Cristina Dima


SK Slavia Praha impressed again by squashing a very poorly-organized Steaua Bucuresti. Although Dorin Goian (Steaua) equalised Zdeněk Šenkeřík’s (Slavia) early goal, there was nothing he could do to stop Slavia from having a dream debut in the UEFA Champions League.

Steaua began confidently, with Banel Nicolita in brilliant form. Nicolae Dica and Victoras Iacob linked incredibly well but unfortunately weren’t lucky enough to score.

After the first half, Steaua’s confidence started to dwindle and Slavia scored for the second time on 63 minute. Even “The king” Gheorghe Hagi couldn’t do anything to motivate his team. Had it not been for Zapata’s great day, Steaua would have probably suffered an even heavier defeat.

After the match, the former coach Gheorghe Hagi stated:

“Slavia is a well organized team. They played the same game against Ajax. Steaua played good football anyway. There is a lot of quality in the matches played in Champions League […] It was the first match in the group stage, we lost 2 to 1,[..] but there are other matches to play”.

After the defeat, it was obvious that Hagi was going to leave the team. And he did that the next day, when he stated “[…]my collaboration with Steaua ended this afternoon, in a professional manner […] I didn’t want to leave the team before a match played in the Champions League. Steaua is probably the biggest football club in Romania […]”

For the time being, Steaua is coached by the assistant coaches: Massimo Pedrazzini, Mihai Teja and Zoltan Iasko. Gigi Becali’s first choice for a new coach is Cosmin Olaroiu, who is currently coaching Al-Hilal. Olaroiu discussed the issue with his team owners but they won’t let him go. “If Gigi Becali can convince the Arabs to let me go, I’m going back to Ghencea. I’m 100% Steaua fan. It’s my work involved there as well and I am coaching now Al-Hilal because of the good results I had in Ghencea”.

This season is Steaua’s fifth season in the Champions League. Steaua is not a stranger to high performance soccer. Steaua was the first ever Eastern European club to win “The Cup of the European Champions” (today known as UEFA Champions League) in 1986. In the 1990s Steaua represented Romania 3 times in a row in the UEFA Champions League. After some not so lucky years, Steaua qualified again in the UEFA Champions League groups last season (2006/2007). Unfortunately, Steaua never left the groups stage, as the team won only one match in each season.

The 1st team squad, for the 2007/2008 season is formed by the following:

1. Robinson Zapata Montano, 12. Cornel Cernea, 82. Cosmin Andrei Vatca;

Defenders: 3. Dorin Goian, 4. Pawel Golanski, 5. Ionut Rada, 6. Mirel Radoi, 13. Ifeanyi Emeghara, 15. Mihai Nesu, 17. Eugen Baciu, 18. Petre Marin, 24. Sorin Ghionea, 29. Valentin Badoi;

Midfielders: 7. Eric Bicfalvi, 8. Ovidiu Petre, 14. Vasilica Cristocea, 16. Banel Nicolita, 20. Florin Lovin, 23. Mihaita Plesan, 26. Marius Croitoru;

Forwards: 9. Valentin Badea, 10. Nicolae Dica, 19. Victoras Iacob, 25. Adrian Neaga, 30. Dorel Zaharia, 84. Romeo Surdu

If Steaua wasn’t capable of defeating Slavia Prague, we can only wonder what will happen when they face Arsenal and Sevilla. Currently third-placed, Steaua has to prepare for a very difficult match against Arsenal on October 2nd.

After being plagued with less than skilful goalkeepers, Steaua finally found a goalkeeper they can rely on: Zapata. He proved his value by producing incredible performances for Columbia. He was spotted by Steaua’s management at the Copa America, while playing against the United States. At Steaua, he already played an important part in the match against Bate Borisov and did a wonderful job against Slavia Prague as well.

Nicolae Dica is probably the best well known Steaua player in the UEFA Champions League. Last season, after scoring 4 goals, he was the 3rd placed goalscorer in the competition. His debut in the UEFA Champions League was marked by the match against Dinamo Kiev, when he scored two incredible goals, being known amongst the fans as “Go! Dica! Go!” (“Du-te, Dica! Du-te!” in Romanian) as a result of the ProTv’s comments during the game. Last season, he played 6 matches and scored 4 goals. In 2006 Dica was designated the best player in the domestic championship, sharing the title with Dinamo’s player, Claudio Niculescu.

Although Steaua’s start in the UEFA Champions League Group Stage was not a brilliant one –like last season -, now that Gheorghe Hagi left the team, we can only hope that a better coach will use the team’s valuable players more effectively.

Unfortunately, a former great doesn’t have to be a brilliant coach as well and Hagi has proven that. His first attempt was in 2001 when he coached Romania’s national team for 5 months. The team’s results weren’t good at all: 1 match won, 1 match lost and 2 matches drawn. In 2003 he coached Bursaspor for a short while and then moved to Galatasaray where he was idolised. There again it didn’t work out and in March 2004, after a year in charge he resigned.