FRANCE - ROMANIA
You already know that I am keen on Romania as they were discussed in detail, in the Euro 2008 preview. They have had an uneventful training camp, which is ideal and are able to name their strongest available line up this afternoon.
Romania are a very talented bunch, however, aside from Adrian Mutu, who is widely considered world class amd Cristian Chivu, one of the best defenders in europe, they are hardly household names, even in their own home and have not been given the recognition they deserve. They were in a tough qualification group, alongside Bulgaria and Netherlands, Romania had the better of two games with the Dutch, taking four points from them, without conceding and were unlucky not to win in Rotterdam.
There is no reason why Romania cannot be very competitive in this group and the quotes are crazy, if they were from western europe, their odds would be halved. They were similarly written off in 2000 in a group containing Portugal, England (those were the days !) and Germany and came through that, this squad looks of a similar, if not higher quality. They are currently ranked number 12 in the world, which officially puts them on par with Portugal, Croatia and Netherlands, yet they seem to have been excluded from all calculations.
France are very tight defensively and only conceded five goals during qualification, it is, amazingly, given the array of talent at their disposal, at the other end of the pitch, that they are struggling. Failing to score in six of their last 14 starts. Eight of France's last ten matches against teams ranked in the world's top 15, have produced one goal or less, both other starts were against Italy.
I am not a big fan of their coach Raymond Domenech, who has gone a long way, on not very much, in two decades as a boss, he has yet to win a single trophy and seems as interested in a player's star sign, as his ability.
Cannot see many goals here, hopefully France will get off to their usual slow start and Romania will steal a goal late on. That is normally their way, with just 5 of their last 33 goals being scored before the 40th minute. They are no slouches at the back either and only Bulgaria, in a meaningless match for Romania have scored twice against them in 17 starts.
5.5 points Romania +3/4 ball 1.80 asian line.