After the opener with France, everyone was talking about Romania’s football team, praising the players for their spirit, hard-work and organisation. Against France, Romania sat deep and tried to press each time the occasion arose, attempting to close down France’s midfielders. Against the Les Bleus, in possession, Tricolorii had no intention to play the ball through the middle, wanting to avoid any potential mistakes in the centre of the pitch.
Everyone was expecting a repeat performance against Switzerland. Things aren’t so simple. With players from clubs in Bulgaria, Israel, Qatar or Romania, Tricolorii had a solid performance against Les Bleus when they went beyond their limits. It’s hard however to play with the same intensity and to exert yourself twice in only a couple of days.
Moreover, after losing the first game, the Tricolorii needed to open their tally, so a big question was put on Romania’s staff if the same approach can be beneficial. Maybe that’s why Anghel Iordanescu made four changes for the second round game: Claudiu Keseru replaced Florin Andone in attack, Gabriel Torje and Alex Chipciu replaced Popa and Stanciu while Andrei Prepelita replaced Ovidiu Hoban in the center of the park. This last change was arguably the one that influenced mostly the game. The midfield-duo Pintilii-Hoban was one of the key factors in the good performance against France and Prepelita is known more as a midfielder with technique and creativity than as an enforcer.
Tricolorii went up 1-0 due to a penalty converted by Bogdan Stancu and took the lead to half-time. The scoreline did not tell the complete story, as on the pitch the Romanians looked very tired and were losing the battle in midfield. Switzerland won the midfield battle with Pintilii and Prepelita unable to cope with the hard-work, calmness and the passing of Granit Xhaka, nominated the man-of-the match for the second time in a row at this tournament. Without two defensive minded midfielders, there were lots of spaces between the midfield and the defense, spaces where Dzemaili, Shaqiri or Mehmedi easily received the ball each time. In a different day, with a much in-form Haris Seferovic, Switzerland could have killed the game before the half time.
Romania had a possession of only 35% and their passing accuracy was 65% . The above image clearly shows how inferior were the Romanians in midfield. Xhaka and Prepelita were supposed to be their team’s playmakers but Prepelita had a poor game. Granit had more passes, more tackles and more shots than Andrei. The difference between the passes played by the two midfielders is one which will definitely worry Iordanescu: 108 for Xhaka and only 25 for Prepelita.
It could have been 2-0 for Romania if not for Sapunaru hitting the post in the first half but the truth is that the Tricolorii deserved to lose the game. The Romanians seemed incapable of putting in the same effort as they did against France. The tactics and the changes made did not seem right as well. Anghel Iordanescu’s team is good at sitting deep and on playing on the counter-attack. With Prepelita instead of Hoban, Generalul seems to have tried a more positive approach but it didn’t work out as expected, but a lucky draw keeps them alive in the tournament.