Romania had enjoyed a wonderful start to the qualification, having won both their ’88 autumn matches comprehensively: 3-1 away to rivals Bulgaria and 3-0 at home to Greece. They had also dished out a home friendly hiding to Israel in November (3-0), and at this point, already well into 1989, they were making their preparations for the remaining four qualifiers. They had seen their possibly fiercest group rival for the top spot and only qualification berth, Denmark, draw their opening two, so Romania would look for a win in their forthcoming qualifier away to Greece in April to cement their position at the group pinnacle. In preparation, the Romanian FA had arranged for two friendlies to be played, and this match at home to Italy was the first of the couple, with Poland away to come two weeks on.
Italy, as hosts of next year’s main event, were of course not taking part in the qualification, and so instead had listed a selection of friendlies in order to be suitably prepared for the tournament on home soil, one they would be looking to win to maintain their status as one of the world’s true footballing powers. They had completed three friendlies in the latter half of 1988 after their semi-final exit at the European Championships, and had won all three on home soil. Since the turn of the year, Italy, under the guidance of Azeglio Vicini, had won by the slimmest of margins both at home to Denmark and away to Austria, and so were aiming for their sixth successive international scalp. They would be playing a total of ten friendlies during 1989, and this trip to the Transylvanian city of Sibiu would represent their first contest against Romania in six years. Indeed, that previous meeting, in Bucharest in ’83, a qualifier for the 1984 European Championships, had seen Romania gain their first ever victory against the Italians, with the great Ladislau Bölöni, of Hungarian decent, scoring the only goal. Bölöni had only quit the national team just before the 1990 qualification had commenced. 6-2-1 read the historical record in advantage of Italy.
Romania had been using identical starting line-ups for their two qualifiers until now, but they were by now without the defected Miodrag Belodedici, the wonderfully gifted libero, who had jumped ship and left to play for Red Star in Belgrade. As a result, he was no longer welcome to play for the national side, so manager Emeric Jenei would need a replacement at the heart of his defence. During the win against Israel in November, Mircea Rednic had come in for Belodedici at half-time, and so this would be the Dinamo defender’s opportunity to further stake his claim for the libero post. In addition to Belodedici, two further players were missing from the line-ups against the Bulgarians and the Greeks, both defenders: Iosif Rotariu at left-back and Ioan Andone at centre half. Replacing them were young Steaua full-back Dan Petrescu, making his international debut, and the experienced Dinamo left-back Michael Klein. Ştefan Iovan, who had been at right-back in the two qualifiers, would take over Andone’s duties at the heart of the defence. Other than that the Romanians, often admired for their silky skills, were unchanged. Ten of their starting eleven were from the two leading clubs, Steaua and Dinamo, five from each. Indeed, Steaua Bucureşti were already on course for their second appearance in a European Cup final in four seasons.
Vicini did seem to have a clear image already of the core of players that he wanted to represent gli Azzurri during the World Cup, and so seemed to want them to have as much practice as a unit as possible. In all previous five friendlies since last summer’s European Championships, his defence had been identical (Bergomi, Baresi, Ferri and Maldini), and behind them Walter Zenga had played four out of five, only surrendering his starting berth to Stefano Tacconi on one occasion. In midfield, however, only Roma’s ‘little prince’, Giuseppe Giannini, had started in all five, Nicola Berti and Fernando De Napoli in four, whereas Roberto Donadoni had begun three. Others who had made appearances in midfield were Massimo Crippa, Giancarlo Marocchi, Luigi De Agostini and Roberto Baggio, each starting on one occasion. Up front Gianluca Vialli seemed a foregone conclusion, but Vicini did not seem as sure as to whom best suited him in a tandem. Vialli’s Sampdoria team mate Roberto Mancini had played the first of the five, but had since not been seen. Aldo Serena had started the previous three, with Ruggiero Rizzitelli also given a starting berth on one occasion. A total of 20 players had featured during these five friendlies, and no further additions had been made for the squad which had travelled to Romania. However, Mr Vicini decided to let one of his four defenders out for the first time, with young AC Milan full-back Maldini being replaced in the starting selection by Napoli’s Ciro Ferrara, who had come on as a substitute in four out of the five earlier friendlies. Fiorentina’s Stefano Borgonovo would also get his first starting opportunity as forward alongside Vialli, having appeared as a substitute in their previous two fixtures. Serena had left the pitch early last time around, and had been withdrawn from the squad due to injury.
