Group D is a group full of established and emerging goalkeeping talent. Here’s a look at the custodians involved in a very unpredictable group.
Joe Hart is he number one and after a strong season and much improvement from the Manchester City keeper, it’s a straightforward pick. Over the last twelve months, he has gained the experience and judgement to compliment his obvious agility and reflexes. He’s now a more commanding figure in aerial battles and his once suspect concentration now looks pretty flawless. He’s the number one and without him England are substantially weaker.
If for any reason misfortune strikes, Robert Green will step in. He will forever be remembered for his howler against the USA at World Cup 2010, but he has bounced back well since that disappointment and subsequent tabloid character assassination. His reactions are top class, but his handling can be an issue. That said, if he needs to step in, he has the experience and ability to do it with minimum of fuss.
The selection of Jack Butland on the stand-by list was Roy Hodgson’s bolt from the blue. When John Ruddy broke a finger and had to withdraw from the squad, the untested 19 year old ws the focus of much attention. Owned by Birmingham, but on loan at League 2 Cheltenham for the last few months, it was a bold move by Hodgson. It had hints of Theo Walcott being brought along to World Cup 2006 ain’t to give him the experience of an international tournament. That’s fine, but if he is called into action, it could be a decision England may rue.
Hugo Lloris has quietly gone about becoming one of the best goalkeepers in the world over the last few seasons. Lyon have fallen off their Ligue 1 perch, but Lloris has continued to impress with his consistency and ability. Laurent Blanc handed him the captaincy and that speaks volumes about the 25 year old’s maturity and importance to the them. His good form was rubber stamped when he was this season voted Ligue 1’s Goalkeeper of the Year for a third time.
In reserve, France have the considerable talents of Steve Mandanda. The Marseille captain’s agility and reactions have always been evident, but his handling often let him down. In the last couple of seasons however, this has improved markedly and he now looks a far more reliable keeper. He’s get into several of the sides at Euro 2012 as a first choice, but will find it hard to leapfrog Lloris in the years ahead.
The third choice is Cedric Carrasso of Bordeaux. He’s the oldest of the three, but has only one cap to his name. That’s largely down to bad timing as his peak years have coincided with the rise of Lloris and Mandanda. He’s hugely agile and capable and won’t look out of his depth in the unlikely event he’s called into action.
Despite not making the grade at Juventus or Manchester City, Andreas Isaksson has forged a good career for himself at PSV and become Sweden’s undisputed number 1. The 30 year old is closing in on his century of caps for the national side. At 6′ 6″, his height doesn’t compromise his agility. He’s an excellent shot-stopper and even though he’s not textbook perfect, he has the knack of getting something in the way of the ball. He may parry a little too often, but he’s a reliable first choice. For a keeper of his height however, his command of the aerial battle is below standard. He needs to take charge of what can be an uncertain Swedish defence.
Johan Wiland is the most senior keeper in terms of age, but he’s the junior in terms of international caps. The Copenhagen keeper has eight to his name and at 31, may find himself behind Isaksson for most of his career. Like Isaksson, he’s a little unorthodox, but he gets the job done. His reflexes are top class and he’s brave in one on one situations.
Par Hansson is the youngest of the three goalkeepers and the one least likely to see game time. At 25, he’s very highly rated in his homeland and he will get his chance in future. His reactions are great and he’s very quick – he really is an exciting prospect for the future. One thing he may need to work on is his aerial presence. He stays on his line most of the time and to step up to the next level, will need to become more assertive.
The co-host’s preparation has been hindered by a severe dwindling of their goalkeeping options. The vastly experienced Oleksandr Shovkovskiy has been the first choice for the better part of the last two decades, but he has been ruled out after having to have shoulder surgery. The usual back-up of Maksim Dikan has been ruled out due to serious injuries picked up in a league game for Spartak Moscow earlier this season and another option, Oleksandr Rybka is serving a ban for testing positive for a banned diuretics whilst playing for Shakhtar Donetsk.
It leaves Andriy Pyatov as the man likely to start their campaign against Sweden. He has established himself as a firm favourite at Shakhtar Donetsk, particularly impressing in their Europa League run of 2009. Athletic and sharp, he won’t stand out as a weakness, but clearly he’s not the man most Ukrainians would want in goal.
If something does happen to Pyatov, then there’s problems for Ukraine. Mainly because between them, his two back ups have three caps. Two of them belong to Oleksandr Horyainov of Metalist Kharkiv. The 36 year old has plenty of experience at club level and he’s more than capable of filling in, but an ideal scenario would see him spend the tournament bench-warming.
Maksym Koval has just one cap to his name, but at the age of 19, that’s less of a concern. He has been ear-marked as a future star for some time now and will no doubt form a large part of Ukraine’s footballing future. He has made some gaffes in his short career, but it’s to be expected and his agility ad reflexes stand out as being exceptional. It would be a big ask to step into such a high pressure environment at such a young age, but the experience will stand him in good stead for the years to come.