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Category Archives: Goalkeeper

In the future we will look at the Hungarian Golden Squad of the 1950’s in greater depth (inevitably of course in the context of the great Puskas).
Against a backdrop of political and social unrest Hungary (under coach Gusztav Sebes) produced a phenomenally successful international football team. Introducing a more fluid approach to play they were undefeated from June 1950 to July 1954, 32 games in which they scored 144 goals (conceding 33).
Grosics Gyula played 86 internationals in a career punctuated by enforced sabbaticals- for example 15 months when he was investigated on charges of treason. He was frequently at odds with the countries rulers. During the war he had, after all, been a volunteer in an Armoured Division of the SS. In 1949 he was apprehended attempting whilst to leave the country.
Despite these problems Grosics was a participant at three consecutive World Cups, 1954, 1958 and 1962, and won a Gold medal at the 1952 Olympic Games.
Nicknamed Fekete Párduc (The Black Panther) Grosics developed the role of the ‘keeper as sweeper. His quick distribution also helped launch rapid counterattacks, and he recalls Puskas continually demanding swifter distribution, he and Hidegkuti dropping back to collect the ball from throws. Rolling the ball out… was one of the things I developed. It was much more accurate- and quicker- than just hoofing it upfield.
Graduating from lesser lights such as Dorogi Bányász, MATEOSZ and Teherfuvar, in 1950 Grosics joined Honvéd (the Army team to which top players were seconded via nominal conscription) and later Tatabányai Bányász ( a provincial miner’s team , to which he was transferred for incurring the displeasure of the authorities). He retired in 1962.

In 2008, at the age of 82, Grosics was given the opportunity to fulfill a long held ambition to appear for his favourite club, Ferencváros. Grosics kicked off in a friendly against Sheffield United and stood in goal for a few minutes before being substituted.

So, when considering the footballing greats, why not choose a goalkeeper with the knack of scoring goals?
There is a widely held belief that all goalkeepers are mad. There is also a theory that they are, at heart, frustrated outfield players.
Yashin would come out of the box to sweep up behind his defenders, Schmeichel would go up for corners, Higuita would join his outfield colleagues, sometimes with disastrous consequences, Ramón ‘El Loco’ Quiroga was equally rash in his excursions from the penalty area, but Chilavert…

As well as being solid between the sticks, Paraguayan José Luis Félix Chilavert González also had a reputation for banging them in. he was a free kick specialist as well as a regular penalty taker. Consequently he has a record 62 career goals, a goal every eight games.
Chilavert was also known for his eccentricity and at times fiery temper; during a qualifying game for the 2002 World Cup, he spat on Brazil’s Roberto Carlos. He also angered the Paraguayan government by refusing to take part in the Copa America of 1999, as he claimed the funding would be better used for education.
Chilavert played most of his football in Argentina with Vélez Sársfield, helping them win the Argentine championship four times as well as the Copa Libertadores and the Intercontinental Cup, both in 1994
He was voted World Goalkeeper of the Year by the IFFHS in 1995, 1997, and 1998.
In 1996 he was named South American player of the year- the only goalkeeper to win this accolade.

FIFA named Chilavert on the France ’98 tournament All Star Squad.

1999, he became the first goalkeeper to score a hat-trick in the history of football, while playing for Vélez against Ferro Carril Oeste, scoring all three goals through penalties. He also scored a memorable free-kick from behind the half-way line against River Plate.
He has 74 international caps for Paraguay and an impressive 8 international goals

How does one choose a goalkeeper? Surely in a truly great team the goalkeeper will be almost insignificant? Similarly a great goalkeeper might appear in an average or even poor team. And why place emphasis on the spectacular, when security is paramount, rather than acrobatics? Clean sheets, particularly in a defensive minded team, are not necessarily a reflection of superlative goalkeeping abilities. Maybe nowadays the ability to save penalties, when so many top level matches are thus decided, is the measure?
Statistical analysis does not always help. Accepted wisdom is merely opinion stated as fact.

Statue of Yashin at Dynamo

There appears to be a consensus amongst experts on the game that Lev Yashin ( Dynamo Moscow & CCCP) was the greatest goalkeeper of all time. He is the only goalie to date to be European Footballer of the Year (1963) and in 2000 was named FIFA World Keeper of the Century.

In 812 career games Yashin kept 480 clean sheets. In 78 internationals he conceded 70 goals . It is believed that he made over 150 penalty saves during his career.
We read of games in which Yashin’s feats kept the score respectable (1958 vs Brazil) and others in which he played poorly as his team surrendered a strong position (1962 vs Columbia, when he conceded a Gol Olimpico). He featured spectacularly in the 1963 FA Centenary match at Wembley , when he appeared in the Rest of the World XI against England and made a number of breathtaking saves.
Yashin is credited with several tactical innovations that have since become common practice- punching clear, using the quick throw of the ball to launch counterattacks, coming out of the penalty area to anticipate danger (acting as a sweeper), and the command and organization of the defenders.
We will revisit the position of goalkeeper from time to time, and suggestions are always welcome!