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Romanian Star Seeks International Recognition At World Cup

June 4, 1994

BRESCIA, Italy (AP) _ Gheorghe Hagi, stuck in the Italian second division this season, is looking to gain international recognition at the World Cup.

″I’m in top form, determined, ready for the world show. This time I want to be a protagonist,″ the 29-year-old Romanian forward says.

Hagi scored a goal against Venice and made decisive moves in a victory that virtually clinched Brescia’s return to division one next season. It came after Brescia coach Mircea Lucescu benched him in April following a streak of unimpressive games.

″Gica sometimes needs a shake,″ says Lucescu, using Hagi’s nickname. ″He’s one of Europe’s most talented players with an unpredictable temper.″

Hagi, who made his debut with the Romanian national team at 18, believes Romania could be a surprise team in the 1994 World Cup, along with Colombia and Mexico.

″Romania plays an exciting soccer but is not concrete as the favorite teams, Germany and the Netherlands, for instance,″ Hagi says. ″However, I feel we can do well this time, certainly better than in 1990.″

Four years ago, Romania was eliminated by Ireland in the second round on penalty kicks following a scoreless tie.

This time, Romania is in a group that includes the United States, Colombia and Switzerland.

″It’s a very tough round,″ he Hagi says. ″Colombia is one of the world’s best teams. The United States will have the home factor on its side. Switzerland proved stronger than Italy in qualifying. We have a great potential. We have played extremely well for the past two years.″

Hagi, Romania’s top soccer star, was the first player to leave the country following the 1990 revolution. He joined Real Madrid on a $4 million transfer fee, the highest paid for an Eastern European player, but had two disappointing seasons in the Spanish League.

″He was not understood in Madrid ,″ Lucescu says.

Lucescu, Hagi’s first coach with the Romanian national team, convinced Brescia officials to sign the player in 1992.

″Inconsistency is his only defect,″ Lucescu says. ″I hope he can put it all together for the World Cup and display his great talent.″

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