by Tom Lees - 7th January 2016
With the 2016 European Championships now just a few months away, here at FanFormation, we will be taking a close look at each Nation competing and how they fare once the big event in France kicks off. As part of our pre-tournament preview, we will be going through each Country and highlighting three of the youngsters, on the fringes of selection, who will be hoping to make their Nations final squad.
Group A takes centre stage today as we look at Romania, who have been drawn alongside Albania, Switzerland and tournament hosts France.
Although this is not the greatest Romanian team in history, a far cry from their excellent side in the 90’s, they qualified for the finals tournament impressively remaining unbeaten throughout. They have an experienced squad that produce solid, if not spectacular, displays and work as a team unit without the reliance on a star name.
Gone are the days of Dumitrescu, Hagi, Popescu and Raducioiu, Romania just hasn’t been producing that standard of player for a long time, a lot of hope was placed at the feet of Gabriel Torje but he has been more of a squad player than the star Romanian fans hoped he could be. The fans will be delighted to see their side back in a major tournament again though, the players will be even more so as they get the chance to play at the top level, but who are the youngsters that could join that squad of players in France this year.
For the last two seasons Florin Tanase has been playing regularly for FC Viitorul, and this season his performances have come with an increased goal threat, averaging nearly a goal every other game. The high standard of his displays have also been carried over to the Romanian Under 21 side where he now looks like one of the stand out players in the squad. This also earnt Tanase senior international recognition as he made his Romania debut in a friendly match in early 2015.
A right footed left winger, Tanase’s main strength is cutting inside from the flank and running at the centre backs. He is a very similar style of player to Mirallas of Belgium, with his eye for a shot on goal and little turns, drag backs and passes in and around the area. Still a little raw around the edges, his experiences at club level for Viitorul will iron out the creases in his play with every game and a move to a stronger league will no doubt present itself in the near future. No disrespect intended to Liga I.
Will he go to the European Championships? Well he does have two international appearances under his belt already, although yet to complete a full match for Romania you feel it is only a matter of time before he has a run in the side, his club form warrants the chance, whether it comes before the tournament kicks off is another matter.
Despite the different spelling of the name, a striker called Puscas immediately grabs your attention, of course no comparison can be made and George Puscas will be keen to remove his name from any affiliation with the legendary Magyar Ferenc Puskás. One common trait he does share with the great Hungarian though, is that Puscas is a goal scorer, a natural finisher, this he has proven at youth level in Romania and with the Inter Milan Primavera. During the 2014/15 season Puscas would score an incredible 16 goals in 11 Primavera matches, a feat that would secure him some first team football for Inter Milan in Serie A. Quite a remarkable achievement for an 18-year-old, especially as when he first joined the Italian giants from Liberty Oradea not much was expected of him by observers of the move.
At International level Puscas is building up a formidable record, 4 goals in 7 games for the Under 19’s, 6 in 8 games for the Under 21’s. It was this, coupled with his first team introduction for the Nerazzurri, that has seen Puscas already promoted to the senior Romanian squad on a couple of occasions, although to date he is still awaiting his debut. That debut is surely a case of ‘when’, rather than ‘if’ though.
Puscas is an old fashioned striker, conducting all his business in the penalty area. He has all the tools you’d need as a finisher, composure, good in the air, good on the ground, gets in the right areas and has that predatory instinct that is worth its weight in gold. Yes, he needs polishing, but the potential is there for all to see. Currently he is on a season long loan to Italian Serie B side FC Bari in an attempt to gain more regular first team exposure, although as it stands this move isn’t going as well as Inter Milan or Puscas would have hoped.
George Puscas should be going to the Euro’s this summer, he’s Romania’s natural finisher of the future and tournament exposure would have been a great benefit to him, however unless his game time increases in the next few months I fear he could miss the plane. There are other forwards he is in competition with and potential isn’t justification enough for inclusion.
