Iker Casillas Sending Off And Antonio Adan

Real Madrid have often been accused of being on the right end of some favourable decisions in the race for La Liga down through the decades. A lot of the time those accusations tended to emanate from the Catalan region, but there’s no doubt that during much of their history, they have been rewarded for being distinctly more Spanish than their biggest rivals. They had a special place in the affections of General Franco and were afforded decisions often for no reason other than it would upset los Cules.

Such favouritism has long since disappeared as witnessed by the fact they were the victims of a harsh – possibly not incorrect – decision on Sunday against Espanyol. More specifically, it was Iker Casillas who was dismissed less than 2 minutes into the game. It was harsh, but after several replays, it looks like there was contact and although Jose Callejon could possibly have stayed on his feet, such behaviour is now the exception rather than the rule in the modern era.

He may have been a little hard done by, but the decision to sprint out of his penalty area wasn’t the best of his career and the Real captain left himself in a very vulnerable position. In the short-term, Real recovered to record a win in a potentially tricky away tie, but there may be a longer lasting headache. He’ll now serve a suspension and thanks to other events over the weekend, any prolonged absence could have a bearing on the Special One’s admittedly slim chances of landing the La Liga title in his first season at the Bernabau.

It assumes significant mainly because although the Barcelona players look like more than mere mortals, they’re still not quite Gods and the hard work of Sporting Gijon did more than most to halt the breath-taking momentum. Having racked up an awesome sequence of wins, they could only manage a draw at Gijon. In the end, the two points dropped may mean nothing more than a smaller margin of victory, but it’s a timely reminder that this could yet turn into a title race. With another league Superclassico to come before the season ends, there is a chance to close the gap, but it’s likely to require near perfection from Real.

With Jerzy Dudek still injured presumed basically retired, Real are now likely to turn the man who played the remaining 88 minutes on Sunday – Antonio Adan. They are arguably the biggest glove to fill in the world – especially so when you’re 23. I’ve said countless times that what stands out about Casillas is not just superb athleticism, but a remarkable ability to concentrate and make saves at crucial times – tipping a game from ‘the the balance’ towards Real’s grip. Plus there’s the more intangible benefit of defenders knowing they have Iker Casillas behind them to bail them out should things not go exactly to plan.

Emulating Casillas won’t be an option in the short-term, but Adan is more than capable of doing a job. Although largely a reserve for much of his time at the club, the system of allowing La Liga reserve teams to compete in lower divisions has meant he has been able to amass decent amount of first team experience – albeit away from the pressure of top flight football. Having watched him on the few occasions when he has got a first team run out, the has the tools to do well. His hands look good and he has no problem throwing himself at the feet of attackers.

This relative unknown could yet be the biggest factor in deciding whether or not we see a title race in Spain.

Goalkeeper World Rankings

Goalkeeper World Rankings
Jan. 27th 2011

Current (Former)
1. (1) Iker Casillas (Real Madrid and Spain)
2. (2) Petr Cech (Chelsea and Czech Rep.)
3. (3) Gigi Buffon (Juventus and Italy)
4. (4) Edwin Van Der Sar (Man Utd)
5. (5) Pepe Reina (Liverpool and Spain)
6. (6) Victor Valdes (Barcelona and Spain)
7. (8) Hugo Lloris (Lyon and France)
8. (9) Joe Hart (Man City and England)
9. (10) David de Gea (Atletico Madrid)
10. (-) Manuel Neuer (Schalke and Germany)

“31st in the world my ass.”

These rankings are my opinion.
Unabashed, possibly biased and undoubtedly debatable opinion.
There’s not much in the way of statistics, data analysis or science.
It’s nothing more than my gut feeling after watching mountains of football and paying nerd-like attention to the goalkeepers. I fully acknowledge they’re flawed, open to discussion and quite possibly wrong.

They’re still not the worst goalkeeper rankings I’ve seen. In my own slightly biased opinion.
That honour goes to Castrol World Rankings. They were brought to my attention this week and after deciding the overall rankings weren’t completely laughable i.e. Lucas Leiva isn’t at the top with Emile Heskey pushing him close, I checked out how they rated the world’s goalkeepers. ‘Bizarrely’ is the short answer.

Now everyone is entitled to an opinion, but if it’s so wrong it’s borderline gibberish just don’t bother. Daniel Aranzubia is a good pro, but rarely in his career has he looked like one of the world’s elite. Maybe being exposed to those fumes all day long is affecting the people at Castrol. Likewise Mariano Andjuar (3rd best in the world apparently) has impressed me on occasion, but his lack of consistency over a long period of time rules him out as one of the world’s best. Here’s certainly one of the top keepers in Serie A but gone are the days when that honour automatically qualifies you as one of the word’s best. With Curci, Storari and Sorrentino to also feature towards the top of the list all of a sudden you’ve got 5 Serie A goalies in the top 11, a figure which is wrong by in the region of 4 to 5. Other major queries I’d have would be:

Julio Cesar at the top is just wrong. Ceasr is an excellent goalkeeper, but at no point in the last year, month or even week has he been better than the likes of Iker Casillas, Petr Cech, Edwin van der Sar etc.
Craig Gordon at 7 – he’s playing very well, but it’s only been for a few months. Needs to have done it for a longer period of time to be that high on my list.
Cesar Sanchez at 12 – I’m not even convinced he’s the best goalkeeper at Valencia.
Marcus Hanneham at 17 – this makes him better than Petr Cech, Joe Hart and Heurelho Gomes. Again, he’s probably not even the best keeper at Wolves.
Petr Cech the 20th best goalkeeper on the planet? Which planet? He’s one of the top two on earth.
Finally – Iker Casillas at 31 in the list of keepers and 145th best player in the world overall?? Ok, now you’re just coming out with utter garbage to get attention – it’s the Sepp Blatter approach.

