Argentina hit by loss of injured goalie Romero

BUENOS AIRES • If there is any area where Argentina are susceptible, it would be their defence and Tuesday's withdrawal of first-choice veteran goalkeeper Sergio Romero is a serious blow to a team who have struggled defensively in recent friendlies.

The Manchester United backup custodian suffered a "joint blockage in his right knee that will leave him out of the squad" during training in the Argentinian capital and will need surgery, according to the Argentine Football Association (AFA).

The 31-year-old is the most-capped goalkeeper in the history of the national team with 94 appearances and also represented them at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.

The withdrawal of Romero is an unwelcome disruption to Argentina's preparations as they do not have a clear-cut contender to play in between the sticks in Russia.

Last November's 4-2 defeat by Nigeria and the 6-1 thrashing by Spain in March have highlighted a pressing need for the Albiceleste to shore up their backline, but they will have to do so without the vastly experienced Romero.

The AFA called up Nahuel Guzman, who plays for Mexican side Tigres and has six caps, as Romero's replacement.

The 32-year-old Guzman will fight for the No. 1 jersey with Chelsea's Willy Caballero, 36, and uncapped River Plate stopper Franco Armani, 31, in Argentina's 23-man squad.

Coach Jorge Sampaoli took just minutes to plump for Guzman, who made his last Argentina appearance in last June's 6-0 friendly win over Singapore at the National Stadium, after Romero's exclusion was announced.

He will form part of the team for the friendly against Haiti at Boca Juniors' ground on Tuesday.

The two-time world champions, who were runners-up four years ago in Brazil, also play Israel on June 9 before starting the tournament in Group D with Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria.

The fifth-ranked team open their campaign against Iceland on June 16.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2018, with the headline 'Argentina hit by loss of injured goalie Romero'. Print Edition | Subscribe