This coming fortnight will be a crucial one for Steaua Bucharest and Romania star Cristian Tanase. He harbours big ambitions for club and country, although there is still a possibility that the 26-year-old could lose out on both counts.
At international level, Tanase hopes to secure an unlikely place at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ with Romania next week, while his club side are battling for a berth in the next round of the UEFA Champions League.
Steaua will be desperate for three points from Tuesday evening’s home tie against Chelsea following a 3-0 defeat away to Schalke on Matchday 1. “We were handed a tough draw, but I believe we can do just as well as last year, when we knocked Ajax out of the UEFA Europa League and managed to beat Chelsea,” said Tanase in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com.
On either flank or through the middle
Chelsea, Champions League winners in 2012, return to Bucharest’s Arena Nationala – where Steaua triumphed 1-0 last year – on the back of a surprising 2-1 defeat to FC Basel at Stamford Bridge, and are also feeling the pressure.
Tanase, for his part, is certainly up for the challenge. “Taking part in a competition like this makes you believe you’re a great player,” he said. “Aside from the World Cup, the Champions League is the strongest competition in the world and features the best players. It’s an honour to be part of it.”
The midfielder has been at the Romanian record title-holders since 2009, making over 100 appearances for the club. His versatility has proved particularly useful, with the 26-year-old acquitting himself admirably on the left, right, and in central midfield. “My preferred position is on the left wing. That’s where I play my best football and where I made a name for myself,” he explained.
His impressive displays did not go unnoticed by the Romanian Football Association, and the Real Madrid supporter (and big fan of Cristiano Ronaldo) has been a regular in the Tricolorii squad for several years. Like Tanase’s club, however, the Romanian national team face an uphill challenge in the coming days.
Six points a must
Romania (13 points) currently lie in fourth place behind the already-qualified Netherlands (22), Hungary (14) and Turkey (13) in their qualifying group for the World Cup in Brazil.
Tanase, however, has not given up hope of reaching the finals: “It would be incredible to play at the World Cup. It is the greatest honour to represent your country in this competition.”
Romania’s hopes of qualifying for Brazil 2014 suffered a setback just a few weeks ago when they were beaten 2-0 at home to Turkey. “That was a disappointing result, because none of us really considered the possibility of losing,” admitted Tanase. “We shouldn’t have lost that game, especially when you bear in mind how well we played and the number of chances we created.”
The Romanians now need maximum points from their matches against Andorra and Estonia on 11 and 14 October and are also relying on a helping hand from the Dutch: “I have faith in the Netherlands and believe they can beat Hungary and Turkey, or at least get a point from those games.”
In that scenario, a first World Cup appearance since 1998 would still be possible for Romania. Tanase admitted that this barren spell has hurt both players and fans in equal measure: “What can I say? Of course we’d love to replicate the success of previous generations. I hope it happens one day, because the potential is certainly there.”
Whether or not Tanase’s two very challenging missions can still succeed will be clear in two weeks’ time. “All we can do is to fight for these opportunities.” Tanase, his club and his national team are not throwing in the towel just yet.