of time, no wonder that’s exactly what Romania has done in recent years on the international stage.

I’ll end with the classical wish for luck. We’re definitely going to need a lot, if we’re to stand a chance in this campaign…

Here’s the complete squad for the double versus Estonia and Andorra:

Goalkeepers: Bogdan Lobont (AS Roma), Ciprian Tatarusanu (Steaua), Costel Pantilimon (Manchester City)

Defenders: Alexandru Matel (Astra), Valerica Gaman (Astra), Srdjan Luchin (Dinamo), Dragos Grigore (Dinamo), Dorin Goian (Spezia), Vlad Chiriches (Steaua), Razvan Rat (Shakhtar Donetsk), Adrian Salageanu (FC Vaslui)

Midfielders: Gabriel Torje (Granada), Adrian Popa (Steaua), Alexandru Bourceanu (Steaua), Costin Lazar (PAOK), Mihai Pintilii (Steaua), Claudiu Voiculet (Pandurii), Alexandru Maxim (Pandurii), Cristian Tanase (Steaua)

Forwards: Raul Rusescu (Steaua), Marius Niculae (FC Vaslui), Ciprian Marica (Schalke), Gheorghe Grozav (Petrolul)

Steaua makes it through, but FC Vaslui finally has to give in

December 14, 2011 1 comment

It’s a shame to see FC Vaslui out of the Europa League, really! They’ve done incredibly well in a very tough group, with the likes of Lazio and Sporting Lisbon and were in a good position before the last round of games in spite of the numerous problems that Viorel Hizo had to deal with this autumn. He never had something at least close to what you’d call an ideal first eleven, playing with an improvised back four and losing for the last three games one of his best players, but he still managed to go to Zurich for the last game without having to depend on what was happening on the “Olimpico”. Of course, if everything was going to be fine in Switzerland…

It wasn’t. Cerniauskas, the goalkeeper, had to leave the field injured in the first half. The outstanding Sanmartean resisted just until after the break, in a game Hizo had in the stands three regular starters suspended: Temwanjera, Papp and Wesley. It was simply too much for a team that has a transfer ban for almost a year and a small and very unfortunate squad. They’ve lost 2-0, but I think everyone should be proud of the club’s first ever European presence and hopefully the sometimes impulsive owner, Adrian Porumboiu, will have a good look at the big picture. It definitely doesn’t make you turns your eyes away!

Surprisingly, Steaua did a lot better, in spite of a more delicate position, as the Bucharest side was also depending on a good result managed by the already qualified Schalke in Israel, not just on the win against AEK Larnaca. In front of 50.000 fans, who are starting to forget that their boycott was provoked by a club owner who’s still there and getting behind the team once again. The fans’ defeat meant the team’s victory though and it was a vital one, as the Germans played their part, inspired by Ciprian Marica who scored his first goal of the season for Schalke!

Stefan Nikolic (left) turned from villain to hero. Not sure Gigi Becali still wants to get rid of him, like he was saying less than a month ago...

After a nervous first half, Rusescu kept his cool and converted a penalty, but AEK struck back and things were looking bad for Steaua. Pablo Brandan’s quality and experience kept the team balanced though and Ilie Stan got all his subs right, although at least one of them came a bit late. A corner and a perfect counter were converted by Stefan Nikolic, the 22 years old striker loaned from Poli Timisoara netting a brace and sending Steaua in the European spring for the 9th time in the club’s history.

I wouldn’t say they were the better team, but there’s something about this club that often comes to the rescue and offers them that little plus that makes the difference between the Romanian sparring-partners and the Romanian clubs that every once in a while make it in Europe…

Bad for Dinamo, but very good for the league

December 5, 2011 1 comment

Steaua was lucky in tonight’s derby, because if Rusescu wouldn’t have invented a long range shot to cancel Marius Niculae’s 13th goal of the season (last January, with 13 goals in half of seson, Bogdan Stancu was moving to Galatasaray for 6 mil. E!) Ilie Stan’s men would have struggled to get back into the game. They usually have trouble scoring and Dinamo was surprisingly solid at the back this year, mainly due to the good form of Cosmin Moti, who was once an AS Roma target, and the addition of Srdjan Luchin at right back. But at 1-1, with Pablo Brandan and Alexandru “Gattuso” Bourceanu pressing hard in central midfield, Steaua managed to increase the distance between Dinamo’s line, leaving Danciulescu and Niculae isolated upfront.

Liviu Ciobotariu wasn’t inspired either, taking off Marius Alexe at half time and adding a striker on the left side proving  suicidal for that flank, while Ilie Stan was going to be rewarded for understanding that Steaua needed a win, not a draw, and keeping an offensive setup until the very end.

