Romania coach Victor Piturca has left Cristian Chivu and Adrian Mutu out of his 22-man squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifiers against Lithuania and Faroe Islands. The Inter Milan defender is still recovering from a shoulder operation, while the prolific forward, just back from an elbow injury, hurt his ribs during a Fiorentina training session on Saturday.

Chivu and Mutu also missed last month's friendly win over Latvia. Also absent for the first two qualifiers are Shakhtar Donetsk's Razvan Rat, Florentin Petre of Russian outfit Grozny and Steaua Bucharest's George Ogararu.

Romania, who are in Group 7 along with France, Serbia and Austria, host Lithuania on 6 September in the north-western city of Cluj, and visit Faroe Islands four days later. Piturca said that despite the absences of Chivu and Mutu, "the strength of the group remains the key element" and his side would be looking for maximum points from the two ties before they host France on 11 October.

"The aim is to win six points by beating Lithuania and the Faroe Islands because I think we can then welcome France more calmly," Piturca told AFP. The Romania coach believes France are the group favourites, despite his side drawing with them in the first round of UEFA EURO 2008 in June.

"I think that France have the first chance (of qualifying) because they have fantastic players who play in the top European clubs, and could line out three top level teams. But the Netherlands were favourites for EURO 2008 qualification and we finished in first place. The country that takes the maximum points against little teams and is the most consistent will qualify.

Romania squad
Bogdan Lobont (Dinamo Bucharest), Eduard Stancioiu (Cluj)

Defenders: Cosmin Contra (Getafe/ESP), Cristian Sapunaru (Porto/POR), Gabriel Tamas, Cosmin Moti (Dinamo Bucharest), Dorin Goian and Sorin Ghionea (Steaua Bucharest), Stefan Radu (Lazio/ITA), Mihai Nesu (Utrecht/NED)

Midfielders: Banel Nicolita, Pihai Radoi (Steaua Bucharest), Razvan Cocis (Locomotiv Moscow/RUS), Paul Codrea (Siena/ITA), Costin Lazar (Rapid Bucharest), Marian Aliuta (Vaslui), Nicolae Dica (Catania/ITA)

Forwards: Florin Bratu, Marius Nicolae (Dinamo Bucharest), Ciprian Marica (Stuttgart/GER), Daniel Niculae (Auxerre/FRA), Florin Costea (Craiova)

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