Romania’s dismal World Cup qualifying campaign is proving a costly business.
By Radu Timofte in Bucharest
Romania’s disastrous World Cup qualifying campaign is proving to be an expensive business. The Romanian Football Federation (FRF) has been forced to pay out £250,000 in compensation to c, the coach who was sacked last month following defeats to Serbia and Austria.
The losses left Romania in fifth place in European qualifying group seven with four points from five matches and virtually no chance of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. They are eight behind group leaders Serbia and just three ahead of bottom-placed Faroe Islands.
It’s all a far cry from less than a year ago, when Romania, guide by Piturca, took part in the 2008 European Championship finals in Austria and Switzerland, and went close to causing an upset after they surprisingly drew with France and Italy, before losing to Holland.
Back then, Piturca was hailed as a hero after he secured Romania’s first qualification for a major finals for eight years. But the writing was on the wall as early as the first game of the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign, which Romania lost 3-0 at home to Lithuania.
FRF boss Ionut Lupescu had the difficult task of persuading Piturca to agree to an amicable parting of the ways. Piturca could have held out for the £550,000 compensation laid out in his contract, but eventually accepted less than half that figure.
Piturca’s replacement, who will receive around £200,000 a year, is Razvan Lucescu, the son of Mirceu Lucescu, the current coach of Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk. His target will be to build a side that is capable of qualifying for the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine.
Lucescu’s reward, if he is successful, will be lucrative – a bonus of in excess of £1million. However the 40-year-old former goalkeeper has everything to prove. He has little pedigree outside of Romania, having most recently been coach of FC Brasov. He made his name at Rapid Bucharest, winning the Romanian Cup twice and reaching the UEFA Cup quarter-finals.
He admits to being as shocked as the next man by his promotion to national coach. “One month ago, if somebody told me that this was going to happen to am, I would have told them they were bonkers,” he said..
And he was probably not the federation’s first choice. Before appointing Lucescu junior, the federation had been linked with a number of big-name coaches, including Lucescu senior, former Chelsea defender Dan Petrescu (currently in charge of Unirea Urziceni), Laszlo Boloni (Standard Liege, who coached Romania in 2001-2002) and former great Gheorghe Hagi, who is currently without work.