In charge was 45 year old East German experienced referee Siegfried Kirschen, who had made his international debut as far back as 1978. Kirschen had refereed both in the 1986 World Cup and the 1988 European Championships, and he was indeed among the candidates also for selection for next year’s tournament. This was Mr Kirschen’s 18th international.
|1 Silviu Lung (c)||32||Steaua Bucureşti|
|2 Dan Petrescu||21||Steaua Bucureşti|
|3 Michael Klein||29||Dinamo Bucureşti|
|4 Mircea Rednic||26||Dinamo Bucureşti|
|5 Dorin Mateuţ||23||Dinamo Bucureşti|
|6 Ştefan Iovan||28||Steaua Bucureşti|
|7 Marius Lăcătuş||38′||24||Steaua Bucureşti|
|8 Ioan Sabău||21||Dinamo Bucureşti|
|9 Rodion Cămătaru||sub h-t||30||Dinamo Bucureşti|
|10 Gheorghe Hagi||sub 90′||24||Steaua Bucureşti|
|11 Gheorghe Popescu||21||Universitatea Craiova|
|12 Gheorghe Nițu||28||Victoria Bucureşti|
|13 Nicolae Ungureanu||32||Steaua Bucureşti|
|14 Emil Săndoi||24||Universitatea Craiova|
|15 Tudorel Cristea||24||Sportul Studențesc|
|16 Ioan Lupescu||on 90′||20||Dinamo Bucureşti|
|17 Sorin Cigan||on h-t, 85′||24||Braşov|
|1 Walter Zenga||28||Internazionale|
|2 Giuseppe Bergomi (c)||sub 52′||25||Internazionale|
|3 Ciro Ferrara||22||Napoli|
|4 Franco Baresi||28||AC Milan|
|5 Riccardo Ferri||sub 39′||25||Internazionale|
|6 Nicola Berti||21||Internazionale|
|7 Roberto Donadoni||sub 65′||25||AC Milan|
|8 Fernando De Napoli||25||Napoli|
|9 Gianluca Vialli||24||Sampdoria|
|10 Giuseppe Giannini||24||Roma|
|11 Stefano Borgonovo||25||Fiorentina|
|12 Stefano Tacconi||31||Juventus|
|13 Paolo Maldini||on 39′, 39′||20||AC Milan|
|14 Luigi De Agostini||27||Juventus|
|15 Massimo Crippa||23||Napoli|
|16 Luca Fusi||25||Napoli|
|17 Giancarlo Marocchi||on 52′||23||Juventus|
|18 Roberto Baggio||on 65′||22||Fiorentina|
The home side are in 4-5-1, where Rednic is libero and Iovan is attending to Italian striker Borgonovo. Klein at left-back is far from as contributive in attacking play as his counterpart Petrescu is on the opposite side. Popescu sits deep in midfield; Sabău’s to his right, Hagi’s to his left. The latter has great license to roam. Mateuţ is not your typical wide midfielder, and likes to come in field. Lăcătuş on the right flank likes to maintain width. Cămătaru is the burly centre-forward trying to strike fear into opponents.
Italy have switched from their familiar 3-5-2 to 4-4-2, though they operate without a clear left-sided midfielder. It is Berti who sets out in this position, but he has little wish to stick to the chalk, and comes inside on a frequent basis. Behind him, Ferrara is no natural left-sided defender. De Napoli is clearly operating in the centre of the pitch alongside Giannini, who again is the Italian director. Donadoni keeps his right-sided position, and at times is lent support by Bergomi behind him. Baresi’s contributions going forward are absent until around the half hour mark. Ferri is marking the big Cămătaru, but has to leave the pitch with injury before half-time, with Maldini coming on in his place. This sees Ferrara come into a more natural central defensive position, with Maldini obviously taking up his usual left-back duties. Borgonovo is the most forward of the two Italian strikers, with Vialli soon seen towards the right, soon towards the left.
For the start of the second half, Italy return in the same 4-4-2 formation as before the break, whereas the home side seem to have altered their formation from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2 with the introduction of Cigan for Cămătaru. The change had been a like for like replacement, but Lăcătuş had clearly been moved further up the pitch, while Cigan was not the big target man that the man whom he had replaced was. Hagi seemed to go to the left of midfield, with Mateuţ just inside him. Popescu was still sitting deep, and Sabău continued to be to Popescu’s right. The decision to move Lăcătuş higher up the pitch gave more freedom for right-back Petrescu to express himself.