In recent years when discussions over various social media platforms turned to wonder kids and the biggest stars of the future, names like Ødegaard, Mastour, Gabigol and Meyer were always offered up, but there was another name that kept being introduced into the conversations, Dorin Rotariu. Now whether this was hype from his Romanian fans are general viewpoints from those that had seen him at a young age was unclear, what was clear though was that people were taking notice, who was this Romanian wonder kid?
Rotariu is primarily a winger with a great left foot, although he can operate as a lethal forward just off the front man. He is fast, balanced, a great dribbler of the ball and has the flair to excite the crowd and also the finishing ability to make him look like he has the lot. People have claimed he is the Romanian ‘Van Persie’ and you can see the similarity in the positions and play Rotariu is involved in. Whether you could argue he is in the elite band of footballing wonder kids is one thing, but there is no denying that he really is a special young talent.
Rotariu plays for Dinamo Bukarest, the club where he began his professional career, and has been representing the first team on a consistent basis for the last three seasons. He is already approaching his century of Liga I appearances for the club and has become a big favourite for the club’s staff and fans. Internationally he has impressed for the Romanian Under 19 and Under 21 sides although he has yet to represent the senior side, this I believe is long overdue.
It is clear he has a huge future ahead of him, probably not long term for Dinamo, his potential has already attracted suitors in the past (during 2013 Manchester United were linked by some news outlets), and as he is progressing into the finished article some concrete offers from abroad are sure to surface. Internationally he is simply Romania’s biggest chance of having a star name again, whether he will fulfil the expectation of that is another thing. His chance to represent the national team will come soon, he deserves it, will it be in time for the European Championships? Hopefully, because you want the talented players on show for all to see.
OTHER PLAYERS OF NOTE
As always with this feature on the Euro 2016 hopefuls I am limiting my selection to just three players, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other names in the frame to make it to France in the summer. Romania have two fine young goalkeepers playing for the Under 21 side in Laurentiu Branescu and Valentin Cojocaru, though both will need to add a few more minutes playing time at club level for Omonia Nicosia (loan from Juventus) and Steaua respectively.
Robert Hodorogea of FC Viitorul will also be hopeful for selection after some good performances in Liga I this season, although the centre back is as yet uncapped at senior level. Romania also have a pair of fine young full backs at their disposal, and left sided Steliano Filip of Dinamo will be disappointed if he doesn’t make the flight after recently making his international debut against Italy in November 2015. However right back Cristian Manea may not be so lucky, after a great season and international recognition last season for Viitorul he was signed by Chelsea for reportedly just over £2 million and then sent on loan to Mouscron where game time has been limited. So despite having the talent it seems Manea will be destined to sit this one out.
Then we come to a couple of strikers who have both featured recently for the Romanian national team in Andrei Ivan of Universitatea Craiova, and Florin Andone of Córdoba. The pair may find themselves battling for a place alongside George Puscas and the final selection could see any result. Ivan operates a little deeper and enjoyed a good goal scoring record at youth level, whilst Andone has played his entire career in Spain and enjoyed some good form, unlike Puscas and Ivan he also has a senior international goal to his name which he scored in a November friendly draw against Italy.
A real wildcard name that could be thrown into the mix is that of Ianis Hagi, son of the legendary Gheorghe Hagi. The 17-year-old attacking midfielder was signed by Fiorentina for around €1 million in the summer of 2015 and has been impressing on loan at Viitorul this season. Although young Hagi has limited experience beyond this season, and has only previously represented Romania at under 18 level, a lot is expected of him and a wildcard selection into the Romanian squad could generate a lot of excitement. Personally I would love him to be included, I was a huge fan of his father and would be eager to see what young Ianis could do on the big stage.
So there we are, those were my young Romanian players to look out for in the run up to the European Championship finals. Who are you looking forward to watching for the Tricolorii, do you think these players will make it to France?
Romania kick off the tournament in the opening fixture against France on the 10th June in Saint-Denis, a tough start in what could prove to be a difficult group for them.