Romanian test for the French

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The Independent Online
Amid the hype surrounding France, which runs along the lines of "they must be good if they can afford to omit Eric Cantona and David Ginola", one thing has tended to be forgotten: they were in the same qualifying group as the Romanians and it was the latter who finished top.

We arrive for Euro 96 in a spirit of "modesty and ambition", the French coach, Aime Jacquet, said as his squad prepared for tonight's Group B meeting with the Romanians in Newcastle. Which might seem strange considering that his side have an astonishingly long unbeaten run of more than 20 matches but can be put in better perspective when their qualifying record of five draws in 10 qualifying games is taken into account.

One of those stalemates was against tonight's opponents in Paris and, as the Romanian coach, Anghel Iordanescu, points out: "We have a good record against the French.''

It is something that Jacquet concedes. "The most difficult, the most dangerous game will be the first match," he said. "It has an impact on preparations for all the others. The Romanians are full of very talented players. They are a very dangerous team for France.''

This is mainly because the principal that Romania live and die for is possession. They pass and pass, waiting for an opening to arrive and opponents can lose concentration waiting for the ball. The French, talented but inexperienced, might be frustrated to the point of distraction.

Jacquet will name his team two hours before kick-off but they are expected to be at full strength. He said: "I will be assessing my players' fitness, both mental and physical, in the hours that remain before the game.

"I will be looking at them in the hotel and at the training ground to see if anyone is tired or looks as if he has a problem."

One thing in France's favour is that the Romanians may be forced to go into the game without Ioan Sabau. The Brescia midfield player did not train last week because of a niggling hamstring injury. Nevertheless Iordanescu is adopting a positive approach and there is plenty of quality in their ranks in the shape of Gheorghe Hagi, Gheorghe Popescu and the Chelsea wing-back Dan Petrescu. "To win this tournament you have to be very offensive," he said. A chance for Paul Gascoigne then.

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