With just a few minutes on the clock gone in the second half, Italy make their second substitution, and so too change their formation: From 4-4-2 to 3-5-2 as Bergomi’s replaced by midfielder Marocchi. This is what the two teams would look like after this change:
It must be said that the Italian midfield looked somewhat untidy. Donadoni continued to the right, with De Napoli just inside him. Giannini seemed to play even further forward in something akin to a support role for the front two, as Berti and Marocchi took care of the two left-sided roles. At times it seemed difficult to understand who was playing where. And then, for a few minutes until he himself was replaced too, Donadoni came across and played on the left hand side of midfield. The composition at that time appeared to be, right to left: De Napoli – Berti – Giannini – Marocchi – Donadoni. But this lasted a mere few minutes, until Baggio entered the fray for Donadoni. When he did, the third and final Italian substitute came on in the right-sided midfield position.
With the visitors chasing an equalizer, manager Vicini did yet again appear to switch their formation from one to another: from 3-5-2 to 3-4-3. This will have been to accomodate Baggio in a more central role for him to have greater influence. De Napoli and Marocchi were right and left midfielders respectively, with Berti and Giannini in the centre, whereas Baggio was operating between midfield and the two forwards, of which Vialli was now to the right, Borgonovo to the left. Thus:
The match was played on a sunny afternoon in Transylvania. The compact Sibiu ground was packed to the rafters with 20 000 people having paid their admission fees, and they would see the visitors kick the first half into action through Vialli and Donadoni. It was not an unusual occurance behind the old iron curtain that you would get a very partizan crowd, and so seemed to be the case here too. There were boos heard already for the visitors’ kick-off.
Italy had arrived on the back of a 1-0 win at the Praterstadion in Vienna only four days earlier, a match which had been decided by a late Berti goal. Their starting eleven was identical with the selection that had ended the match in Austria, with one exception: Ferrara had come into the left-back position for De Agostini. Internazionale forward Serena had begun their previous outing, but he had been substituted with injury before the halfway point of the first half. His replacement Borgonovo was indeed part of the starting line-up here in Romania. It would turn out he was the one most forward among the two Italian strikers, and he would be attended to by the strong looking Iovan, a defender also well capable of playing at right-back, at the heart of Romania’s defence. Vialli, as per usual, would be drifting from one side to another, and so was not marked by one particular opponent.
Romania play with a lot of aggression early on. They do not allow for their opponents to settle and get a foothold, and they are not shy to pose a threat of their own. Indeed, Romania are renowned for being a difficult opponent now in the late 80s, so the Italians will have been aware that they would far from have things their own way. The home side had flexible players in midfield, and all five were comfortable on the ball: Popescu with his calmness in the deep role, always providing an option for his team mates and positioning himself extremely well; Sabău and Hagi with their drive on the ball and their creativity; Lăcătuş and Mateuţ with their ability to cause trouble in wide positions. It must be said, though, that Mateuţ was more comfortable coming inside than operating far left.
Up front Romania had the big, strong Cămătaru, who did look an imposing figure. He was up against Inter defender Ferri, a player typically known for his hard man image on the pitch. However, Ferri does appear reluctant to go into combat with the powerful Cămătaru. The Romania striker seems to have struck fear into the Italian defence, and with five minutes on the clock the visitors are fortunate not to be a goal down after the striker had been left alone right in front of Zenga. Hagi had aimed a free-kick from the right wing channel towards the back post, where Rednic stooped to head the ball back into the six yard box, where Cămătaru’s header brings a reaction save out of the ‘keeper. It is a big opportunity, and one which Cămătaru should have converted. Perhaps he reacts a bit slow when Rednic’s headed ball comes to him. In fact, the Romanian number 9 does look a tad unfit, so it is not his flexibility which first and foremost stands out.
