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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

"If the goalkeeper wasn't there, it would've been a goal."

TDH has just had the pleasure of seeing the Socceroos qualify for the World Cup finals for the first time in 32 years. Not that TDH has anything against Uruguay, but by the end of extra time, it was clear who wanted it more.

Despite the frenzied atmosphere down in Sydney, TDH was lost in thought, making Zen-like observations about the game. First among these was that Uruguay's coach, Jorge Fossati, is a dead ringer for Sam the American Eagle (pictured left).

Perhaps more relevantly, TDH was also struck by the notion that Liverpool fans have never in their lives seen Harry Kewell play the way he did tonight. Despite looking a bit overweight (and I don't mean the hair), he ran his socks off for 120 minutes and coolly stroked the inaugural penalty in the shootout. There are some players who approach every game as though their lives depended on it. Kewell isn't one. Perhaps the next time Rafa plans to use him, he should try some hypnosis to convince him that the World Cup is on the line.

The one who choked at the death was, of course, Mark Viduka. Well, TDH knew he was never a truly world-class striker and had even cringed when rumors flew that the man was coming to Tyneside. But 'Stralia was saved by the other Mark at Boro, i.e. Schwarzer, who batted away two penalties. And that brings TDH, through the usual tortuous logic, to The Big Lesson of Today: English Premier League goalkeepers are the best in the world.

The reason is simple yet not often mentioned. The Premiership draws its keepers from the biggest and most competitive labor pool of any top league. Currently starting are the first-choice stoppers from England, Australia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Northern Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany, plus some strong entrants from the US, Denmark, Portugal and Spain.

No other league can claim this diversity. And you know what? Some of these guys - particularly the ones from the US, Australia, and Northern Europe - are really tall. It makes a difference, as the 6-foot 5-inch Schwarzer's flailing hand showed tonight.

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The football gods giveth, and the football gods taketh away. TDH was initially heartened by the fact that Drogba will miss this weekend's tie with the Magpies, thanks to a surfeit of yellow plastic rectangles. But the injury to Crespo means that, yes, Eidur will probably be at the top of the Chelsea offense. As loyal readers know, Eidur is the man TDH fears most. With Steven Taylor out after picking up a crock for the England youngsters, this does not bode well. (Just driving away the evil eye, of course... Yep, that link's for you, Emre.)

4 Comments:

Blogger the Maradona of Malawi said...

HANG ON!
I'm sorry, but I cannae let your comment on the keepers pass. While I'm more than happy to agree that Italy is now the weakest of the big three leagues, there is no doubt that the best selection of keepers in the world reside in Serie A.

Sure, I think the second and third best keepers in the world reside in the Premiership (specifically, at Chelsea, from where Carlo, no3, may soon be leaving), but Italy have an incredible number of world class keepers. The reason why they don't have as many international number ones? Italian keepers tend to be the best in the world, a legacy of having Zoff as a successful national captain. Consider a country so stacked with world class keeping talent that the aforementioned Mr. Cudicini has never played for the Azzurri, and no-one has ever complained.

Serie A boasts of Buffon (easily the best keeper I've ever seen), Toldo, Dida, Cesar, Carini, Frey, and De Sanctis to name just a few. Dida has had the shakes a couple of times, true, but he's still better than the vast majority in the world. Edwin Van Der Sar found himself benchwarming at Juve behind Buffon, and now he's widely regarded as Man U's best performer this season.

Finally, I wouldn't stress too much about Eidur. Hernan will probably be fit for the weekend, he's travelled to Qatar with the squad, though he won't start.

2:33 PM  
Blogger The American Geordie said...

Ah, I fear you doth protest too much. You may be partial to Italian keepers, but the supposed experts don't agree. Yep, Buffon tops the charts, but not many other Serie A-ers (entirely too many vowels in a row) are up there.

Unfortunately, there's no really good way to compare these guys except in penalty saves, where the rest of the team doesn't make a difference. I don't know anyone who keeps stats on that, though these guys (links to PDF file) may have some.

5:38 PM  
Blogger Disciple of Eric said...

Er, just working out how to navigate a blog (???). Give me time, although I now have name!

Anyway, TDH (can I post your real name, or is that not the done thing in blogworld??), nice work. Great writing, as always.

Jayster

PS: Cuicini, 3rd best keeper in the premiership? I think not. Good shot stopper, but no presence and prone to the odd howler too.

My opinion, for what it's worth. I'll get me coat!

9:40 PM  
Blogger the Maradona of Malawi said...

I had a look at that list of best keepers in the world. Looks like they've been seduced by the charisma of the keeper rather than pure talent. No other explanation for Chilavert's 3 wins, compared to only one for Michel Preud'homme and two for Schmeichel.

Also a number of the international keepers in the Premiership aren't actually that good. Sorensen is prone to horrific mistakes, Dudek is erratic, though occasionally brilliant, and Lehmann, is, well, Lehmann.

7:31 AM  

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