Peter Fraser feels more than defensive pragmatism is required at Euro 2008
Last Updated: June 17, 2008 11:24pm
Piturca: Heading for home
Romania's exit from the Euro 2008 group stages proves that more than defensive pragmatism is required to succeed at full international level.
Admittedly Greece's success at Euro 2004 was based upon a watertight backline, but as Romania slipped out of this year's finals after scoring only one goal, the evidence is there for all to see that football has moved on.
A sloppy back-header from Gianluca Zambrotta gifted Romania their solitary goal at Euro 2008 and there in lies the problem, which was more than evident in the 2-0 defeat to Holland on Tuesday night.
Imagine the scenario prior to this summer's finals if you were to tell Romania coach Victor Piturca that his side would survive their 'Group of Death' campaign without suffering a defeat to either France or world champions Italy.
You would likely have been greeted by a broad and beaming smile but, as Romania head for home following two draws and a defeat in Group C, the expression upon the face of Piturca will be one of pure frustration as his side demonstrated an apparent inability to 'give it a go'.
Romania were largely written off ahead of Euro 2008 but, having finished above Holland in their qualifying group, it would not be only the widely optimistic that could have spied an upset.
With that in mind, perhaps more could have been expected of the Romanians, Piturca's side gave ageing French and Italian teams too much respect and against a much-changed Holland side they became unable to spark out of a defensive mindset.
In the limited chances on goal against Holland, Romania and Fiorentina striker Adrian Mutu, who had a brief spell at Chelsea, went close from range but Holland goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg remained largely untroubled.
Holland boss Marco van Basten named nine changes to his starting line-up as he prepared for the quarter-finals, but Khalid Boulahrouz maintained his place and also continued his positive finals form, which has so surprised Chelsea supporters, before being replaced by Wigan stopper Mario Melchiot in the second half.
Aston Villa defender Wilfred Bouma was also given the opportunity to start for Holland and performed admirably in the face of limited attacks.
At the other end Klaas Jan Huntelaar was operating as a lone man in attack for the Dutch and the highly-rated Ajax striker did his reputation no harm as he demonstrated a few neat touches before breaking the deadlock in the 54th minute, but a spooned effort just before half-time is best forgotten.
Behind Huntelaar, Robin van Persie showed a willingness to put in the leg work, unlike Arjen Robben who was replaced by Liverpool workhorse Dirk Kuyt in the second half, but the Arsenal forward also demonstrated the occasional rustiness of a man still feeling his way back from injury.
Van Persie, though, decided the contest in the 87th minute to cause flashbacks in the minds of Gunners supporters across Europe as, in a style similar to Dutch legend Dennis Bergkamp, he showed clinical control before firing in at the near post to leave Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger willing on next season and Romania packing their bags.