France vs Germany - The battle of the sweeper keepers
In 2014 a goalkeeper needs to be more than just a goalkeeper and in no place will that be more obvious than in the Maracana on Friday evening. France’s World Cup quarter-final encounter with Germany will see the meeting of two shot stoppers that would have driven Don Revie insane, but epitomise the state of the game nowadays. Liam Coleman looks at the changing role of the goalkeeper.
In September’s North London derby, Lloris would have given every Tottenham fan a heart attack, as he constantly charged outside his box to thwart Arsenal’s onrushing attacks that had broken through the Lilywhites’ high defensive line. It worked though - the Frenchman was only beaten in that match by Olivier Giroud’s close range finish.
Similarly, Manuel Neuer was Germany’s stand out player against Algeria on Monday night, but the entire nation’s hearts would have been in their proverbial mouths every time he charged from his box. Here’s just one of many examples of Neuer sprinting from his box to compensate for Germany’s high line.
Neuer and Lloris are just two examples of a modern trend of goalkeepers, who should be more than just shot stoppers. Shot stopping used to be the only attribute for a goalkeeper - the clue is in the name that you just need to keep the goal - yet now it is one of dozens of attributes required to be a goalkeeper at the very highest level.
Tim Howard over the last year has gone from being a shot stopper to an all round defensive player and he feels this is what has taken him from Premier League also ran to USA national hero. He now sees himself as much more than a shot stopper, he is a vital cog in the working organism that is a football team with supremely accurate passing. Howard credits Roberto Martinez’s influence at Everton with this development: “he’s given me the confidence to control the rhythm and to see how the build up works from a goalkeeping standpoint.”
Everyone (rightly) focused on Howard’s wonderful saves against Belgium, but take a look at his pass distribution on our interactive chalkboard and you can see what he means about Martinez’s influence. He only misplaced two passes over 120 minutes and those were the only times he opted to kick the ball long.
Football is a possession game and in order to be a top level goalkeeper you now need to understand this and put it into practice. The Premier League’s leading young goalkeepers (the likes of Wojciech Szczesny and Thibaut Courtois) don’t just stop goals, they attempt to set them up for their own side with intelligent pass distribution. Managers are now realising that if they have a goalkeeper that can play the ball well as well as consistently stop shots, they are effectively gaining an outfield player.
Joachim Loew joked in the build up to Friday’s quarter final that Manuel Neuer could play in midfield due to him possessing the same technical skills as his other outfield players. I doubt we will see Neuer pinging the ball around midfield any time soon, but Loew’s words infer that Neuer is more than a shot stopper and thus effectively gives his side an additional outfield player. This is the goalkeeping style of the future and will be wonderfully showcased in the Maracana as France take on Germany.