Tottenham Hotspur central defender Cristian Romero has been called a ‘beast’. Not as an insult, but as a compliment.
That’s because of the South American qualifier for the 2026 World Cup between Brazil and Argentina at the Maracanã, a historic soccer stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Thursday (Aug. 22). Romero was outstanding against South America’s biggest rivals, shutting down Brazil’s attackers and earning the first-team honors in a clean sheet.
The Argentine media outlet TyC Sports gave him a rave review. After giving Romero a 10 out of 10 rating, the publication said, “Kuti (Romero’s nickname) is an animal. And it’s not just his personality.” “He never stops running, and he also saved a shot that could have been a goal,” they continued.
Football statistics platform Footmob also named Romero Man of the Match with an 8.2 rating. This was higher than center-back combi Nicolas Otamendi (8.1), who scored the winning goal.
Romero, who serves as Tottenham’s vice-captain in support of captain Son Heung-min, brought his Premier League-level skills to bear on the opposition and brought Brazil’s sharp attack to its knees. The 44th minute was a highlight. On a Brazilian corner, Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was caught a little too far away from his goal and Brazilian forward Gabriel Martinelli found the back of the net with a deflected mid-range shot.
But Romero, who had already seen Martinez move away from goal, cleverly lined up in front of the goal and saved his country from going behind with a perfect knee save from mid-range.
Martinelli looked to have sensed a goal as soon as he attempted his shot, but was left ‘shaking in his boots’ as he held his head in his hands as he watched Romero save with his knee.
It also got Tottenham fans excited. Spurs’ biggest rivals in the Premier League are Arsenal strikers Gabriel Jesus and Martinelli in the ‘North London Derby’. According to FootMob, Romero made the most tackles in the game (four) and broke up several Brazilian attacks, including Jezus and Martinelli.
He also showed a lot of growth under the tutelage of Tottenham coach Angie Postecoglou.
Postecoglou’s short, quick build-up from the back requires his defenders to have good footwork and passing ability. Romero completed every pass he attempted against Brazil, posting a 100% success rate. It showed that he is a reliable buildup resource and reaffirmed that he is indispensable to Tottenham.
“Romero has stepped up his game this season,” said TBR Football, “He’s completely transformed under Postecoglou. His combination with Micky Van der Penne has been incredible.”
However, Romero won’t be able to play in front of Tottenham fans any time soon when he returns to the club after the A-match period.
He was shown a straight red card for a dangerous tackle on teammate and Chelsea midfielder Enzo Fernandez in the 11th round home game of the 2023/24 English Premier League on July 7.
Under Premier League rules, a player who receives a straight red card is suspended for three games in England, so Romero will also miss the club’s 12th round match against Wolverhampton Wanderers (Wolves). Then, when he returns to England, he will be unavailable for games against two top teams, fifth-place Aston Villa and first-place Manchester City.
Along with Romero’s exit, Van der Vaart was also sidelined with an injury against Chelsea. This prompted Tottenham to start Eric Dier against Wolves, who hadn’t made a start all season.
Romero is expected to return to Tottenham’s starting lineup after the team’s match against Manchester City in the 14th round of the league next month. “It’s no secret that Dier doesn’t fit in with Postecoglou’s tactics,” said TBR Football, “so it’s a foregone conclusion that Romero will return after the game against City.”
The defender has been embroiled in controversy for his aggressive tackles on teammates in Tottenham training, but his performance against Brazil proved that he is still Spurs’ best defender.
Lionel Messi was furious before the game, calling it “crazy” that Argentine fans were assaulted by Brazilian fans, but for Romero, it was a game that signaled his resurgence.