Italy struggle to make an impression in the early parts of the match. Romania use their strong running and fine ball control to good effect, pinning the visitors back inside their own half. In Steaua ace Hagi, ‘Maradona of the Carpathians’, the home side have a player well capable of advancing past one or more opponents with the ball at his feet. He has an enormous drive, does Hagi, and from his inside left role, he will on several occasions pick the ball up from either midfield colleague and attempt to run at the Italians. With ten minutes on the clock he does look to be on his way through, until Mateuţ for whatever reason decides to intervene. The Dinamo playmaker takes the ball off Hagi and contrives to have a poor right-footed effort drifting harmlessly wide from 20 yards. ‘Romania’s Maradona’ is hardly impressed.
The home side contained ten players from the country’s two leading clubs, Bucharest teams Steaua and Dinamo, both with five representatives. It is famously remembered that Steaua would win through to the final of the European Cup, but it should also be noted that Dinamo did reasonably well in Europe in the 1988/89 version of the Cup Winners’ Cup. They knocked out Finnish side Kuusysi Lahti and Scottish club Dundee United to reach the quarter finals, where they bowed out to Italian opposition on the away goals rule: an 89th minute Vialli goal for Sampdoria in the first leg in Bucharest earned the Italians a 1-1 draw, so the 0-0 return leg result suited Sampdoria perfectly. This had occured just two weeks prior to this Sibiu friendly, so Vialli will have been familiar with five of the players in Romania’s eleven. This was already his 35th international, and there was little doubt that Vialli was Italy’s main striker despite his relatively modest return of ten goals in national team colours. He loved to drift from one side of the pitch to the other, and he was also no stranger to coming deep to participate in build-ups. Vialli was often hard to mark out of any match due to his mobility. However, his strike partner in Romania, Fiorentina’s Borgonovo, proved more stationary, and would have difficulties wrestling himself free from the shackles that was tall defender Iovan.
Italy are lacking in width. The explanation to this was rather simple, as they were without natural left-sided players in the team. Centre-half Ferrara was at left-back, whereas central midfielder Berti was positioned to the left in midfield. This made keeping the Romanian right side of defence rather free from Italian impact a fairly manageable task for debutant Petrescu. The Steaua defender was keen to make an impression, and was also not afraid to cross into Italian territory. Ahead of him was the industrious Lăcătuş, and the pair did manage to cause some stir for Ferrara. At the right hand side of midfield was Donadoni, a player well known on the European scene from his many performances for the continent’s dominant club side as well as gli Azzurri. However, Donadoni was hardly the most creative player you could imagine. He was a grafter; he always put a shift in. His crossing let him down on two first half occasions, as they drifted too far and were easy catches for the dependable Lung. Italy had to look for Roma’s Giannini for midfield creativity. He was often seen running towards Romania’s goal with the ball at his feet, but he was not spoilt for choice ahead of him, with usually only Vialli on the move. The visitors’ conservative approach did not see them commit a lot of players forward at the same time, and so defending was all fairly easy for the boys in yellow shirts.
On 21 minutes there is a second huge goalscoring chance for the home side as Sabău feeds the willing Petrescu down the right hand side. Berti is unable to prevent the full-back from getting a low cross in, and Mateuţ manages to get to the ball just ahead of Bergomi. He booted the ball off the upright, with Zenga neutralized. The ball came back out for Cămătaru, but the forward did not have time to react in order to convert the rebound, and so the Italians were able to clear their lines. Big let-off! A minute later it is the visitors who arrive at their first opportunity, as Giannini spots Vialli to the right inside the area. Romania’s left-back Klein had not paid attention to Vialli’s run in behind his back, and with Rednic keeping depth in his libero role, the striker avoids offside. He is at a difficult angle, and his low shot across the goal goes a couple of yards wide of Lung’s right hand post. Could this give the visitors a boost, though?
We had mentioned already Ferri’s passivity in challenging the big Cămătaru. It seemed strange for on-lookers how he would reluctantly enter combat, and on more than one occasion did the Inter defender stand off the Dinamo Bucureşti forward. Had Cămătaru somehow frightened Ferri? Just after the halfway point in the first half, Ferri receives a valid excuse to go to the ground as he is clattered into by the Romanian number 9. He goes down clutching his right leg, and is in need of treatment. After this, Ferri will hobble around until he is eventually substituted with a few minutes to spare of the first half. Considering how Ferri had shied away from challenges with the big striker, it could almost be seen as an excuse for him to exit the pitch. It sure was baffling to the surroundings how such an alledged hard man was struggling to contain a relatively unknown international quantity like Cămătaru. The striker will be Ferrara’s task for the remainder of the first half, as the Napoli centre-half is pulled into the middle to accompany Baresi, with Maldini coming on into his customary left-back role.
