Football: Iordanescu back to haunt Venables: Painful reminder of a previous confrontation for England's coach as Romania bring World Cup flair to Wembley

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The Independent Online
TERRY VENABLES may get a nasty feeling of deja vu should he care to look across at the opposition's bench at Wembley tonight. It was from just a position eight years ago in Seville that he saw Anghel Iordanescu step briefly out of retirement to inflict on Venables the greatest disappointment of his managerial career.

It was the European Cup final and favourites Barcelona, then managed by Venables, were at last showing signs of breaking down Steaua Bucharest when Iordanescu, the assistant manager who had not played for two years, was sent forth in the 65th minute, not a little desperately, to steady the ship. Steady it he did and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now Iordanescu, as coach of the national team, comes to Wembley to try to frustrate Venables once more. He does so following a breathtaking start to an international managerial career. Appointed in June of last year with three games of the World Cup qualifying competition to go and after a 5-2 reverse against Czechoslovakia, he dramatically turned around his country's fortunes.

In the United States he managed to get a gifted Romanian team to do themselves justice on foreign fields to reach the quarter-finals while encouraging Gheorghe Hagi to prove what we had hitherto only suspected: that he was indeed one of the world's great players.

On Iordanescu's return, Romania showed its gratitude to the former soldier by catapulting him up the ranks to honorary general. Judging by the World Cup T-shirt he sported at yesterday's press conference the memories are still with him, as it appears to be with the country as a whole.

Having set their standard, Iordanescu and his players had problems maintaining it against France in St Etienne on Saturday when they were roundly criticised by the Romanian press for achieving a goalless draw against their biggest rivals in their European Championship Group One. And Graham Taylor thinks he was unjustly treated.

A counter-attacking side by nature, Romania still played too cautiously, failing to manufacture a shot or corner throughout the match. Asked if Romania would be more adventurous this time Iordanescu grinned mischievously beneath a swept-back hairstyle reminiscent of Ferenc Puskas: 'It would be easier for me to answer that question if Terry Venables was beside me and I knew his tactics. But I'm sure the atmosphere of Wembley will inspire my players to give of their real qualities.' Later he added ominously: 'The most important thing is the result. Everything changes when the result is good, even the analysis of your own team's game.'

While he guaranteed that the three English-based players would appear - Popescu (Tottenham), Dumitrescu (Tottenham) and Petrescu (Sheff Wed) - there are doubts about the fitness of striker Florin Raducioiu and the midfielder Daniel Timofte. 'Raducioiu has a contusion on one of his legs - I'd rather not say which one,' he said, perhaps mindful of the interest of the England centre-backs.

The 'very rough' nature of the English game, of which he declared himself a fan, clearly concerned him with regards to the well-being of his English exiles, though he was relieved that they were with clubs who could look after their physical condition.

A midfielder-cum-striker in the David Platt mould during his playing days, his record of 65 caps and 26 goals included a goalless draw at Wembley and a 2-1 victory in another World Cup qualifying tie in Bucharest when he scored the winner from a penalty. He conceded that his knowledge of the England team was not that great, although he seemed to have a detailed understanding of Alan Shearer's strengths.

'That's partly my fault, and, of course, partly yours,' he said, 'for not being in America.'

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