Football / World Cup USA '94: Dumitrescu's double strike sinks Argentina: Hagi lifts Romania to new heights as they bring down the curtain on troubled South Americans' challenge

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Romania. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

Argentina. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

SUGGESTING they will be a match for anyone left in the tournament, Romania eliminated Argentina yesterday after a succession of thrills and drama.

To cope with the suspension of Florin Raducioiu and to protect their defence, the Romanians overloaded their midfield to play a counter-attacking game. Not even this insurance, though, could prevent Argentina from launching attacks that almost brought them a goal in the opening minutes.

However, they were caught out in the 10th minute when Ilie Dumitrescu curled in a free-kick that dropped beyond Luis Islas to give Romania the lead. Argentina pressed forward and were level five minutes later when Gabriel Batistuta equalised from the penalty spot, after being felled by Daniel Prodan.

Romania took the lead again, this time with a goal orchestrated by Gheorghe Hagi and scored by Dumitrescu. With Argentina's defence expecting a centre to the far post, Hagi cunningly slid the ball in short and the defenders were flat-footed by Dumitrescu's clever blindside run.

Romania were growing more comfortable with their strategy, springing players forward from midfield and when Dumitrescu, who carried the main responsibility in this respect, got away on the left Argentina survived only through the agility and alertness of Islas.

Immediately Argentina swept to the other end to almost snatch an equaliser when Adel Balbo carried the ball into the Romania penalty-area only to be foiled by desperate defending.

Argentina's adventurous spirit almost led to another disaster at their end of the field. Dorinel Munteanu received the ball with space in which to manoeuvre and when he centred to Dumitrescu on the right. Islas was beaten but Jose Chamot managed to hook the ball off the line.

Romania were forced to scuffle in their penalty-area as Argentina's well-supported attack fell upon them. The Argentines drew no response when they claimed that Fernando Redondo had been fouled in the penalty-area and their complaints had hardly died down when Romania went further ahead.

This time the ball broke to Dumitrescu who carried it forward swiftly. He was lucky not to be penalised for pushing Oscar Ruggeri, but his pass to the supporting Hagi was perfect and the subsequent shot unstoppable.

Argentina's frustration increased but with 15 minutes left they were back in the game. Florin Prunea could not hold a long shot from Fernando Caceres and Adel Balbo pounced, crashing the ball into the roof of the net.

ARGENTINA (4-3-1-2): Islas (Independiente); Sensini (Parma), Caceres (Zaragoza), Ruggeri (San Lorenzo), Chamot (Foggia); Basualdo (Velez Sarsfeld), Simeone (Seville), Redondo (Real Madrid); Ortega (River Plate); Batistuta (Fiorentina), Balbo (Roma). Substitutes: Medina Bello (Yokohama Marinos) for Sensini, 62.

ROMANIA (4-5-1): Prunea (Dinamo Bucharest); Mihali (Dinamo Bucharest), Belodedici (Valencia), Popescu (PSV Eindhoven), Prodan (Steaua Bucharest); Petrescu (Genoa), Lupescu (Bayer Leverkusen), Munteanu (Cercle Bruges), Hagi (Brescia), Selymes (Cercle Bruges); Dumitrescu (Steaua Bucharest). Substitutes: Galca (Steaua Bucharest) for Hagi, 85; Papura (Universitatea Craiova) for Dumitrescu, 88.

Referee: P Pairetto (Italy).