National team disappoints – again… and Steaua is no more (at least until the summer).
The Romania national team, trapped in a nightmarish World Cup qualifying group which consists of Poland plus a bunch of inconsistent mediocrities, managed only a goalless draw in Cluj against Denmark. They have won only once since this match, which was before Euro 2016, and have not scored a goal in their last four games. German coach Christoph Daum, appointed after the team’s underwhelming performance in the Euros, has so far not been able to find the magic ingredient that no-one should really be entitled to expect from the man who won the 1992 Bundesliga and then some titles in Turkey. Next up is Poland away, which looks a foregone conclusion given the Poles’ convincing win in Bucharest last November – and the fact that they are unbeaten in thirteen competitive internationals (if you don’t count the penalty shootout defeat to Portugal last summer). Qualification for Russia 2018 is looking extremely unlikely for Romania, especially as they still have to visit both of their direct rivals for second place, Denmark and Montenegro.
Steaua Bucharest no longer exists. After well over a year of legal wrangling between Steaua owner Gigi Becali and the Romanian Army over who owns the name, badge and history of the country’s most successful club, the defeated Becali has this week officially renamed his club “FCSB”. Or, officially officially, SC Fotbal Club FCSB SA. The army has formed a new football club, called Steaua, which will compete next season at county level – either Liga 4 or 5, tbc. Fans, who have been turning up in ever smaller numbers over the past few years, partly through disaffection with Becali’s regime, are somewhat split on the issue of which club to support. Every man and his dog with any past association with Steaua has been interrogated about which side of the conflict they are on: Romania legend Marius Lacatus is director of football at the new club, and his fellow former player, the wonderfully named Ion Ion, has just been named as coach. His coaching record hardly glitters, but the lower leagues should not expose his flaws too cruelly. No decision has yet been taken on the rights to the palmares of the club, nor on FCSB’s status in terms of the European coefficient – i.e. whether it will continue to be considered the same club.
The semi-finalists of the Romanian Cup are now decided: CSU Craiova went down to ten men against Dinamo but came through 6-5 on penalties after a goalless 90 minutes; Struggling ASU Poli Timisoara beat CFR Cluj by exactly the same score in the shootout, although their coach would have preferred not to have the extra fixtures; unofficial Liga 1 retirement home Voluntari needed an injury-time winner to get past second-tier Mioveni; and league leaders Viitorul lost at home to financial-logic-defying champions Astra.
Finally, an honourable mention for Giulesti’s finest: AFC Rapid and opponents SSC Baneasa managed to both lose the same match. Almost six months ago, their fixture was abandoned at 0-0, after a pitch invasion by a few Rapid fans led the Baneasa team to defy the referee’s insistence that the game continue. Now both teams have been punished by the Bucharest football association with a 3-0 defeat and a whopping 150 lei [35 euro] fine apiece. But don’t worry – the Rapid kids are still flying high, after this week saw a 6-2 win at Galaxia and then a 9-5 victory at home over the same opponents.
Over and out.