Skip navigation

Category Archives: Lev Yashin

Lev Yashin– Soviet Union (1954-1970) there have been few challengers to his status as the greatest of all goalkeepers, Yashin was consistent- brave, an athlete and a great stopper.

Cafu– Brazil (1990–2006)** hard to beat and very dangerous going forward.
Franz Beckenbauer– West Germany (1965–1977)* (captain)The Kaiser was solid in defence and his accomplishments as a midfielder led to him practically inventing the role of sweeper. Would win the ball and then set off on marauding runs- box to box.
Marcel Desailly – France (1993–2004)* strong, solid and stylish.
Paolo MaldiniItaly (1988–2002) the greatest of all left backs, period.

Didi– Brazil (1952–1962)** defined the modern midfielder as we know it- lethal from free kicks, combative, incisive passer.
Socrates– Brazil
(1979–1986) superb ball player and an ideal fulcrum.
Zinadine Zidane – France (1994–2006)* the paragon of modern midfield play, tough, skillful and a deadly finisher.

Mané Garrincha– Brazil (1955-1966)**Mané wasn’t always glued to the right touchline- he often cut into the inside right channel and could shoot from range or deliver very telling balls into the danger area.He could head the ball also.
Johann Cruyff– The Netherlands (1966–1978) could have picked him in a number of positions, his finishing alone justifies his place at the centre of a three man attack.
Pelé– Brazil- (1957–1971)*** his range of talents and prolific scoring record cannot be overlooked.

I’m shamelessly nostalgic , so I’ll take any criticisms of the ‘retro’ look of my 11 with a pinch of salt. At first I was concerned that it was a bit right sided (imagine having Cafu overlapping Garrincha!). There is also the argument that Garrincha wouldn’t do much tracking back. Cruyff was also accused of sometimes neglecting the defensive aspect of total football. But the midfield has a solid look to it! and the back four is a mobile and formidable unit. If Beckenbauer moved up into midfield with the ball he was usually moving forward with intent, so any gap left at the back was academic. As I’ve said before- in football there is no right or wrong- only opinion- it’s just a bit of fun.
Enjoy the World Cup!

I’m breaking my resolution to avoid posts on football during World Cup month: I’ll excuse myself by pointing out there are still 4 days to go…>One of the most futile, frustrating and yet inexhaustibly enjoyable pursuits open to the football lover is the selection of ‘all time greatest’ teams. In football there can be no right or wrong, only opinion, and it is impossible to select such teams given the changes that the game has undergone. Modern players are fitter, the ball is lighter, pitches better, they don’t have to put up with the rough treatment that wash dished out in the past. Modern defensive play is better organised and I believe the general level of individual skill is greater than ever.
I’m not going to commit myself to naming my all time 11 yet, but let’s look at some others.
In 1994 FIFA selected this team, which lined up in a 4-3-3 formation:

Lev Yashin- Soviet Union (1954-1970)
Djalma Santos- Brazil (1952–1968)**
Franz Beckenbauer- West Germany (1965–1977)*
Bobby Moore- England(1962–1973)*
Paul Breitner – West Germany (1971–1982)*
Johann Cruyff- The Netherlands (1966–1978)
Michel Platini – France (1976–1987)

Bobby Charlton – England (1958–1970)*
Mané Garrincha- Brazil (1955-1966)**
Ferenc Puskas – Hungary & Spain (1945–1956/1962)
Pelé- Brazil- (1957–1971)***

At the FIFA World Cup in France 1998 Mastercard got 250 journalists to select their Team of the Century.Again the formation was 4-3-3:

Carlos Alberto Torres- Brazil (1964-1977) *
Nilton Santos- Brazil (1949-1963) **

Alfredo di Stefano – Argentina, Columbia, Spain (1947–1949/1949–1954/1954–1962)
Mané Garrincha
Diego Maradona- Argentina (1977–1994)*

In the build up to the 2002 World Cup selected the following on the basis of online voting by fans:

Paolo MaldiniItaly (1988–2002)
Roberto CarlosBrazil (1992–2006) *
Roberto BaggioItaly (1988–2004)
Zinadine Zidane – France (1994–2006)*
Romario – Brazil (1987–2005)*


Unlike the previous selections, which were quite logical and balanced, this is a crazy set up that would never work in reality. 3-4-3
3 at the back- Maldini on the right? Roberto Carlos
was strong going forward but couldn’t defend, Beckenbauer buried in the middle of a 3 man defence?
4 number 10’s in midfield-
11 great players, but not really a team.
Anyway- Joao Kartoshka will reveal his all time 11 in the near future…

That the 1962 tournament was staged at all is something close to a miracle- in May 1960, as the preparations were well under way, Chile suffered the largest earthquake ever recorded (9.5 magnitude).
The president of the Organization Committee, Carlos Dittborn, coined the phrase Because we don’t have anything, we will do everything in our power to rebuild, and the preparations were completed flawlessly on schedule.
The fact that two Italian journalists, Antonio Ghiredelli and Corrado Pizzinelli, had (apparently) spent weeks labeling Santiago a poverty-stricken dump full of loose women set the tone for the Chile vs Italy game, which became known as The Battle of Santiago. Ref Ken Aston fanned the flames by turning a blind eye to the indiscretions of the hosts- but when Italy’s Giorgio Ferrini was dismissed he had to be removed from the pitch by the police!
The Soviet Union’s Lev Yashin had a difficult tournament- he suffered concussion on two occasions. Marcos Coll of Columbia scored the only Olympic Goal in a World Cup against him in a 4: 4 draw, and then Yashin was held culpable as the hosts beat the Soviet team in the quarter finals. On this occasion Yashin’s embarrassment was compounded when Eladio Rojas, overwhelmed at having scored past the world’s best, could not restrain himself from embracing the Soviet keeper.
Another curious incident involving the Soviet team came in their game against Uruguay, when Igor Netto advised the referee that an apparent goal by his team mate Chislenko had in fact entered via the side netting. (Thierry Henry? Maradona?)
For the eventual champions Brazil Pele’s contribution was brief, as he was injured early in their second game (against Czechoslovakia). Fortunately for Brazil Garrincha was in the best form of his life, prompting the now famous headline in the El Mercurio newspaper:

¿De qué planeta procede Garrincha?

Sadly, the usually immaculate Czech goalkeper Viliam Schrojf, a hero of earlier stages, suffered the indignity of having the worst game of his career in the final.

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!