Tuesday, 17 June 2008

[Euro 2008] Romania look to shock Italy & France

Victor Piturca may have guided Romania to their first-ever victory over the Netherlands when the countries last met, but he believes the Dutch will prove a much tougher prospect in their final Group C encounter in Berne tonight.

It is eight months since Romania defeated the Oranje 1-0 en route to topping their Euro 2008 qualifying group and Piturca believes Marco van Basten's men have taken a significant stride forward in the intervening period.

"We had some experienced players who knew Dutch football well and that helped us with our tactics against them in the qualifiers," Piturca said.

"However, that wasn't a good time for the Netherlands whereas right now, unfortunately for us, they are in extremely good form."

Romania go into the game with draws against France and Italy behind them - and in pole position to take second place behind a Dutch team already assured first place.

The permutations for Romania reaching the last eight appear endless but a victory would provide the easiest route although a draw or even a defeat might be enough depending on what happens in the other game between France and Italy.

Piturca stressed that his focus would be fixed entirely on events at the Stade de Suisse, however.

"I don't care about the other game," he said. "I don't think I'm going to be able to coach my team if I'm thinking about another game. We know the different scenarios but by the end of the game I hope we will have qualified because we deserve it."

It does not help Piturca to be without centre-back Dorin Goian, scorer of the winner against the Dutch last October, who misses out through suspension. Holding midfielder Mirel Radoi, meanwhile, has been ruled out of the tournament after breaking his nose and cheekbone in last Friday's 1-1 draw with the Italy.

"Any loss is a great one for a small country like Romania," said Piturca who should give Sorin Ghionea his first start of the finals in place of Steaua Bucharest team-mate Goian.

The Netherlands' team selection is a matter of debate amid considerable speculation in both France and Italy that Van Basten will rest some key players.

Yet although the Oranje are already through to the quarter-finals, having won their first two games in handsome fashion over the Azzurri and France, Van Basten insists that whoever takes the field will give their all to secure a third straight victory.

"We are taking the game very seriously and will play the best available team against Romania," said Van Basten who has a fully-fit Mario Melchiot and Klaas Jan Huntelaar at his disposal after recovering from respective pelvic and calf injuries.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference in Lausanne, Van Basten talked up the merits of his whole squad.

"I am not saying anything about the starting lineup," he said. "I will tell the players first tomorrow and only after that will I make it public. We have a very professional group of 23 players, so we go into the game with the same concentration and desire as we always do."

Midfielder Nigel de Jong and defender Andre Ooijer are prime candidates to be given the evening off with both players one booking away from a suspension while the likes of Wilfred Bouma, John Heitinga, Melchiot, Demy de Zeeuw, and Ibrahim Afellay are being mooted as possible starters.

[Euro 2008 Group C] - [Fra v Ita] - [Ned v Rom] - [Permutations]

Source: UEFA

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