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Sunday, March 30, 2003

Popescu quits internationals

Radu Timofte

BUCHAREST, March 30 (Reuters) - Romania captain Gheorghe Popescu retired from international soccer after his team's embarrassing 5-2 defeat by Denmark in a Euro 2004 Group Two qualifier on Saturday.

The defeat, Romania's heaviest at home in 25 years, also led to the resignation of coach Anghel Iordanescu shortly after the match and defender Iulian Filipescu announced his international retirement.

The last time Romania conceded more than five goals in a home match was in 1978 when they lost a World Cup qualifier 6-4 to Yugoslavia.

'I'm so sad to quit now but I have to remember myself that I'm 35,' Popescu told Reuters on Sunday.

Popescu made his international debut in a friendly against Albania in 1988 and played 115 matches for Romania, scoring 16 goals.

Despite playing as a sweeper or in the midfield, he could be dangerous going forward and once scored four goals for Romania in a match against Liechtenstein in 1997.

His career also coincided with Romania's 'golden generation', when the team, inspired by Gheorghe Hagi, qualified for three World Cup and two European championship finals.

Popescu, however, said he had only one regret internationally.

'I'm sorry for failing to qualify with Romania for the 2002 (World Cup in) Japan and South Korea, which would have been my fourth World Cup finals,' Popescu said.

He also played for Spanish giants Barcelona, winning the Cup Winners Cup in 1997 when they beat Paris St Germain 1-0 and for Turkish side Galatasaray, who won the 2000 UEFA Cup after beating English side Arsenal in the final.

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