Football: World Cup - Romania keen to maintain impetus

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The Independent Online
ROMANIA ARE out to make sure of topping Group G today, but their coach, Anghel Iordanescu, will ring the changes in the side to meet a dispirited Tunisia at the Stade de France.

The Africans are already eliminated and have fired their coach, but a classy 2-1 victory against England last Monday announced Romania as a force to be reckoned with and ensured they would qualify for the second round.

It also meant they could expect to secure themselves a second-round match against Croatia rather than the more fancied Argentines if the remaining games in Group H went to form.

"I prefer Croatia but at this level no games are easy, not for any team," Romania's coach, Anghel Iordanescu, said. But it will be a changed side that faces the Tunisians in St Denis.

"I have to save the players already booked in order to field the strongest team against Croatia or Argentina in the second round," Iordanescu said yesterday.

The key defenders Gheorghe Popescu, Dan Petrescu and Liviu Ciobotariu were booked in the previous group matches and a second second bookable offence against Tunisia would automatically ban them from second-round match. "I'll make substantial changes in the defence line for the match against Tunisia, but our team will still play to win," Iordanescu said.

The wing-back Tibor Selymes, who has been out of action with a leg injury, looks in line for a call-up. "If the doctor gives me a last-minute green light for him, Selymes will play against Tunisia," Iordanescu said.

The central defender Anton Dobos is expected to play as is the midfielder Ilie Dumitrescu, who sparkled four years ago in United States when he scored twice to help defeat Argentina in the second round.

The coach is keen to let some players rest, including the captain, Gheorghe Hagi, though he may play 45 minutes. "Hagi looked tired at the end of the last match," Iordanescu said. "There is nothing unusual in that as he played more than 50 matches with his club Galatasaray."

Hagi and his midfield teammate Dorinel Munteanu were also booked once during the matches against Colombia and England. The midfielder Ovidiu Stanga is out of action with serious ligament problems and will miss the rest of the tournament.

Romania have defied the critics - especially at home - who said they relied too much on an ageing generation that peaked at the 1994 World Cup, when they reached the quarter-finals. Valencia's young striker Adrian Ilie has been one of the revelations of the tournament - and Hagi feels the team is better than the 1994 side.

The best Tunisia can hope for is to end a run of four World Cup matches without scoring dating back to their last finals appearance in 1978. They can also try to shrug off the upheaval of losing their Polish coach, Henryk Kasperczak, since the last game and improve on two performances that have disappointed those who thought they were capable of showing the attacking zest of their neighbours, Morocco.