An endearing image of the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ is of Jens Lehmann carefully reading his notes on Argentina's penalty-takers at the end of extra time. As with any good student, careful revision paid dividends for the Germany No1 that day as he saved from Roberto Ayala and Esteban Cambiasso in the subsequent shoot-out, sealing his team's passage to the semi-finals in the process.
On the other side of the world in Argentina, Sergio Romero was still at school, watching his nation's exploits eagerly on television. Little could he have imagined that in 2010, he would have the chance to seek revenge for that German victory in Berlin. In advance of Argentina's quarter-final clash with Germany in Cape Town on Saturday, the young keeper spoke to FIFA about his own form, his team's good run in the tournament so far, and La Albiceleste's chances of adding to their haul of two FIFA World Cups in South Africa.
FIFA.com: Sergio, what is your verdict on your team's performance in the last-16 game against Mexico?Sergio Romero: I think we played very well. We got ourselves ahead in the first half and then we are able to consolidate our lead with a goal from Carlitos [Tevez]. The most important thing was that we were calm when we didn't have possession and we kept our shape. I think we're doing pretty well at the moment.
In this tournament you have tended to parry a lot of shots away from goal without trying to catch the ball. Is that a deliberate ploy?Yes, of course, because I don't want to make things difficult for myself. My job is to give my team-mates confidence and a feeling of security and so it's important for me to do the simple things. At times the ball can change direction, like when that shot from [Carlos] Salcido hit the bar. It looked like it was going over and then dipped all of a sudden, but I managed to get my fingertips to it and it didn't go in.
Were you surprised at Germany's result against England?To be honest, yes. We all thought the match would be different from how it turned out with perhaps a one or two-goal margin at most. But Germany showed their quality and after that five-minute spell when England put them under pressure, they kept their cool and picked England off. We're going to be playing a very good team but we need to keep focused and get ourselves mentally ready to carry on doing the good job we've done so far.
We're all working hard to achieve something that our country hasn't done for a long time.
How do you think things will go for Argentina now?If we carry on playing the way we have been playing up to now, we've got every chance of going further. As far as my own form is concerned, I know that the keeper is a key man in any team and I can only hope to keep up my level of performance. It's important to give the rest of the team confidence so that they can put their game together without worrying and do the business at the other end of the pitch.
Four years ago, Jens Lehmann earned his place in German football history by saving those penalties against Argentina. Have you been studying the potential German penalty-takers for Saturday's game, just in case?Yes, we've watched a lot of videos and analysed them. What happened in 2006 was incredible. Nobody thought that after watching the videos he would write it all down on a piece of paper to remember it. Anyway, I think penalties are much more to do with intuition than anything else. You can watch 800 penalties but if you dive where you think you should, according to the video, and the ball goes in the other corner, it's no use. The most important thing is the feeling that you get as a goalkeeper to guess one way or the other, and you just have to risk it and follow your instincts.
People back home in Argentina have got right behind the team, and have high hopes for the rest of the tournament. Do you have a message for them?Yes, I would like to send all my love to my wife and my daughter, who are watching the tournament in Buenos Aires. It isn't easy to be away from home for so long and I know that my wife is keeping all of my letters and little notes to show them to our daughter when she grows up. As far as the fans are concerned, I just hope that they take things as they come. We're all working hard to achieve something that our country hasn't done for a long time. We all want to bring them the happiness that they deserve.