Football: World Cup - Moldovan saves bottle-blonds

Romania 1 Moldovan 72 Tunisia 1 Souayah 10 pen Att: 75,000
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The Independent Online
THE BALKAN lions of Toulouse turned into the clowns of Paris last night as the Romanians came to play an exhibition game and made an exhibition of themselves, almost presenting England with pole position in Group G.

Resting four players and dyeing their hair in expectation of an easy victory, Romania nearly came a cropper to a rejuvenated Tunisia.

Skander Souayah put Tunisia ahead from the penalty spot early in the game and the Romanians spent many anxious minutes before Viorel Moldovan came on as a substitute and equalised 18 minutes from time to keep them top of the group

The Romanians took the field as a team of bottle-blonds. Apparently their coach Anghel Iordanescu had sworn that he would shave his head if his team topped the group so long as the players dyed their hair Romanian yellow.

The visual effect was bizarre, as if a crazy scientist had cloned a team of Aryan superman footballers. The effect on the Romanians, as a team, was disastrous.

After just 10 minutes with the Romanians finding it difficult to take the game, or themselves, seriously, Christian Dulca brought down Adel Sellimi in the box as he was about to shoot. The referee instantly awarded the penalty and Souayah hammered the first Tunisian goal of the tournament.

All the threat came from the North Africans, roared on by their own fans and the French "neutrals". The Romanians, who rested four players, looked a shadow of the team that beat England in Toulouse; the Tunisians unrecognisable from the limp team who England had defeated in Marseilles.

Romania changed their line-up in the second half, replacing the veteran Marius Lacatus with the new Balkan hero, Adrian Ilie, but until Moldovan came on in the 67th minute, reassembling the first-choice forward line, the Rumanians could not put their game together. The Tunisians hung on bravely until, Moldovan, the Coventry city striker, slammed home a looping cross from Ilie in the 72nd minute. It was more than the Rumanians deserved.

ROMANIA (4-4-1-1): Stelea (Salamanca); Ciobotariu (National Bucharest), Dulca (Rapid Bucharest), Dobos (AEK Athens), Petrescu (Chelsea); Marinescu (Rapid Bucharest), Galca (Espanyol), Munteanu (Cologne), Dumitrescu (Atlanta); Hagi (Galatasaray); Lacatus (Steaua Bucharest). Substitutes: Popescu (Galatasaray) for Dulca, 31; Ilie (Valencia) for Lacatus, 45; Moldovan (Coventry) for Dumitrescu, 67.

TUNISIA (3-5-2): El-Ouaer (ES Tunis); Boukadida (ES Sahel), S Trabelsi (CS Sfaxien), Chouchane (ES Sahel); Chihi (ES Tunis), Ghodbane (ES Sahel), Souayah (CS Sfax), Bouazizi (ES Sahel), Beya (Friburg); Sellimi (Real Jaen), Ben Slimane (Friburg).

Referee: E Lennie (Australia).