There are a few players who stand out in the home team, and one is defensive midfielder Popescu. He is the only player from outside of the Romanian capital, and had only made his debut last autumn. However, the tall Craiova man possesses a calm presence and excellent positioning ability. His role sees him come in contact with Giannini on a few occasions, and it is often a battle which Popescu will win, even if Giannini does play a couple of fine forward passes during the opening half. Popescu is aware his place in the hierarchy, and has no problems passing the ball onto players of higher rank rather than try to be creative himself. He is a joy to behold, and at 21 it is easy to imagine him as a Romanian stronghold for years to come.
With Italy hesitant in committing lots of players forward, there are times when libero Baresi realizes his responsibility even as a creative force. He is aware that when breaking into midfield and beyond he will cause counting errors in the Romanian defence, and so he does appear inside the home side’s half on three occasions towards the latter end of the half. However, on one occasion it is apparent that even his team mates are unsuspecting, as Donadoni had not paid attention to Baresi’s desire to mount an attack. As the Milan defender crosses into Romanian territory, he tries to play his wide right into action, but the ball rolls disappointingly into touch for a home throw-in. Donadoni understands how he’s been caught unaware; otherwise he would have been in acres of space. Another Donadoni mistake is about to give Cămătaru the chance to open the scoring. The Milanese plays a hopelessly soft and high ball towards his goalkeeper, but having failed to spot that the Romanian striker was lurking inside the box, Donadoni’s back pass only goes as far as to Cămătaru. However, the forward has a poor first touch, and Zenga’s able to punch the ball away. It is another escape for the Italians.
At times it was an ill-tempered affair. There is a situation inside the Italian penalty area where Ferrara’s seen laying flat out on the ground. There’s no television pictures capturing the incident, as focus had been out towards the Romanian left hand side from where they would mount a free-kick into the area. Before this happens, the Italian defender is seen lying in a heap, and captain Bergomi comes across to the linesman on the near side to ask whether he’d picked up the alledged elbow. Bergomi claims Lăcătuş had been the culprit. The linesman had indeed seen what had happened, and he will reveal to the referee that Lăcătuş had been a naughty boy. This sees the Romanian wide man receive yellow, though Bergomi’s left frustrated as he feels the referee should have brought the red card out. A minute later Maldini will go into the book as well, having been on the pitch for about 30 seconds since coming on for the stricken Ferri. He had hacked Sabău down.
Until the half-time whistle sounds, Italy have the ball in the Romanians’ net only for it to be cancelled out for offside. Romania had been sloppy in closing De Napoli down to the right of their own penalty area, and the Napoli midfielder swung a cross over in the direction of Vialli, who again escaped the attention of left-back Klein at the far post. Vialli brought the ball down well and placed it beyond Lung’s reach, but the linesman on the far side had already put his flag up to signal for offside. According to the TV pictures, it was probably the right decision, but it was not Vialli who had been offside. His strike partner Borgonovo had wandered just off prior to De Napoli’s cross. After a fairly eventful 45 minutes, it was time for refreshments. 0-0.
Some of the Italian players are a bit slow in returning back onto the pitch for the second half, and so Mateuţ and Hagi must wait for Vialli, Borgonovo and Berti to take up their respective positions before they can restart the game. There has been one half-time change: Cămătaru, possibly not fit to play a full 90 minutes, had been replaced by fair-haired debutant Cigan. In addition to this change in personnel, it would also turn out that Jenei had brought about a tactical change: He had altered his formation from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2, with Lăcătuş coming higher in the pitch to accompany the substitute in a forward role. In their now four man midfield, it seemed Hagi went into Mateuţ’ position to the left, with the latter featuring to the left of the still more defensive Popescu. Sabău would keep his position, and the lack of a wide man to the right of midfield would allow for Petrescu to even further contribute inside the Italian half. The debutant had left a very fine first half impression.
