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My Sporting Week: Goalkeepers have been the real heroes of the 2014 World Cup

Goalkeeper Tim Krul of the Netherlands celebrates after making a save on a penalty kick by Bryan Ruiz. Picture: Getty

Goalkeeper Tim Krul of the Netherlands celebrates after making a save on a penalty kick by Bryan Ruiz. Picture: Getty

 

When the story of the 2014 World Cup is re-told to future generations we can assume that goalkeeping will feature prominently.

The tournament has seen a record number of goals scored but this is not a reflection of the poor performance of the men between the sticks. On the contrary, we have seen a virtual re-birth of the position, prompting a reassessment on what attributes a first-class number one must posses.

Germany’s Manuel Neuer has forever banished the idea that keepers must never leave the penalty area and those that do should be dismissed as dangerous renegades. The Bayern Munich player commands not just his six yard box but the final third of the pitch. In the second round match against Algeria he confidently raced from his line to tackle opponents who had barely made it into the German half.

His manager Joachim Löw has said that Neuer is so good with the ball at his feet that he could conceivably play in midfield.

There have been several other outstanding examples of goalkeeping in Brazil, with Guillermo Ochoa of Mexico, Algeria’s Rais M’Bolhi and Keylor Navas of Costa Rica all worthy of high praise.

Then there was the virtuso performance from Tim Howard in the USA goal, where he valiantly defied a Belgium side that fired no less than 38 shots during their second round clash.

To cap it all, we had the sight of former Falkirk goalkeeper Tim Krul being brought off the bench in the final minute of extra-time to take part in Holland’s penalty shoot out against Costa Rica in Saturday’s memorable quarter-final tie.

This masterstroke from Louis Van Gaal proves that sub goalies can make worthwhile contributions other than waiting for the first choice keeper to be injured.

It is no coincidence that countries with records of producing extraordinary goalkeepers - Germany, Holland, USA - have long treated the position as one worthy of specialist coaching, while maintaining they must be comfortable with the ball at their feet.

Contrast that approach with the UK, where the terrible cliche persists that goalies are crazy and must remain chained to their posts.

 

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