Sunday night in Lyon, Albania defeated Romania and a national hysteria began in Gheorghe Hagi’s country. Everybody started to blame everybody. The last time Tricolorii lost to the Albanians was 70 years ago and the final whistle from the match played on Parc Olympique Lyonnais on Sunday can be one of the lowest points in the history of Romanian football.
The Romanian fans knew that their team lack quality, knew that their best players come from Gençlerbirliği, Osmanlıspor, Steaua Bucharest or Ludogorets Razgrad, knew that their coach is outdated but they still hoped.
The sad truth is that Romania did not qualify for the next round and not only they have finished last in the group but they have also played an ugly football, scoring twice only from penalties and that’s a pitty.
This tournament, with France and Switzerland, Anghel Iordănescu’s team tried to defend and counter-attack, sitting deep but not too deep and trying to press the opposition’s midfield each time the occasion came. Although the opponents were better, the game plan was much better applied with France than with Switzerland, where the Chiricheș and his teammates looked exhausted after the effort put in the opening match.
In both games, when having the ball, Iordănescu’s boys did not even try to put the ball down and to build attacks from deep. Their only focus was to not make any silly mistakes in the center of pitch and to play long balls towards the wings. The below graphics are clearly showing the pattern of the final third passes from Romania with France and Switzerland. The fatigue accumulated after being forced to chase the ball for longer periods can be a good and fair excuse for Pintilii and his colleagues but the truth is that even in dead periods of time, Tricolorii seemed to refuse any attempt to play a free-flowing football.
Tricolorii played well in the last years on the counter-attack and there were no surprises that they struggled also with Albania when they had to attack. Romania needed 3 points but Lorik Cana’s team sat deep and as expected, the Romanians could not find gaps in the opposition’s defence after a good build-up play. Cordoba’s Florin Andone hit the post once in the second half after the only chance created by Romania’s midfield. Apart from this, Tricolorii fired only long range shots which did not even disturb Etrit Berisha.
With Albania, compared to the previous two matches, Romania doubled their number of passes in the attacking third (106) but most of them were sideways. As the below graphic shows, these passes which did not penetrate a good midfield line perfectly aligned by Gianni De Biasi. Tricolorii’s number 10, Nicolae Stanciu, failed to meet the expectations and was unable to carry the burden of Hagi’s number on his back.
Romania’s national team can only reflect the failure of the entire football system that it represents. Tricolorii rarely qualify to final tournaments but when they manage to qualify, once in several tournaments, the whole country sees Romania and its gap to real football.