Within three minutes of the resumption, the home side are ahead. It is Petrescu who feeds Sabău with a short ball inside, and the midfield dynamo (pun intended) takes the ball past Baresi, advances towards the penalty area, has his shot blocked by Ferrara, but picks up the rebound. This time he moves past the defender and strikes a low right foot shot beyond Zenga on the ‘keeper’s near post. It was a fine individual piece of skill by the Dinamo Bucureşti man. Italy could have few complaints, as they had been second best during the opening half. Now they would need to be more inventive as they needed to go in search of an equalizer.
A few minutes after going behind, Italy took right-back and captain Bergomi off to replace him with Juventus midfielder Marocchi. This lead to a change in formation, from 4-4-2 to 3-5-2, as Baresi would be accompanied by Ferrara (to his right) and Maldini at the back. The only just arrived midfielder would take up the left-sided role, with Berti coming into an inside left position. Giannini would indeed be ahead of his other midfielders, trying to lend support to the front two, and De Napoli would be just inside Donadoni to the right in the visitors’ midfield. Would this see them improve enough to cause the Romanian defence worry?
Hagi had perhaps not set the match alight, but he had had a couple of efforts from distance during the first 45 minutes, and he was at it again just after the goal, as he tested Zenga with an effort on his weaker right foot from a full 25 yards. From his wide left position he would enjoy a lot of freedom, with little defensive responsibility. This would have suited the playmaker, and he would have to be attended to whenever the Romanians laid siege on the Italian defence. However, this would happen with rarer frequency during the second half, which would develope into something of a foul-tempered affair. There were some bad tackles flying about, and the players would mouth at each other at any given opportunity. The half-time withdrawal of the strong Cămătaru had taken some of the potency out of the home side’s attack, although they would break at pace given the chance, like when Popescu won an aerial challenge with Berti inside his own penalty area, for Sabău and Lăcătuş to run at the remains of the Italian back line. Through his vast experience, Baresi manages to get a solid tackle in as Lăcătuş is about to shoot from inside the area, and he would have to call on all his guile to dent the Romanian attack, would Baresi. It would, though, have been a calculated risk by Vicini to expose his defence to a greater extent after falling behind.
In Marocchi, Italy have yet another midfielder who is capable of spraying a pass. What they could have needed, though, was someone who could run directly at the Romanian defence. Vialli, who had taken over the captain’s armband from the departed Bergomi, was typically taking the ball into wide areas when running, and Borgonovo? Well, he was just unable to make a mark on the game being closely attended to by Iovan, who was doing a fine job. Perhaps could Italy again take advantage of Berti’s ability to make runs from the deep and into the opposing area now that he was playing in a more central role than before? It had only been four days since his late matchwinning goal in Austria. Giannini was still the player they would look to for making something happen, and he was doing alright, the Roma prince. He was not a player of blistering pace, but he had a quick head, and he could execute a pass to perfection, like we had seen proof of during the first half. Perhaps did it not suit him to be playing in an advanced position, as he lost some of his influence on the game after Marocchi’s introduction had brought about the change in formation. Italy had more possession than they had enjoyed before the break, but they could do little with it.
Romania are less assured when playing with four men across the middle than they had been with five during the first half. Up front, Cigan, despite his mobility, was being much less of a threat than Cămătaru had been, and despite being aware of the danger that the home side could pose on the break, Italy will generally contain the Romanians in what’s left of the game. Sabău had taken his goal perfectly well, but he will drift out of the game and not carry a whole lot influence thereafter. The same applies to Mateuţ, who was occasionally seen in tête-à-têtes with the visiting players, displaying a somewhat foul mood. Mateuţ possessed a wicked shot, but he had failed in two attempts from distance in this match, and had not made a big impact. The stand-out performer for the home side in the middle of the pitch was without doubt Popescu. He seemed to always know where to position himself and whom to play the ball to, always being equipped with that additional fraction of a second which makes quality players differentiate from the rest. And then there was the constant presence of Hagi, who was always capable of delievering the unexpected. The Italians did seem to have a great deal of respect for him, even if this was by far a vintage performance of his.
East German referee Kirschen does not have the easiest of games to try and control, but he does well, leaving a very authoritative impression. Twice he is seen telling the Romanian team of physios and medics in no uncertain terms to exit the field of play as they have entered without permission to assist their players in need of treatment (Petrescu and Klein respectively). This is to the great dismay of the home crowd. Kirschen gets his will. And he manages to maintain a certain flow, despite the little niggles which are on-going to an increasing extent throughout the second half.
