After Chile's Guillermo Ochoa, now USA custodian Tim Howard brings goalkeepers into the forefront once again with a record 16 saves against Belgium on Tuesday. Here?s to the men under the bar
Rio De Janeiro: Lionel Messi, Neymar and Robin van Persie make the headlines, but the World Cup’s real heroes have been goalkeepers like Tim Howard, Guillermo Ochoa and Julio Cesar who throw themselves into the line of fire.
Kompany closed: USA’s goalkeeper Tim Howard saves a shot on goal from Belgium skipper Vincent Kompany during their Round-of-16 match at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador on Tuesday. Pic/Getty Images
“Two words TIM HOWARD #respect,” was the simple Twitter comment made by Belgium’s captain Vincent Kompany within minutes of his country finally beating the United States in the last 16 on Tuesday night. Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku, who hit the winning goal, and Dries Mertens, both hugged Howard at the end of their 120-minute onslaught on the 35-year-old Everton goalkeeper. Howard’s 16 saves, some at point blank range, two spectacularly flicked over the crossbar, were a record for a goalkeeper in a World Cup match since 1966. The US defence seemed unable to resist the Belgian attack of Mertens, Divock Origi and Eden Hazard. US coach Jurgen Klinsmann said Howard kept the team in the game right to the end. The Americans had chances to equalise right until the final seconds. “How Tim Howard played tonight was just phenomenal,” Klinsmann said. “As the game went on, on the back of Tim’s performance we got back in the game.”
Similar compliments have been paid to Guillermo Ochoa for giving Mexico an unlikely 0-0 draw with Brazil in Group A, and Cesar for his heroics in keeping Chile at bay in a game Brazil won to reach the quarter-finals.
Costa Rica’s ’keeper Keylor Navas was the hero as his side, down to 10 men, beat Greece in their last 16 game.
Germany’s Manuel Neuer has been hailed for rushing out of his penalty area to clear the ball as North African minnows Algeria poured forward on Monday.
“He reacted like a libero and protected us from many situations that smelled of danger,” said Germany coach Joachim Loew.
Neuer has a good job with Bayern Munich, but for some of the other goalkeepers, the brilliant performances could be a career saver.
Mexico’s Ochoa, who held Brazil at bay for 90 minutes, was without a club after his French side Ajaccio were relegated to the second division and his contract ran out last month.
One sprawling one-handed save from a powerful header by Brazil striker Neymar has been compared to the legendary stop by England’s Gordon Banks against Brazil’s Pele at the 1970 World Cup.
“I feel really flattered,” Ochoa (29) said of the comparison. “Of course I’d rather have less work,” he added.
His shift in Fortaleza has earned interest from English sides including Liverpool, according to media reports.
Costa Rica’s Keylor Navas was another goalkeeper to earn man-of-the-match honours as his side beat Greece to reach the quarter finals for the first time.
Navas has been hailed as his country’s new ‘Lucky Rabbit’, the nickname for Luis Gabelo Conejo, who kept goal for Costa Rica at the 1990 World Cup finals.
Keylor Navas (in green) celebrates Costa Rica’s 1-0 win over Italy
Having thwarted Italy and Uruguay in landmark group victories, Navas again performed spectacular gymnastics as he punched away a spot kick by Greece’s Fanis Gekas in a penalty shootout.
Navas, who plays in Spain for la Liga outfit Levante, said: “I have already faced great players and I am not scared. It’s a good challenge for me to play against the best at the World Cup in Brazil.”
Brazil’s Julio Cesar (left) hopes his two penalty shootout saves against Chile will turn him from a national villain to a respected figure alongside the country’s other football legends.
The 34-year-old has faced national humiliation since his mistake was blamed for Brazil’s defeat to the Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup quarter-final.
Cesar revealed that he took a religious cross, given to him by his reserve Victor, when he went into the goal for the Chile shootout. He saved two penalties and Chilean Gonzalo Jara’s kick came off a post and just managed to stay out of the goal.
“Julio Cesar and the goalpost save Brazil from humiliation at home,” said Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper’s front page.
“After the (2010) World Cup to be labelled as the villain, it was very bad for me,” Cesar said. “I got the support of my family, who just supported me. This allows me to have the necessary strength to go forward,” said the emotional keeper fighting back tears.
Some more worthy saviours here...
Belgium’s young goalkeeper (just 22) has been fantastic throughout the tournament conceding only two goals. He was particularly spot-on in the match against USA, where he denied their skipper Clint Dempsey, who came very close to equalising in extra-time and nearly took the game into a penalty-shootout.
Nigeria’s 31-year-old custodian frustrated the French and Argentine attacks with innumerable saves. One superlative effort saw him deny French striker Paul Pogba from close.
The Ecuador ’keeper was hailed for his consistency under the bar by French striker Karim Benzema, who was was denied a host of scoring opportunities, leading to a goalless Group E encounter. The tall goalkeeper was adjudged Man of the Match despite the Ecuadorians bowing out of the tournament.
Algeria held onto Germany for a better part of their Round Two tie thanks to one man — ’keeper M’Bolhi. He constantly kept German’s Thomas Mueller, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos at bay.
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