Euro 2016 Fantasy Preview: Romania
Euro 2000 quarter-finalists Romania look unlikely to match that success at this year’s tournament, although their draw leaves a place in the knock-out phase up for grabs.
Matches against Albania and Switzerland should not be too daunting for Anghel Iordănescu’s side, who face France in the first game of the championships, in Saint-Denis on June 10.
Romania conceded only two goals in their 10 qualifying games, so they will be tough to beat at the finals, with their gritty, defensive style making them hard to break down.
Iordănescu’s men have only won one of their last five internationals, a 1-0 home win against Lithuania in March, although they also recently kept a clean sheet against the holders, Spain.
Likely tactics and formation
Romania are yet another international side that currently plays in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with a deep-lying midfield pairing adding a further layer of protection to what is already a mean back line.
Iordănescu, who led Romania to the quarter-finals of the 1994 World Cup, is now in his third spell as coach of the national team after coming out of retirement and he has been criticised for lacking a Plan B, as well as over what is perceived to be an aggressively negative style of play.
Playing France in the opening match of the tournament could provide an opportunity for Romania, who can take advantage of any nerves the hosts might be feeling due to the pressure they face.
Răzvan Raţ is one of the stalwarts of the Romanian set-up and his collection of 110 caps is over twice as many as anyone else in the squad, while Vlad Chiricheş anchors the back line.
Perhaps the next big thing in Romanian football is 22-year-old Nicolae Stanciu, who could earn a lucrative move away from Steaua Bucureşti if he impresses at this year’s tournament.
Ciprian Tătăruşanu of Fiorentina looks set to get the nod as Romania’s number one goalkeeper, with the 30-year-old in line to add to his 35 caps in France.
Tătăruşanu’s deputy will be Watford’s Costel Pantilimon, while the third-choice option, who is unlikely to be needed by Iordănescu over the course of the tournament, has been named as Silviu Lung, who plays his club football with Astra Giurgiu.
Raţ is likely to be playing in his final major international tournament at the age of 35, so the veteran left-back will be determined to impress, while former Tottenham defender Chiricheş, now with Napoli in Serie A, takes the captain’s armband for Romania.
Romania’s right-back at the finals is a very close call between Alexandru Mățel (Dinamo Zagreb) and Pandurii Târgu Jiu’s Cristian Săpunaru, with Chiricheş expected to be partnered by Dragoş Grigore, who plays his club football for Al-Sailiya in Qatar.
Talented right winger Gabriel Torje will be looking to add to his 10 international goals at the finals, with the left flank slot perhaps most likely to be filled by Alexandru Chipciu of Steaua Bucureşti, a former starlet whose career has been heavily disrupted by injury. Torje can play on either side.
Stanciu is expected to be given freedom to create behind the striker, with the two central positions in front of the back four being filled by the energetic pair of Ovidiu Hoban and Mihai Pintilii.
Claudiu Keșerü is in line to start up front for Romania, with the 29-year-old hitting 15 goals for Ludogorets this season, while he has already struck four goals from 12 caps.
Keșerü’s main competition for the solitary striking role in the side comes from Bogdan Stancu, who plays in Turkey for Gençlerbirliği and has plenty of experience. Stancu’s high work-rate makes him a strong favourite of Iordănescu, but he does not offer much of a goal threat.
Astra’s Denis Alibec and Florin Andone are the extra attackers in the Romania squad, but they have only scored one goal each for their country to date, with Lucian Sânmărtean boasting plenty of talent but perhaps now lacking the legs for international football at the age of 36.
Steaua winger Adrian Popa is one of the fastest players in Europe and he could be a serious asset from the bench, while Andrei Prepeliţă is another of Iordănescu’s midfield options.
At the back, cover comes from Valerică Găman, Steliano Filip, Cosmin Moţi and Valerică Găman.
Sânmărtean is arguably the best set-piece specialist in the Romania squad, but he is likely to play only a bit-part role for Iordănescu in France this summer as a result of his advanced age.
The responsibility of taking free-kicks could therefore go to the youngster Stanciu, who is also most likely to take his side’s corners whenever he is on the pitch.
Penalties seem to be up for grabs with regular taker Ciprian Marica having fallen out of favour in the last couple of years. Stancu is perhaps the most likely man to step up should his side be given a spot-kick, as he has converted all 16 penalties he has taken during his career.