With the halfway point of the second half approaching fast, Vicini decides to listen to popular demand and bring on the hugely talented Baggio. So far in the half the visitors had had two strikes on target, both through Vialli: A free-kick from 20 yards well parried by Lung, and a low shot from a difficult angle inside the area, again well gathered by the goalkeeper. Baggio replaced the ineffective Donadoni, and took up the departed Milan player’s position to the right in midfield.
Within ten minutes of coming on Baggio had twice played Ferrara (!) down the right wing, and both crosses had resulted in danger, with Berti connecting with the first of those on the near post, without getting any power behind his effort to see Lung save easily. The second cross had reached Borgonovo at the far post, and the striker, who had for once lost Iovan, saw his looping header come back off the crossbar, and as the ball came down for Giannini, the midfielder could only ram the upright, albeit from a very narrow angle. Lung had committed himself and was in no-man’s land as Borgonovo got his head to the ball. Iovan had been ball watching. Great opportunity for 1-1.
Romania had, seemingly deliberately, conceded possession in the second half, content with sitting back to defend against a not overly creative Italian side. With about 15 minutes left for play, Vicini decides to give Baggio license to play behind the front two; Italy badly need a goal. They had been unfortunate just before with the header kissing the crossbar and the follow-up bouncing off the post, but they would never again get as close to an equalizer, despite Baggio’s best efforts down the middle. The half-time substitute for the home side, forward Cigan, became the third player to see yellow as he fouled Giannini deep inside their own half with five minutes remaining. The home side would also take off Hagi and replace him with another midfielder, though one of better defensive qualities in Lupescu. With a minute and a half of time added on gone, Kirschen sounded his whistle one final time.
Romania bossed the first half in their 4-5-1. They were in possession and they knew how to use the ball, despite probably having even greater assets when it came to counter-attacking. Cămătaru was a big thorn in the Italian defence before the break, and he had an early header saved and then Mateuţ struck the post with a close range effort. Vialli had a goal disallowed at the other end, but the whistle had already gone for an offside decision against Borgonovo. At the start of the second half, Italy were still playing with great respect for the Romanians’ first half performance, and Sabău scored with a fine individual effort only three minutes in. The home side dropped deep and relied on the counter after that, but were almost caught out as Borgonovo and Giannini struck the framework in the same goalscoring opportunity. Italy were unable to cause further trouble, and the home side could claim a nice scalp ahead of the coming qualification fixture in Greece.
1 Lung 6.7
bad judgement error as he was caught undecided for Ferrara’s cross that Borgonovo headed onto the crossbar, but other than that comfortable, also when called into action from Vialli’s second-half free-kick
2 Petrescu 7.2
very impressive debut. Kept his defensive territory, and was throughout an asset when joining in attack
3 Klein 6.8
4 Rednic 6.9
his first full international as libero. Gave a conservative interpretation; kept thing simple. This he benefitted from, and his confidence grew
5 Mateuţ 6.6
6 Iovan 7.1
7 Lăcătuş 7.1
a real handful when he could run with pace at the Italian defence, so the second half game pitcture would have suited him perfectly
8 Sabău 7.0
9 Cămătaru 6.9
(17 Cigan 6.1
difficult debut, but also took no advantage of what little he got to work with)
10 Hagi 6.9
(16 Lupescu -)
11 Popescu 7.5
faultless. Easily the most impressive player on the pitch. Positioning impeccable, kept distribution simple, and always provided an option
1 Zenga 6.8
2 Bergomi 6.6
very unspectacular, does hardly set foot inside the Romanian half. His substitution early in the second half probably pre-determined
(17 Marocchi 6.7)
3 Ferrara 6.8
4 Baresi 7.1
used his experience when called upon in the second half, and was also quite active in crossing the halfway line. Another fine game
5 Ferri 6.4
(13 Maldini 6.7)
6 Berti 6.6
left-sided midfield not his position, and could never influence the game even after Italy went 3-5-2
7 Donadoni 6.2
(18 Baggio 7.0)
8 De Napoli 6.8
always full of running, but could perhaps have served the team better from a wide position?
9 Vialli 7.0
10 Giannini 7.2
always in the thick of the action, an all-action display, and had a couple of fine passes in Vialli’s direction
11 Borgonovo 6.5
in Iovan’s pocket apart from the one occasion when he headed onto the crossbar