Argentina – @matthewtudor
With less than two months until Argentina’s June 6th opener against Bosnia-Herzegovina in Rio, La Albiceleste find themselves facing many questions and growing uncertainty regarding the selection of their goalkeeper this Summer.
Coach Alejandro Sabella seems keen to trust the gloves to goalkeepers he has previously worked with. The likely trio to make the trip to Brazil include; Sergio Romero, Mariano Andular, and Agustín Orión. All have been consistent call ups to national team duty in the lead in to this summer. A surprise invitation at this point seems unlikely. There are a few notable omissions from the expected three including Crystal Palalace’s Julian Speroni and Willy Caballero of Malaga.
Sergio Romero has proven to be a winner and has come up big for his county and club, leading Argentina to the gold medal podium at the 2008 Summer Olympics, and most recently between the sticks during AZ Alkmaar’s title run of 2008-2009. He has held the national team #1 since the late stages of qualifying leading up to the 2010’ finals in South Africa. Romero is currently not seeing regular action with AS Monoco of Ligue1 where he is on loan from Samprodoria, in which he helped the Genoa side gain promotion to Seria A. At 6’4” Romero rarely ventures to far afield in his positioning and relies on his large frame and good reflexes to be a more than capable net minder. Sabella has publicly stated in a radio interview that the job Is Romero’s. “Apart from the odd injury he has always been in my team … the position is his.”
Most certainty deputizing for Romeo will be Andular and Orión, both of who have played for coach Sabella at Estudiantes. Mariano Andular, like Romero, is currently not seeing games with his club, Catania, of Seria A. With 8 caps to his name, the 6’5” shot stopper does have international experience and a failure to find form from Romero could see him thrust into the starting role. His biggest achievements to date include helping his side, Estudiantes, win the Libertadores Cup wile setting a tournament record of 800 minuets without conceding a goal. Solid in dealing with flighted balls, Mariano also has surprising high marks in agility and relaxes for a big man.
Augustín Orión will likely arrive in Vespasiano, Argentians base camp, as the sides only goalkeeper seeing first team action on a regular basis. The 32 year old has had much domestic success, helping San Lorenzo win the Clausura in 2007. Orión also helped Estudiantes win the league in 2011. Currently Orión starts for Boca where he has found a home, turning down offers from European sides. A beloved figure, Orión positions himself well inside the 18.
Two other goalkeepers find themselves in the discussion to be included on this summers World Cup roster include Willy Caballero of Malaga, and Julian Speroni of Crystal Palace. Caballero who has recently been on a great run of form for his club including a standout performances against Real Madrid in the Champions League.
Speroni who has 12 clean sheets this season with Palace has helped his side to EPL promotion in 2012-2013 and currently hold a safe mid-table position in the world’s most demanding league for goalkeepers. Having only a sniff of international duty in his career, it is puzzling how Speroni can’t seem to crack into the squad.
Will the omission of top European keepers like Speroni and Caballero lead to uncertainty from the rest of the squad? Will the fantastic four of Messi, Aguero, Higuain and Di Maria provide enough? The pressure is sure to be on Romero this summer. Can he find the form needed to guide his side into the later stages of the cup? If Romero is indeed the starter as predicted, can he find the form needed to guide his side into the later stages of the cup? Or will this be the undoing of the blue and white?
Although the Argentines have a favorable first round draw and should be able to get out of their group, a potential second round match up with the likes of Portugal and Germany become exceedingly difficult with the margin of error razor thin. Argentina’s undoing could come from the lack of a true world class keeper. I can’t help but look a at Romeros follies video to think that the pressure cooker which is the World Cup might see him prone make an error which leads to his teams exit. There have been lesser know goalkeepers to take over the moment for Argentina. Sergio Goycochea who famously replaced the injured Nery Pumpido to guide Argentina to a World Cup finals in 1990 was far from a household name until his penalty kick success against Yugoslavia and Italy.
If the #1 does fall on the axe this summer, Argentines might want to start paying attention to Geronimo Rulli of Estudiantes who is seen as the future of Argentina goalkeeping.