News / Americas

World Cup Goalkeepers Steal Limelight

Algeria’s goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi, right, during official training session before Group H World Cup soccer match against South Korea, Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre, Brazil, June 21, 2014.
Algeria’s goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi, right, during official training session before Group H World Cup soccer match against South Korea, Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre, Brazil, June 21, 2014.
Reuters

Fans around the world have been enjoying a flurry of goals at the World Cup in Brazil but with the tournament now in its knockout phase it is goalkeepers, not strikers, who have been grabbing most of the headlines.

In a tournament that well exceeded the 145 goals scored before the quarter-final stage in South Africa in 2010, goalkeepers have stolen the limelight with a string of scintillating performances.

Indicative of their quality is the fact that when Algeria lost 2-1 against Germany in extra-time, it was the Desert Fox's keeper Rais Mbolhi who was man of the match despite his team's elimination.

Until Germany scored their first goal early in extra-time, Mbolhi had single-handedly denied the three-time champions again and again, frustrating them with superb saves to give the North Africans hope until the very end.

In the same game Germany keeper Manuel Neuer provided a blueprint of the future with a masterclass of goalkeeping, rushing out of the box for much of the game to act as a sweeper while his leaking defense was caught napping.

Neuer played down his performance after the game. “I always play like that, and at Bayern Munich I also play like that."

But looking at the heatmap of his positions during the match, Neuer, who used to be an in-field player as a young boy and tries to get in on the action in training as much as possible, spent much of his time outside his box.

He even hit a top speed of 22.4 kmh as he outsprinted Algerian forward in his half.

So it no real surprise that in the eighth round of 16 games, five man-of-the-matches awards went to goalkeepers.

Young guns

Apart from Neuer, some of the World Cup heavyweights failed to live up to expectations, including Spain's Iker Casillas and Russia's Igor Akinfeev.

Instead it was lesser-known keepers who stole the show with Mexico's Guillermo Ochoa, currently without a club, frustrating hosts Brazil in their 0-0 draw to help his country reach the knockout stage.

There he proceeded to deny the Dutch repeatedly before finally being beaten twice in the dying minutes but still did enough to win the man-of-the-match award in both those games.

Costa Rica's Keylor Navas was even more successful at soaking up Greece's pressure in the round of 16, doing everything right for about an hour when his team was down to ten men.

Then he stepped up to the plate again in extra-time with the Greeks pouring forward as if sensing that if it came to penalties Navas would again deliver.

He did exactly that, saving a spot kick in the ensuing shoot-out to send the Central Americans into the last eight and the Greeks heaping praise on the man who denied them what would have been a memorable qualification.

Navas, who plays for Levante in Spain but now has big clubs circling to sign him, has several training tricks up his sleeve.

One of them is saving tennis balls, shot at his goal at a speed of 160 km per hour by Spain Davis Cup player Pablo Andujar from a distance of 20 meters to improve reflexes.

USA keeper Tim Howard was also showered with compliments for making 16 stops against Belgium when his team buckled under the Europeans' pressure.

He was the only reason they managed to go into extra time before losing 2-1, with Howard earning hugs and pats on the back from the Belgians at the end of the game.

His saves were the most ever seen by a goalkeeper in a World Cup since 1966, according to FIFA, world soccer's governing body.

No fluttering

One of the reasons for these performances is no doubt the lower altitude of where game are played compared to South Africa and the ball hardly fluttering, especially from long range shots.

Keepers at the 2010 tournament complained even before the World Cup started that the official ball used in combination with the high altitude made it near impossible to judge its track as it twisted and turned past them.

Another obvious reason is that defenses at this tournament are far more open, with play flowing back and forth.

Looking at both Italy and Germany, their defenses at this tournament are only a pale shadow of their once granite-like backlines.

Spain's tiki-taka game of possession that reduced speed to a snail's pace is also out of fashion, making open play in Brazil look like a racing car compared to South Africa.

Even 2010 black sheep, Julio Cesar, has been transformed into a hero.

The Brazil keeper, vilified after his mistakes led to their 2010 elimination by the Netherlands, made a game-changing save in their round of 16 match against Chile.

He then proceeded to save two spot kicks in the shootout, answering the prayers of an entire nation as he kept the hosts dreams of a sixth World Cup very much alive.

Click here to check our our special World Cup site

  • Goalkeeper Tim Howard of the U.S. blocks a shot by Belgium's Kevin Mirallas during their round of 16 game at the Fonte Nova arena in Salvador ,July 1, 2014.
  • Belgium's Marouane Fellaini kicks the ball as Jermaine Jones of the U.S. defends during their game at the Fonte Nova arena in Salvador, July 1, 2014.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama watches the match between the U.S. and Belgium during a staff viewing party in an auditorium at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, July 1, 2014.
  • Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne scores against the U.S. in extra time during at the Fonte Nova arena in Salvador, July 1, 2014.
  • Belgian fans celebrate at Saint Job place in Brussels, July 1, 2014.
  • Fans of Switzerland before their game against Argentina at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo, July 1, 2014.
  • Switzerland's goalkeeper Diego Benaglio is beaten by Argentina's Angel Di Maria during extra time at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo, July 1, 2014.
  • Argentina's Angel Di Maria celebrates his goal against Switzerland during extra time at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo, July 1, 2014.
  • Switzerland's Blerim Dzemaili's header hits the goal post during second half extra time in the round of 16 game between Argentina and Switzerland at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo, July 1, 2014.
  • Switzerland's Michael Lang, right, comforts teammate Fabian Schaer after they are defeated by Argentina at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo, July 1, 2014.

Error rendering storify.

You May Like

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

After Nearly 2 Years, Pistorius Remains Elusive

Reporter Anita Powell reflects on her experience covering the Olympic athlete's murder trial More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africai
X
Luis Ramirez
September 15, 2014 11:01 PM
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africa

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

UN: Enforced Disappearances Continue Unabated Globally

UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances says more than 43,000 cases from 88 countries still remain to be clarified
More

Hurricane Odile Weakens, Still a Threat to Mexico

Odile could drench Baja California with as much as 46 centimeters of rain by Friday
More

Powerful Hurricane Threatens Mexico's Baja California

US forecasters have downgraded Odile to strong Category 3 storm, with top sustained winds of 205 kilometers per hour
More

Hard-hitting Films Tackle Homelessness at Toronto Festival

'Time Out of Mind,' 'Shelter,' and 'Heaven Knows What' all focus on characters struggling with homelessness, addiction on the streets of New York
More

After Tax Reform Triumph, Chile's President Faces Rockier Road

'Honeymoon' may be over for Michelle Bachelet as protests rise and economy, security outlook worsen
More

Mexico: Texas Governor's Border Deployment Politically Motivated

Rick Perry says he is sending up to 1,000 troops to Mexican border to deter criminal activity caused by drug cartels
More