Who would want to be a keeper?

Filed under Germany, World Cup

Who would want to be a keeper? – is often the cry from the commentator on the backdrop of a goalkeeping blunder resulting in an embarrassing goal. Well, it’s clear who would want to be one – millions of children around the world who watched the 2014 World Cup.

It was a campaign for the goalkeepers. The many goals and exciting passages of play were overshadowed by the brilliance of the men between the sticks. Guillermo Ochoa’s acrobatics in the group stages, Keylor Navas’ outstanding performances and Tim Howard’s sixteen saves against Belgium in the Round of Sixteen will lead to many more young keepers around the world coming out of the – pardon the pun – woodwork.

While all these goalkeepers would have made their position reach a new level of popularity in their respective countries, Golden Glove winner Manuel Neuer would have to take the cake.

It wouldn’t be surprising if every young child in Germany is heading to their local sports shop to buy a pair of goalkeeping gloves or nagging their parents for their country’s top with the number 1 printed on the back. Neuer’s performance in the World Cup was simply brilliant. The 28 year old, who clocked up 25 saves throughout Germany’s seven games, was a highlight not only for the work with his hands, but also what he did with his feet. He finished the tournament with 297 passes and revolutionised the position of the goalkeeper.

Germany’s game against Algeria was one which took many by surprise as the side played a very high defensive line with Neuer used as a sweeper on the edge of his box. Bayern Munich’s number one was extremely busy throughout the tournament with his high risk game and covered an overall distance of 36,088 metres -11,816 more than his opposition goalkeeper in the World Cup final, Sergio Romero, who played an extra 30 minutes than Neuer over the campaign.

Manuel Neuer lays a goal-saving tackle outside his area

Manuel Neuer lays a goal-saving tackle outside his area

Goalkeepers were making the headlines since the opening games of the World Cup with Guillermo Ochoa becoming a national hero after saving Mexico in their group game against Brazil. The match finished as a scoreless draw but there was no shortage of excitement.

The 29-year-old, pulled off some brilliant point-blank saves and rescued a point for his team, from a game Brazil should have won. Ochoa’s performance gave his country hope for the remainder of the tournament and repaid his people’s faith with strong performances in Mexico’s following games.

Another goalkeeper who almost single-handedly saved his country was Costa Rican goalkeeper, Keylor Navas. Navas kept three clean sheets and parried away any obstacle in the way of his team making it out of the group stage and beyond. His finest moment was Costa Rica’s clash with Greece as Navas pulled off a splendid string of saves, keeping the opposition at bay even after his side was reduced to ten men. The game ended in a penalty shootout with Navas holding out Theofanis Gekas’ spot kick to send his country into the Quarter Finals for the first time in their history.

History making seemed to be a constant through this tournament with Tim Howard’s recording the most number of saves ever in a World Cup game. America’s number one played out a consistently good group stage and brought that form into his team’s Round of Sixteen game against Belgium.

Howard, 35, became his county’s idol after his efforts and was greeted by many adoring fans as he landed back in the US.

The Everton keeper’s popularity grew to national icon status with a White House petition being lodged to change the Ronald Regan Washington National Airport to be named after him.

Howard’s performance has given so much to football in America. With a sport that is still in its developing phase, ‘soccer’ has been given a large amount of exposure in past month due to Howard and his team’s efforts. Goalkeepers could now be the new trend in the USA and those kids who dreamed to be the next Messi or Ronaldo, may now be changing their tune to start following in Tim Howard’s footsteps.

Tim Howard celebrates

Tim Howard celebrates

It’s hard to remember such a goalkeeper dominated World Cup ever before. In a tournament that brings with it such pressure for the men who guard their nation’s goal, the majority truly rose to occasion. In fact, they didn’t stop rising as shot stoppers continued to be the topic of conversation even in the final days of tournament. Louis van Gaal unleashed his secret weapon, Tim Krul, just for the penalty shootout against Costa Rica in which he saved two penalties to give his team the win, and Argentina’s Sergio Romero also making the difference in the Semi Final shootout to send his team into the World Cup Final.

These national heroes have all given their countries plenty of pride and will lead to a bright future for the next generation of keepers.

2014 will be remembered as the year of the goalkeeper.

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