What: International Friendly
Who: Romania vs. Georgia
When: Wednesday, November 19 2008, 1930 (CET)
Where: Dinamo Stadium, Bucharest
On the field - which will be the Dinamo Stadium as Romania continue to tour the country - it promises to be an interesting game...
Awake Thee, Romanian
Victor Piţurcă's Romania held their own in the 'Group of Death' at Euro 2008 this summer. However, they face an uphill battle if they want to head for another major finals in 2010.
World Cup Qualifying Group 7 got off to a dreadful start for the Tricolorii. They were thumped 3-0 by Lithuania at home, before narrowly scraping past the Faroe Islands, although they did play with ten men for 35 minutes. Then came a rematch against France, whom they'd held to a goalless draw in the Euros. First half goals from Florentin Petre and Dorin Goian awakened the Romanians and it looked as though Les Bleus' gaffer Raymond Domenech was finally for the chop. However, the French fought back spiritedly and salvaged a 2-2 draw.
And so it stands. Serbia – Romania's next qualifying opponents in March – are on 9 points alongside shock-troops Lithuania. Romania and France sit on 4 points, although they've played a game fewer than the leaders, with Austria sandwiched in between. Now, it's time for Romania to show some form and live up to, and improve upon, their FIFA ranking of 19.
Assessing an up and down period for the side, goalie Bogdan Lobont asserted: “It was a good year, regardless of what they say. We participated in a European Championship and, although we've been playing badly, we can yet repeat the performance of the previous campaign.”
Wednesday evening's opponents, Georgia, have a far more realistic ranking of 97 and come into the clash as 8/1 outsiders to claim victory.
Still, the Crusaders have twice drawn 1-1 in Romania, in 2000 and 2001. Romania have won the other three games with an aggregate score of 10-0; the 5-0 Bucharest thrashing in 1996 remains Georgia's heaviest ever defeat.
This year, Georgia have only won one game, a good win in Wales, drawing another three and losing five. They've only won two of their last ten away from the Boris Paichadze Stadium, but have picked up good experience: travelling to Italy (twice), Portugal, France and winning their other game in Qatar almost exactly a year ago.
Romania, meanwhile, had won seven of eight at home, conceding just once, before their latest qualifying campaign kicked off in disastrous fashion. This game will give them a good chance to prove that they haven't become a bad team overnight.
However, although all-but-doomed in Group 8, Georgia would love to get one over on the men from across the Black Sea and gather some momentum before their trip to Ireland in February.
11 Oct 08 Romania 2-2 France WCQ
10 Sep 08 Faroes 0-1 Romania WCQ
06 Sep 08 Romania 0-3 Lithuania WCQ
20 Aug 08 Romania 1-0 Latvia Friendly
17 Jul 08 Netherlands 2-0 Romania EC
15 Oct 08 Georgia 0-0 Bulgaria WCQ
11 Oct 08 Georgia 1-1 Cyprus WCQ
10 Sep 08 Italy 2-0 Georgia WCQ
06 Sep 08 Georgia 1-2 Rep Ireland WCQ
20 Aug 08 Wales 1-2 Georgia WCQ
Skipper Christian Chivu and superstar striker Adrian Mutu are out through injury. Worse, of the current squad, the involvement of both Dorin Goian and Gabi Tamas will be subject to late fitness tests.
Mihai Nesu, Nicolae Dica, Cosmin Moti, Cosmin Contra and Florentin Petre have also been left out, so the bulk of the squad play their football in the Romanian Ligue.
Such developments could give fringe players an opportunity to shine - full-back George Ogăraru for one. The Steaua Bucureşti man, who's on loan from Ajax, told the Romanian federation's website in the build-up: “It would be nice to close the year with a win, but we'll feel the absence of key players. Still, that gives players who are replacing them a chance.”
Former player Gica Popescu, who once scored against the Georgians, agrees, adding: “It's better to play Georgia than Italy or Argentina at this stage. It gives those players who haven't played before, or are yet to prove themselves, a good opportunity.”
Goalkeepers: Bogdan Lobonţ (FC Dinamo Bucureşti),Costel Pantilimon (FC Timişoara)
Defence: George Ogăraru (FC Steaua Bucureşti), Cristian Panin (CFR 1907 Cluj), Gabriel Tamaş (FC Dinamo Bucureşti), Mirel Rădoi (FC Steaua Bucureşti), Dorin Goian (FC Steaua Bucureşti), Valerică Găman (FC U Craiova), Răzvan Raţ (Shakhtar Donetsk)
Midfield: Adrian Ropotan (FC Dinamo Bucureşti), Costin Lazăr (FC Rapid Bucureşti), Răzvan Cociş (FC Lokomotiv Moscow), Iulian Tameş (FC Argeş), Cristian Tănase (FC Argeş)
Forward: Bănel Nicoliţă (FC Steaua Bucureşti), Ciprian Marica (VfB Stuttgart), Florin Costea (FC U Craiova), Gheorghe Bucur (FC Timişoara).
In comparison, Georgia coach Héctor Cúper has eight foreign-based players in his 19-man party. Absent, though, is star defender Kakha Kaladze of Milan. He has recovered from recent injury troubles, but hasn't been risked.
Rubin's Davit Kvirkvelia has been denied a return to action after re-damaging his Achilles, with Malkhaz Asatiani also aggravating an old injury. Giorgi Shashiashvili from Sturm Graz and Murtaz Daushvili of Zestaponi replace the duo.
Malkhaz Asatiani and Ilia Kandelaki have returned to the squad, the latter for the first time since the days of Klaus Topmoller.
Up front, Karlsruhe striker Aleksandre Iashvili and Davit Siradze of Spartak-Nalchik are injured, so Otar Martsvaladze returns.
Goalkeepers: Giorgi Lomaia (Lokomotiv), Revaz Tevdoradze (Gagra), Mirza Merlani (Olymp).
Defence: Zurab Khizanishvili (Blackburn), Lasha Salukvadze (Rubin), Mate Ghvinianidze (Munich 1860), Aleksandre Kvakhadze (Vit Georgia), Ilia Kandelaki (Sturm), Giorgi Shashiashvili (Sturm).
Midfield: Levan Kobiashvili (Schalke 04), Levan Khmaladze (Dinamo), Davit Odikadze (Dinamo), Murtaz Daushvili (Zestaponi), Giorgi Merebashvili (Dinamo), Luka Razmadze (Vit Georgia);
Forward: Rati Aleksidze (Lokomotiv), Levan Mchedlidze (Palermo), Beka Gotsiridze (Zestaponi), Otar Martsvaladze (Dinamo - Ukraine).
PLAYERS TO WATCH
In the absence of a slew of key players, Shakhtar Donetsk left-back Răzvan Raţ will add some crucial experience to the Romanian team.
Georgia's 18-year-old Palermo starlet Levan Mchedlidze was taken to the hospital with concussion after just half-an-hour of the Bulgaria clash and will hope to have his wits about him in the Dinamo Stadium.
The striker has bagged one international goal thus far – against Scotland in 2007 – and will be looking to add to his tally.
Georgia are a team on the rise, but both sides have depleted squads and Romania have the depth to cope better and take some heat off under performing Piţurcă.
Romania 2-1 Georgia
Greg Ptolomey, Goal.com