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

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake 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.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Hurricane Cristobal Kills Four, Moves Toward Bermuda

Storm is not expected to threaten US, but could cause deadly surf and rip currents from Florida to North Carolina
More

Peru's Congress Narrowly OKs Humala's New Cabinet on 3rd Vote

Lawmakers ratify president's embattled cabinet after ruling party offers to suspend rule requiring independent workers to pay into a pension program
More

Brazil's Deadly Prison Riot Ends

Officials say two inmates were beheaded during the Cascavel riot; two others were thrown to their deaths from the roof, and police are investigating how a fifth inmate died
More

Amid Slowdown, Chileans Adjust to New Economic Reality

Most economists now predict overall growth in country's economy of between 2.0 and 2.5 percent this year, down from 4.1 percent in 2013
More

Video Yiddish Tango Reflects Jewish Life in Argentina

Jewish people from Europe, Russia who have emigrated to Argentina for hundreds of years have fused klezmer and Argentine tango, creating Yiddish tango
More

Magnitude 6.9 Earthquake Hits Peru

Peru's civil defense institute said there were no immediate reports of injuries or serious damage
More