Experience, Penalty Kicks Might Be Butt's Way into German Goal

Andreas KreutzerContributor IMay 11, 2010

LEVERKUSEN, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 15:  Jorg Butt of Leverkusen celebrates the third goal during The UEFA Champions League match between Bayer Leverkusen and Real Madrid at The Bayer Arena on September 15, 2004 in Leverkusen, Germany.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Even though his last appearance on the national squad dates back to 2003, Joerg Butt could be Germany’s #1 come June 15.

Butt’s experience could be his way into the German goal in South Africa. The 35-year-old is Germany’s most tenured goalkeeper going into the World Cup. Although he has only appeared in a measly three matches for the national squad, he has more to show for than his competition. Manuel Neuer and Tim Wiese have appeared in two matches for the Nationalmannschaft respectively.

Butt is the most experienced out of the trio in club competition as well.  He has played in 363 matches in the German Bundesliga, more than Wiese (202) and Neuer (122) combined.

While German coach Joachim Loew seems to give mostly younger field players the nod, the same is not necessarily true for the goalkeeper position. Butt’s age was not showing in a great season with FC Bayern Munich that led to a national title. After Bayern’s slow start to the season, Butt replaced Michael Rensing in goal and never looked back. He kept a clean sheet in eight of his 31 matches and allowed more than one goal only three times—Butt left the match against Werder Bremen on January 23 due to an illness, before Werder scored their second goal.

Butt could lead his club to two more titles; Bayern takes on Wiese and Werder Bremen in the final of the DFB Cup on May 15, and travels to Santiago Bernabeu Stadiu (Madrid, Spain) on May 22 to face Internazionale in the 2010 UEFA Champions League Final.

On top of his experience in the Bundesliga, Butt has appeared in international club competition 61 times. He played in 49 matches in the Champions League and 12 matches in the UEFA Cup.

The keeper has gone through the sport’s up-and-downs. He went from finishing second in the Champions League with Bayer Leverkusen in 2002 to losing his starting job to up-and-coming Rene Adler in 2006. He tried his luck with Benfica for a year, but only made one league appearance.

He returned to the Bundesliga in 2008 only to play back-up to another rising star in Rensing. It took a slow start for Bayern and an injury to Rensing’s hand for Butt to regain the #1 status. Butt made the best out of this opportunity and has been at the top of his game ever since. Dealing with this kind of adversity could prove valuable in the World Cup.

Besides his experience, Butt’s biggest asset might be his ability to excel on penalty kicks. In this ultimate battle between shooter and keeper, Butt has succeeded on both sides.  He scored 26 goals on penalty kicks in his twelve years in the Bundesliga. Add to that the four goals in this fashion in the Champions League, and Butt could be Germany’s most valuable shooter in a possible shootout in the knockout stage.

Butt’s most recent score came on December 8 in Bayern’s comeback win over Juventus in their final match of the Champions League group stage. Thirty minutes into the contest Butt beat Italian national goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon to tie the game at one. It marked the third time Butt scored against Juventus, his two other goals coming in matches with Hamburg and Leverkusen.

On the other side of the penalty-battle, he is well-known for making key stops on crucial penalties. Butt made two saves on penalty kicks by Yoann Gourcuff and Jussie Ferreira Vierra in Bayern’s Champions League match against Girondins de Bordeaux. He showed his prowess on both sides of the ball for the first time in Hamburg’s 3-1 win over Schalke when he stopped Marc Wilmot’s penalty kick 29 minutes into the game and scored the game-winning-goal with 19 minutes left to play.

Currently, most experts are expecting Neuer to get the nod over Wiese and Butt, but Butt’s experience and his composure on penalty kicks could help him become Loew’s #1.