Not a vintage tournament for goalkeepers


The standard of goalkeeping at the World Cup can be summed up by the fact that the most memorable save of the tournament was made by a centre forward.

Conversely, two of the best displays by a man wearing gloves came from Ghana's Richard Kingson, who made most of his saves with his feet.

The tournament was not a vintage one for goalkeepers, with few doing much to enhance their reputations and many doing the opposite as they struggled to deal with the unpredictable aerodynamics of the Jabulani ball.

Uruguay striker Luis Suarez's flying one-handed block of Dominic Adiyiah's diving header in the last minute of extra-time in their quarter-final against Ghana was an effort most keepers would have been proud of, but only a handful of saves by conventional custodians stand out in the memory.

Image: Uruguay's Luis Suarez (right) saves a goal with his bare hands against Ghana
Photographs: Reuters

Kingson's display in that match and in the group phase was impressive, if a little unorthodox.

The man who spent last season as third-choice for Premier League side Wigan Athletic was always quick to see danger and used his legs to great effect.

There were some "normal" saves, however. It is hard to imagine the Netherlands coming back from 2-0 down against Brazil in their quarter-final but it looked certain to be the scoreline until Maarten Stekelenburg went full length to touch Kaka's curling shot around a post.

Fellow finalists Spain can also thank Iker Casillas for his penalty save against Paraguay.

Fernando Muslera was a major factor in Uruguay conceding only two goals in five games before the semi-finals and Paraguay's Justo Villar recovered from a first-game flap that handed a goal to Italy to have a good tournament.

Image: Ghana's goalkeeper Richard Kingson (left) slides in for the ball to stop United States' Jozy Altidore

Germany's Manuel Neuer was unspectacular but went about his business with a calm certainty. While others flailed and shifted their weight prematurely while dealing with long range shots, he ensured that the many he faced, particularly against Argentina in the quarter-final, were safely swallowed up in his chest.

Others flattered to deceive. Nigeria's Vincent Enyeama was man of the match in their opener against Argentina but blundered horribly in the next game to set Greece on course for their 2-1 comeback win.

Eduardo was excellent for Portugal against Spain but will probably be unhappy with his parry of David Villa's shot back into the striker's path for the only goal of the game.

Image: Manuel Neuer watches as Frank Lampard's strike crosses the goalline during the match against England

The first week of action featured a series of blunders, with England's Robert Green and Algeria's Faouzi Chaouchi both dropped after allowing tame shots to get past them and Australia's Mark Schwarzer and Alexandros Tzorvas of Greece also gifting goals.

Oddly, the ball was both villain and a boon for the keepers. Its unpredictable movement through the air, particularly its tendency to dip and swerve late, meant that any kind of block or parry was usually the order of the day.

Eyebrows were raised when Casillas was almost deceived by Cristiano Ronaldo's 30-metre free kick but in fact the big Spaniard had done well to ensure he was fully behind the ball, which swerved past his hands and hit his shoulder.

However, the fact that so few players were able to keep the ball below crossbar height from distance, particularly with free kicks, meant that all-too-often the keepers were not even tested.

Image: England's Robert Green is distraught after fumbling the ball and letting it past the goalline in their game against the US
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