2018 FIFA World Cup: The men with magic hands who carry their teams’ fortunes
Over the years, both blunders and wonders by the men on the goal-line have decided the fate of teams in the FIFA World Cup.
England goalkeeper Gordon Banks made the save of the century against Brazil when he clawed out Pele’s goal-bound header to keep scores level but Jairzinho’s strike gave Selecao the win in 1970 World Cup quarter-finals.
Moacir Barbosa’s life was a purgatory after his error cost Brazil the World Cup in 1950. Such is the role of a goalkeeper that no matter how spectacular a save was, people mostly remember the mistakes.
Nevertheless, football history is littered with great goalkeeping names and how their heroics inspired teams.
Lev Yashin is regarded as the best ever; he played for erstwhile Soviet Union and while he never won the Cup, he was so good that the FIFA award for the best goalkeepers from 1994 to 2006 at the World Cups was called the Lev Yashin award before it was renamed the Golden Glove.
The Moscow-born was once quoted as saying that secret to his brilliance was a cigarette to calm his nerves and nice vodka to tone his muscles before a match.
Goalkeepers, like any other player on the pitch can make mistakes but, on occasions, they can be required to correct others’ mistakes, especially if a penalty is conceded. A hero is born if a keeper saves a crucial penalty.
Joel Bats turned aside two penalties against Brazil to take France to the 1986 semi-finals. German custodian Jens Lehmann had notes in his socks against Argentina at the 2006 edition. We will probably never know whether it was just to psyche out the opponents but his right guesses took Germany to the last four.
CHANGE OF ROLE
If goalkeepers didn’t have enough on their plates already, more has now been demanded from the glovemen from modern-day coaches.
With possession football the talk of the town, coaches prefer goalkeepers who can pass the ball well and not just clear it.
At the club level, many keepers have fallen by the way side because they can’t do that. Joe Hart at Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City is the perfect example.
ARRAY OF STARDUST
Like in 19 previous editions, 2018 FIFA World Cup will see some of the best goalkeepers from all across the globe descend to Russia to showcase their skills.
Manuel Neuer and Marc-Andre ter Stegen have both been outstanding for their clubs and should the former fail to prove his fitness, Die Mannschaft have more than an able deputy to take them forward in defence of their title.
Like Germany, Brazil have two goalkeepers who have every right to think that they should be the first choice, but only one of Alisson of AS Roma and Ederson of Manchester City will start in goal.
Other notable names manning the net for their countries in Russia include David de Gea of Spain, who has been Manchester United’s player of year four seasons running, and Hugo Lloris of France too has been outstanding for Tottenham Hotspur for a number of years.
In Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and Mohamed Salah, there is no shortage of people who have wands of left or right foot, but who takes the trophy could boil down to which team has the man with the magic hands.