Belo Horizonte: His nickname ‘Chiquito’, or little guy, doesn’t reflect the big role Sergio Romero has played in Argentina’s World Cup campaign so far.
A back-up goalkeeper in his club team, the 27-year-old Romero has been called the weak link in an Argentina squad packed with attacking talent.
But a string of crucial saves in Argentina’s 1-0 win over Iran has made him the team’s most important player of that game, save for Lionel Messi.
Romero played down his role, saying “the important thing is that Argentina wins” and that he was just happy “to be able give the team a hand, just like they do for me.”
Despite being benched at Monaco, Romero has remained a starter for Argentina since 2009. If he starts in the last Group F match against Nigeria on Wednesday, he will reach 50 international caps. Umberto Fillol is the only goalkeeper with more appearances for Argentina.
Ironically, Monaco’s first-choice ’keeper Danijel Subasic is only a substitute in Croatia’s World Cup squad.
Augustin Orion, back-up goalkeeper for Argentina, said Romero’s hold on the position in the starting line-up was well-deserved despite his lack of action at club level.
“He has achieved it with outstanding performances,” Orion said.
One of them was against Iran, when Romero made three crucial saves to keep the game scoreless before Messi’s injury-time goal gave Argentina their second hard-fought win in Brazil and a guaranteed spot in the round of 16.
“He was perfect. When we needed him he was there for us,” said fullback Marcos Rojo.
Though he stands at 1.92 meters (6-foot-4), Romero is the shortest of four brothers and once considered following in the footsteps of older brother Diego, who plays basketball in the Argentine league.