Football: Romania dismiss coach

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ROMANIA DISMISSED the national coach, Victor Piturca, yesterday following disputes with key players, only weeks after the team qualified unbeaten for the European 2000 Championship finals.

"The Romanian Soccer Federation decided to dismiss Piturca to end a sharp conflict between him and the squad's best players," the FRF president, Mircea Sandu, said.

Sandu said the decision to fire Piturca had been made by a vote of 12- 4 during an emergency FRF meeting.

"Romania need peace and quiet to train for next year's finals as best they can and that conflict seemed endless," Sandu said. He said Piturca's successor would be appointed within two weeks.

A bitter Piturca said: "It's not normal to sack a national team coach just on some players' whims."

Last month, Gheorghe Hagi, the Romanian captain, accused Piturca of "causing unjustified tension within the team".

"Piturca's unfair behaviour triggered tension between him and some players," Hagi said at that time.

Piturca dismissed the accusations earlier this week and said: "I'll fight for justice because I was behind Romania's qualification."

As well as Hagi, the former Tottenham defender, Gheorghe Popescu, had also fallen out with Piturca. Mircea Lucescu, the Rapid Bucharest coach and former Internazionale coach, seems the favourite to replace Piturca.