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Monday, 19 June, 2000, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
Replacing the irreplacable
Gheorghe Hagi
Gheorghe Hagi's magic will be missing against England
Romania go into their make-or-break game with England on Tuesday without their most influential player - suspended midfielder Gheorghe Hagi.

Hagi's suspect temperament was always liable to pose problems during Romania's opening three qualifying games in Group A.

And true to form, he promptly received his second yellow card against Portugal for dissent.

The biggest problem in Romanian football is who will replace Gheorghe Hagi

Costin Fubcan, Romanian journalist
The suspension leaves Romanian manager Emerich Jenei with an enormous void to replace the team's talisman.

Hagi's absence will have already heightened England's optimism after the Germany victory, as Romania's chief playmaker will be watching from the sidelines.

Pessimists will cite the presence of Romania's other potential match-winners such as Adrian Ilie and Viorel Moldovan, who could still take the game away from England.

But according to Romanian journalist Costin Fubcan, a heir to Hagi's crown will be difficult to find.


He said: "The biggest problem in Romanian football is who will replace Gheorghe Hagi.

"Adrian Ilie played in Hagi's position against the Republic of Ireland in a World Cup qualifier in 1998 in Burcharest and scored the only goal of the game from that position."

Adiian Ilie
Adiran Ilie: aka "The Cobra"
Ilie, nicknamed "the cobra" in Spain where he plays for Valencia, caused plenty of problems playing up front against England in the World Cup in 1998 when Romania won 2-1.

But if he does move into midfield, Romania may be less potent in attack, giving the England defence one less headache with which to contend.

Despite the squad boasting several promising young players, Fubcan believes that none of the current crop can fill Hagi's role in midfield.

Players such as Adrian Mutu, Ian Ganea, Erik Lincar and Florentine Petre look to have promising futures for their country, but none are likely to be the new Hagi.


Adrian Mutu
Adrian Mutu: A rising star?
He said: "Mutu is young and has the attributes to be a star, but he is not in the mould of Hagi. Likewise, Ganea is more of a striker and Petre is a right winger who is more comfortable out on the flanks."

Romania will still have experienced players such as Gheorghe Popescu, Dan Petrescu and Iulian Filipescu present - all of whom were present when Romania beat England in Toulouse, with Petrescu scoring the dramatic winner in the 90th minute.

But without the influential Hagi, who believes he was deliberately booked against Portugal, Romania may struggle with a resurgent England side, buoyant after their first victory over Germany in 34 years.

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See also:

19 Jun 00 | Romania
Petrescu in Hagi pledge
17 Jun 00 | Euro2000
Portugal into the quarter-finals
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