Piţurcă wary of improved Oranje
The Netherlands squad training before their meeting with Romania
Victor Piţurcă 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.
'Extremely good form'
It is eight months since Romania defeated the Oranje 1-0 en route to topping their UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying group and Piţurcă believes Marco van Basten's men have taken a significant stride forward in the intervening period. Recalling that triumph in Constanta, Romania's coach said: "We had some experienced players who knew Dutch football well and that helped us with our tactics against them in the qualifiers. 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. Piţurcă 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 Piţurcă to be without centre-back Dorin Goian, scorer of the winner against the Dutch last October, who misses out through suspension. Holding midfielder Mirel Rădoi, meanwhile, has been ruled out of the tournament after breaking his nose and cheekbone in last Friday's 1-1 draw with Italy. "Any loss is a great one for a small country like Romania," said Piţurcă who should give Sorin Ghionea his first start of the finals in place of FC Steaua Bucureşti team-mate Goian.
Van Basten pledge
The Netherlands' team selection is a matter of debate amid considerable speculation 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 Italy and France, Van Basten insists that whoever takes the field at the Stade de Suisse 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 André 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.