Football / World Cup USA '94: Meola's gift to Romania

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The Independent Online
United States. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Romania. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

THE victory Romania achieved here to advance into the second round as the winners of Group A was their reward for superior craftsmanship sensibly applied in a temperature close to 110F. To the great disappointment and occasional disgust of their supporters, the United States were brought back to the reality of their meagre status in world football, leaving them an anxious wait to see if they will qualify as one of the best third-placed teams.

Romania needed three points to ensure their advancement and they were presented with a gift by Tony Meola, the American captain and goalkeeper, who was beaten by a shot at the near-post in the 17th minute.

The Romanians proved to be a different proposition from the disgraced Colombians previously beaten by the US. They made good progress along both flanks with Gheorghe Hagi inevitably effective in midfield.

The American audience appeared to be perplexed by a failure to keep the Romanians on the defensive. It was all of 10 minutes before the US launched an attack that the Romanians had to take seriously, and when another quickly followed the Romanian goal almost fell. Receiving the ball with enough time to have a clear sight of goal, John Harkes struck the foot of Prunea's right-hand post. Ernie Stewart then found Eric Wynalda with a deep cross that he sent into the side-netting.

With Harkes committed to sorties along the left, there was always a danger that his left-back, Fernando Clavijo, would be outnumbered and this proved to be the case when a move that brought Romania a goal developed.

In fact Clavijo found himself having to deal with three opponents, and when Dan Petrescu came forward from right-back he strode into the area to score from a narrow angle with Meola badly positioned.

Since the game was played in blinding sunshine, it was not surprising that the Romanians took every advantage to conserve energy. When they formed a small group in their own half to pass the ball around, the American spectators, the majority in a crowd of 93,000, booed impatiently.

The Americans almost conceded a second goal when Hagi deftly manoeuvred through along Romania's right, but this time his team-mates could not rely on the little man's accuracy, his centre too deep for any of them to reach. When Hagi won a free-kick, much to the displeasure of the spectators, he brought more anxiety to the American penalty area.

But it was not long before the Romanians were scrambling to keep their own goal intact. Florin Prunea's attempt to cut out a corner went horribly wrong, the ball falling from his hands into a group of players, but in the end Ilie Dumitrescu managed to clear the danger.

Meola, was hurt when coming out to attack a low cross and still seemed dazed a minute or so later when a long shot from Prodan almost caught him out.

UNITED STATES (5-3-2): Meola (United States Soccer Federation); Dooley (Bayer Leverkusen), Balboa, Clavijo, Lalas, Caligiuri (all USSF); Harkes (Derby County), Ramos (Real Betis), Sorber (USSF); Stewart (Willem II), Wynalda (VfL Bochum). Substitutes: Jones (USSF) for Ramos, 63; Wegerle (Coventry City) for Sorber, 74.

ROMANIA (5-4-1): Prunea (Dinamo Bucharest); Petrescu (Genoa), Prodan (Steaua Bucharest), Belodedici (Valencia), Popescu (PSV Eindhoven), Selymes (Cercle Bruges); Lupescu (Bayer Leverkusen), Munteanu (Cercle Bruges), Hagi (Brescia), Dumitrescu (Steaua Bucharest); Raduciou (Milan). Substitutes: Galca (Steaua Bucharest) for Raduciou, 83; Mihali (Dinamo Bucharest) for Belodedici, 88.

Referee: M van der Ende (Netherlands).