World Cup 2006 story: Goalkeepers with one man down, and even two
Goalkeepers are the players with the least glamorous job. Would you watch goalies kicking the ball to each other if a soccer match suddenly was reduced to just these two men. Well, it could be possible in this World Cup, the rate at which players are being sent off.
In this World Cup, goalkeepers have been the story often times playing with a man down, and in the Italy- USA match, Keller playing with two men down. The sentinels have kept their team in the match and even helped them to record a historic win, Ghana vs the Czech Republic. Even defenders have been inspired by their goalies as in the case of Jason Terry turning into a last gasp goalie in the England- Trinidad and Tobago match, clearing the ball on the goal line with an acrobatic save.
So here is a group of goalies that have been their teams saviors or near saviors
Shaka Hislop: T&T vs Sweden
Hislop, got the ball rolling or should I say keeping the ball away with his performance against a Sweden team and its sharpshooters Zlatan Ibrahamovic, Henrik Larsson, and Freddie Ljungberg. That too with a Soca Warrior team reduced to 10 men with the absence of key defender Avery John. He single handedly (well he did use both hands too) to keep the Swedes away and keep T&T in the game. And he was not even supposed to start, with Kelvin Jack, Beenhakker's choice getting injured in the last minute.
Goalshots/Corners: Sweden 18/8 T&T 6/1
Joao Ricardo: Angola vs Mexico
Angola stayed in the game and drew against an increasingly dangerous Mexican attack led by Omar Bravo. All due to the fantastic goalkeeping of Ricardo. Among all of Joao Ricardo's superb saves, perhaps the biggest came in the 88th minute. With Angola reduced to ten men, Mexico captain Rafael Marquez fired a rocket that seemed destined for the upper left-hand corner of the net, but the Angolan keeper sprung to tip the ball wide.
Goalshots/ Corners: Mexico 13/6, Angola 8/5
Artur Boruc: Poland vs Germany
Goalkeeper Boruc kept the Polish team in the fray with some brilliant saves off Klose, Lahm, Podolski, and Ballack. Poland was also reduced to 10 men when Sobolewski was sent off in the 75th minute. Boruc came up with two saves a minute apart, of Lahm and Neuville. The crossbar became his friend after it stopped two attempts, Klose's header hitting the woodwork and then Ballack's chip in from the rebound hitting it again. Alas, Boruc's luck ran out when Neuville slid in a perfectly placed cross from Odonkor in stoppage time just when Poland looked like ekeing out a draw.
Goalshots/Corners: Germany 16/10, Poland 5/4
Richard Kingson: Ghana vs Czech Republic
Kingson's great saves deep into injury time prevented Libor Sionko and Jan Polak from scoring and set off wonderful celebrations in Cologne, in Accra, in the USA, and the rest of Africa. This was Africa's first victory in this World Cup and Kingson played a major part in preserving the two goal lead. What was more impressive was that Kingson looked far from assured in the game against Italy unsure when to come off the line to collect the ball from the corners. Against the Czech Republic he looked extremely sharp and kept Lovrenc (6'5") away from the ball.
Goalshots/ Corners: Ghana 20/7 Czech Republic 14/6
Petr Cech: Czech Republic vs Ghana
In the same game, Cech proved why he is considered one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Tomas Ujufalesi sent off in the 65th minute after receiving his second yellow card, in keeping with a familar theme in this World Cup. With an unrelenting Ghana attack led by Essien, Appiah, Muntari, Gyan, and Amoah. Cech was singled out for praise from the Ghana coach Ratomir Dujkovic for keeping the Czechs in the game. He must have saved at least 6 other goals.
Goalshots/ Corners: Ghana 20/7 Czech Republic 14/6
Kasey Keller: USA vs Italy
The most bizarre match played in the tournament had the US playing with 9 men and the Italians with 10 for a good part of the match. Keller's stellar keeping kept the US level with Italy, keeping US hopes alive to make it to the second round. The pick of his saves came in the 73rd minute when he denied Alessandro Del Piero with a one-handed save at full stretch and again in the 79th minute denying Del Piero again, palming the ball to safety.
Goalshots/ Corners: Italy 10/7 USA 8/3
Oswaldo Sanchez: Mexico vs Iran
Mexico was not even sure if Sanchez would start, having lost his father just a day before the World Cup was to start. He flew back to Mexico to be with his family and was seemingly out of the tournament. Somehow he summoned the strength to come back and play against the Iranians and pulled off some very fine saves.
Goalshots/ Corners: Mexico 7/6, Iran 7/5
Oswaldo Sanchez after the match:
" I know my father was watching me from heaven during the game. I thank the team for the flowers before the game. It’s a nice feeling when you know that the team is thinking of you. Right now I’m thinking about my family a lot, and I’m here because I’m sure it’s what my father would have wanted. "
The goalkeeping quality has been excellent in this World Cup but these are IMO the exceptional ones and we can look forward to more of the same.
Update: Japan's goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawagata great save denying Srna's penalty kick, keeping Croatia from scoring.
Brazilian goalkeeper Dida coming up with six saves to seal Brazil's win. Now that is unusual when a goalie from Brazil is singled out for praise. But he was the best player in their squad today.