Liga I standings, with one round to go before the winter break

It was a poor game, actually, as derbies often are in this country, Steaua failing to create a decent counter in almost half an hour, until Mihai Costea killed the match, but the result will definitely do the competition a lot of good. Dinamo has CFR and Rapid very close, with Steaua and Vaslui hoping to get back into the title race with a good run of results, so we could be in for a very interesting winter period as well. It’s been a while since we’ve had Dinamo, Rapid and Steaua in such good positions, but do not take anything for granted just yet – their owners/shareholders have the rare gift of screwing things up when they start to look good, reminding everybody that this is definitely not their “fault”…

Best players in Romania: forwards

June 24, 2010 3 comments
  1. Wesley Lopes da Silva, 30 years old

    ANDREI CRISTEA – Dinamo Bucharest

  2. WESLEY LOPES DA SILVA – FC Vaslui
  3. Pantelis Kapetanos – Steaua Bucharest
  4. Gheorghe Bucur – FC Timisoara
  5. Junior Moraes – Gloria Bistrita

My view: Wesley couldn’t have missed this one, he had a solid season and deserves credit for acting very mature during a winter conflict with the club’s owner, which ended in his favor. Cristea was THE Romanian forward, that’s for sure, although I’m sure he’d be useless without a good centre forward alongside him. Obviously, he doesn’t think so, as he became blinded by the opportunity to snatch the golden boot award and looked very selfish and ugly in the last couple of months, an approach that will turn against him next season, if he doesn’t leave Dinamo.

Leaving aside Kapetanos, the only striker who needs to concentrate on his World Cup performances, it’s interesting to see up there two strikers that have played for just half of season, Bucur leaving Timisoara for Krasnodar during the winter, while Moraes came to Bistrita in February, but made an instant and huge impact. Just outside the top five is Urziceni’s Bilasco, a player with an excellent aerial game for his 1,84 m, while CFR’s “stars”, Kone and Traore are waaay down, very close to the ratings received by Pandurii’s strikers, Raskovic and Stromajer, famous for their lack of ability and flair.

My choices: I liked a lot Moraes, as well, but I think CFR’s Bud deserves to be recalled for the way he stepped up and delivered. Dinamo’s Liviu Ganea had a nice run with Astra, where he spent the season on loan, but he ruined all his work with his decision to “shut down” and “preserve” his goals for a better cause than saving Astra from relegation. I have serious doubts regarding his mentality and I think that the gifts he has were delievered by nature to the wrong type of person. Timisoara has a really quality player in Dorin Goga, who’s creative and skilful, but the player and the team would have got so much more out of this season, if Magera was used up-front on a regular basis. In the end, I’ll add Rusescu, a youngster I enjoy watching for three seasons now, but who I’d expected to see get more and more time on the pitch…

Note: the top five is taken from Gazeta Sporturilor, a newspaper that uses the service of Digital Soccer Project. These results are based on a series of specific criteria for each position, include only players that have collected at least 1.200 minutes on the pitch in the past season and the only subjective part of the analysis consists in the average marks received by the newspaper’s writers.

Round 29 – results, scorers and standings

April 26, 2010 1 comment
  • Ceahlaul – Astra Ploiesti 0-0
  • Dinamo – Politehnica Iasi 1-1 (N’Doye 21 / L. Munteanu 59)
  • Pandurii – FC Brasov 1-0 (Hidisan 77)
  • Otelul Galati – Rapid 0-0
  • CFR Cluj – Unirea Alba Iulia 3-2 (Bud 21, 65, 90 / Veljovic 67, Muresan 77 og)
  • Gaz Metan Medias – Gloria Bistrita 1-1 (Litu 42 / Frasinescu 2)
  • Universitatea Craiova – Unirea Urziceni 1-4 (Gangioveanu 75 / Bilasco 8, Rusescu 70, Paduretu 81, Semedo 88)
  • Steaua – FC Timisoara 3-3 (Golanski 33, Kapetanos 80 pen, Zhelev 90 / Cocis 48, Contra 85 pen, 88)
  • International Curtea de Arges – FC Vaslui 1-2 (Bacila 45 / Costly 70, Milisavljevic 80)

Liga I - Standings

Next round (30th of April – 2nd of May): Gloria Bistrita – Pandurii, Astra – CFR Cluj, Universitatea Craiova – International Curtea de Arges, Unirea Alba Iulia – Steaua, FC Timisoara – Otelul Galati, FC Vaslui – Ceahlaul, Politehnica Iasi – Gaz Metan Medias, Unirea Urziceni – FC Brasov, Rapid – Dinamo.

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