The 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ is not exactly working out the way Argentina fans had expected. Yes, La Albiceleste have reached the last 16 with a game to spare, but the comfortable wins and thrilling attacking play they had hoped for has so far failed to materialise.
Alejandro Sabella’s side clinched their place in the knockout rounds with a hard-fought 1-0 defeat of Iran at a packed Estadio Mineirao on Saturday, a victory that owed much to a superlative performance by Argentinian goalkeeper Sergio Romero.
Speaking to FIFA.com afterwards, the AS Monaco custodian was quick to play down his role and deflect praise on to one Lionel Messi: “I’m happy about my contribution but the only reason we won today thanks to El Enano, who rubbed the lamp and settled the match.”
“Did you see what he did?” said Romero as a winking Messi passed by. “I saw it from the other end of the pitch. It was just one of his typical moves. He cut in from the right and curled it in with his instep. From where I was standing you could see the keeper was nowhere near it. And with these big screens, you get to enjoy it a lot more.”
Answering the doubters
A FIFA U-20 World Cup winner and Olympic champion, the ever-modest Romero has silenced the many critics who questioned his place in Sabella’s side.
“I know I haven’t been playing that much in France but I’ve always set my sights on being ready and in shape whenever I get the call to go to El Predio (Argentina’s training centre).”
The keeper has been true to his word. His outstretched hands helped keep the game goalless when the Iranians threatened time and again on the break in the second half.
“We knew they were going to put everyone behind the ball and that things were going to get tough,” acknowledged Romero, who admitted to experiencing some doubts prior to Messi’s winner. “The hardest save was from the downward header by (Reza) Ghoochannejad because you never know where the ball’s going to go when it bounces. Luckily, I was able to get my hands in the right place.”
Continuing to analyse Argentina’s awkward afternoon, Argentina’s No1 said: “You start to get negative thoughts, don’t you? It looked like we weren’t going to win and that we’d have to start thinking about the Bosnia-Nigeria game and getting the calculator out. But luckily everything worked out and the fans could go away happy.”
Acknowledging the support La Albiceleste have had so far, Romero added: “They’ll be there every time we play. Sometimes they wait outside our training base and sing their songs. We’re working hard to make them happy.”
Before signing off and making his way to the hundreds of cameras and microphones, Romero commented on the yellow shirt he wears on the field of play: “In Brazil of all places. It’s a bit strange, isn’t it?”
Taking his leave, he had a message for Argentina’s army of fans: “Our aim is to be here for 30 days, but we’re not going to talk about the title. The fans should know that we’re going to keep on giving everything we have. We’re not even easing off in the training sessions. Nobody wants to miss them, which is a really good sign.”