Football / European Championship: Romanian art an acquired taste: Ken Jones applauds a resolute attitude in the face of superior technical ability

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The Independent Online
A SAFE bet is that the class, individual and collective, Romania displayed at Wembley last night would not suit the majority of football enthusiasts in this country if it was served up on a weekly basis.

Traditionally, we favour a more urgent approach, relying on the grit and determination that is much respected, even feared abroad.

If marks for artistic impression had been critical to the outcome, Romania would have walked over. But through sheer perseverence on England's part, especially in the second half, they were unable to take charge.

However, there were plenty of occasions when England were visibly embarrassed by the ease with which their opponents brought the ball under control, even when being tackled, and adroitly put together the sort of passing movements that are seldom seen in the Premiership.

If there is presently a healthy attitude in English football, it should not blind us to technical shortcomings, even when England can call on players with the gifts of John Barnes and Matthew Le Tissier.

England managers can only work with the available product but Terry Venables has seen enough so far to approach the next two years optimistically.

From the evidence of their performances in the World Cup, when they reached the quarter-finals and were considered unlucky not to make further progress, it came as no surprise to see Romania playing with infinite patience, always confident on the ball and moving intelligently to support the player in possession. In failing to consistently put pressure on these bouts of possession, a cornerstone of Venables' policy, England made things difficult for themselves in the first half despite the goal from Robert Lee that brought them level after Ilie Dumitrescu had put Romania in front.

Doubtless reminded of this during the interval, England improved to the point where Romania had to defend resolutely to keep their goal intact.

Not too much should be read into England's performance, especially when related to individual performances. Le Tissier was bright enough in his first full match, using the ball sensibly and almost scoring early in the match when he cleverly flicked the ball up with one foot before volleying just over with the other.

Venables will have gained some comfort from the purpose his players showed when getting to the Romanians more quickly in the second half and might well have tasted another victory if Alan Shearer had not been brought down within sight of the Romanian goal.

The culprit received only a yellow card, one of many strange decisions by the French referee, Joel Quiniou. On another occasion, Paul Ince would have been lucky to escape a referee's wrath for the ugly tackle he committed on Dumitrescu, astonishingly not even giving up a free-kick.

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