The goalkeeping has been the big topic of this still young World Cup. Goals have been at a premium causing games to be mostly dull to the general public, at least here in the states where many fans only tune in for the scoring. The most exciting plays so far have mostly been made by goalkeepers, good or bad. We’ve seen some stellar performances while most of the attention has been on the blunders.
In the first 6 days of competition there have been 6 goalkeeper blunders accounting for 6 of the 25 goals allowed the team’s first games. When you consider that a fair number of those goals were scored by opponents who were considerably better than their opponents (read Germany v. Australia and South Korea v. Greece), six is a considerable amount that has had a large affect on these games so far. Italy was lucky to come away with a draw, as was the U.S. and Slovenia and Brazil recorded wins that should have ended as draws. The biggest upset of the tournament at this point, and probably will still be when the winner is crowned on the 11th of July, was due to a gaffe by one of the best keepers in the world, Spain’s Iker Casillas.
Most of these blunders have occurred due to lazy goalkeeping. English keeper Robert Green didn’t get square behind the ball, same with Faouzi Chaouchi from Algeria instead making an awkward forward dive that I have never thought about attempting in many years of playing keeper.
As a keeper, especially at the highest of levels, you need to be tactically aggressive and attack the ball. Spain’s Casillas is a perfect example of not being tactically aggressive. Yes he came out and attacked the ball on the goal that Switzerland scored. However he tried to slide tackle the ball. Inside his own box. Where he can use his hands. If he attacks that ball with his chest through the ball, as keepers are taught, there is no way it gets around him for a goal.
There has also been some spectacular goalkeeping that has kept teams in it. The Swiss keeper, Diego Benaglio, came up with a number of big saves that allowed Switzerland to take advantage of Casillas gaffe and come away with their first ever win over Spain.
In the England v. USA game Tim Howard had a spectacular game. He overcame spotty defense and a cleat to the chest to give the US a chance to even it up on Green’s gaffe. The Honduran keeper, Noel Valladares, came up with big saves against Chile to hold them to only one goal. We’ve also seen some great performances out of the keepers from Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria.
Now that teams have all gotten a game under their belts in South Africa I see the quality of the games to pick up considerably from here on out. As these teams are getting comfortable there will be less goalkeeping blunders and offenses that have seemed punch less will begin to produce more. Already in a day and a game of the second round of the group stage we’ve seen 13 goals. That’s more than half as many goals as where seen in the first 6 days.
Now it gets exciting.