Conte may get Spurs boost as doubt cast over Romero’s World Cup hopes

World Cup 2022 preview: Group C

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Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte may benefit from the possible withdrawal of Cristian Romero from Argentina’s World Cup squad if the defender cannot prove his fitness to manager Lionel Scaloni. The Spurs centre-back did not feature in their 5-0 thrashing of the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday, sparking fears he may not recover in time for their opening fixture.

Romero has been sidelined with a hamstring injury sustained against Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League in October and missed five games in the process while he recovered.

The 24-year-old was still named in Scaloni’s 26-man squad for the month-long tournament in Qatar, however, as he was due to recover in time for the first match against Saudi Arabia on November 22. But it is clear his recovery has not been quite as quick first thought.

Romero was spotted training with his team-mates after landing in Qatar, but was supposedly some way short of being match fit to play any part. According to AS, three other Argentina players – Nico Gonzalez, Nicolas Tagliafico and Papu Gomez – did not participate for the same reason as Romero and were left out.

And Scaloni has raised some doubts over whether they will remain with the squad after admitting they were not fit to feature in the friendly against the UAE – and refused to guarantee they would be fit in time.

“It is true that some did not play out of caution. Today those who could have played, and those who could not play more minutes we changed them, they are all old enough to know how they feel and how much they can play,” Scaloni told reporters.

“We have some little problems. We will be waiting during these days, to see if we will have to make any changes to the list. There may be changes. We have a few days to decide the topic of the list. If I’m honest, I can’t say 100% today, but we have time.

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“Luckily, or bad luck, we can change. I hope not, but there is the possibility. The other list is closed. There are several who were left out as a precaution and who were not fit to play.”

That could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Spurs and Conte when the Premier League season resumes on Boxing Day. While no one would be happy to see Romero denied his World Cup dream, it would at least allow the Argentinian time to fully recuperate from his injury.

And Conte would be relieved to see his top-performing defender return to action following some disappointing results of late, with his side shipping nine goals in the five games he was absent, compared to five in five preceding that.

And if Romero stays injury-free, it could prove to be a huge boost in their aim to finish in the top four.

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