I didn’t actually get around to compiling my best goalkeeper of the year list last month, but regular readers will know how highly I rate Iker Casillas. It probably sounds a bit like man-crush. He should have been a genuine contender for the Ballon d’Or rather than the obligatry afterthought he appeared to be. He has carried his World Cup excellence back to Real Madrid and his crucial saves have facilitated a smooth transition to the Mourinho era at the Bernabau. One negative was the amount of picking the ball out of the net he had to do against Barcelona, but it was Barcelona at their rampant finest and concrete wall would have struggled to keep them at bay for 90 minutes. He was the best goalkeeper in December and of the Ministry’s Goalkeeper of 2010.

The rehabilitation of Peter Cech is complete. Not only has he returned to the heights of earlier in his career, but he has exceeded them. He is wiser with experience and combined with his supreme reflexes, agility and bravery he is awesome. With Chelsea struggling, there’s not much positive comment about any members of the team, but Cech has been simply outstanding. He’s a joy to watch and regardless of what happens with the Blues season, if he maintains his current levels he deserves to be considered for all end of season awards, not just the ones for goalkeepers. Reina maintains the good form that has kept Liverpool out of some serious trouble whilst Van der Sar still looks perfectly comfortable at the highest level of the game. The Dutchman’s retirement will be a huge loss to United and the fact that goalkeeping coach, Eric Steele was only half-jokingly asked by a BBC interviewer if he could convince Van der Sar to change his mind and stay for another year reflects how well he’s still playing having reached the big 40.

After a long spell out injured and an unseemly argument with the Juventus manager who suggested his reinstatement to the first team wasn’t a mere formality, Gigi Buffon has returned to action. Eyebrows were raised when he maintained his heady place in the rankings, but it’s unfair to demote someone due to injury. Sitting on the bench because you’re getting paid truckloads of money is a different matter …

That brings me on to Shay Given. I’ve been a huge fan of Given for many years, but the lack of activity in the transfer window does not paint him in the most ambitious of lights. Of course I understand that a football career is short and players need to feather their nests for a long period of earning a mere fraction of their professional days, but would the Irishman really be on the receiving end of a self-inflicted financial knee-capping if he moved to another Premier League club or major European league? Having such talent yet watching on from the bench isn’t right and Man City’s number two needs to play to prove he’s still one of the world’s best. Sporadic Europa League and international games are a start, but he should have bigger ambitions than that. Given isn’t suddenly a bad goalkeeper, we just haven’t seen enough of him. Joe Hart has been making mistakes of late and Roberto Mancini should give him a quick taste of the bench. It may not be a long term arrangement. The type of errors seem to come from complacency and a reminder that he’s not undroppable, wouldn’t be a bad idea. Hart is still a top quality keeper, but maybe we shouldn’t tell him quite so often.

Given has been dropped from the top 10 for Manuel Neuer. Ironically he hasn’t been playing a great deal lately either, but that’s got more to do with the Bundesliga winter break than anything else. His form has been crucial in Schalke’s recent surge from relegation candidates to European contenders.

Do you think any other goalkeepers deserve to be included? Leave your suggestions, abuse or praise in the comments section.

Best Goalkeeper Performance 2010

A fumble, a drop, a public embarrassment.
As ever, it’s the howlers and calamities that the majority of the attention from the mainstream media when it comes to goalkeepers, but 2010 saw no shortage of truly excellent performances.

Considering the importance of the match and the quality of his saves, what Iker Casillas did in the World Cup Final was astonishing. The compressed historical version will see it as a deserved triumph for free-flowing Spanish football over the wrecking ball approach of the Dutch, but in truth the Netherlands produced some silky skills of their own and could very easily have brought the stereotype of Spanish self-doubt back if they had taken the lead. It wasn’t the busiest or even most spectacular night of Casillas’ career, but the Spanish captain was excellent in denying Arjen Robben at crucial moments in the game. His concentration was supreme and when his time came, he was there time and time again with confident and assertive goalkeeping. His saves in one on one situations were the most memorable, but the way in which he fielded so many high balls with the minimum of fuss shouldn’t be forgotten. He took the pressure off his defenders and laid the foundations for a famous victory. Considering the size of the occasion and the poor start he made to the tournament, it was an excellent all round performance. Not quite performance of the year mind.

Julio Cesar ended the year known as the goalkeeper who cost Brazil their place at the tournament, but that once off blip can’t take away from an excellent first part of the year when he starred in Inter Mlian’s treble. His reactions and agility were a huge assistance to the Champions League campaign in general and the semi-final tie with Barcelona in particular. Over the two legs he made some outstanding saves and with the second leg taking place at the Nou Camp, his team needed whatever advantage they could muster. Much like Casillas on the night in South Africa, it may not have been the sheer volume of saves that impressed, so much as the command and composure he exerted in his area. Without Cesar, it could have been a different story and the hunt for their third European Cup could have run well beyond 45 years.

There were no World Cups or European trophies up for grabs in the match which saw the Ministry Of Glove’s Performance of 2010, but it did end up in silverware. Whilst being amongst Europe’s elite players means Casillas and Cesar are playing for bigger stakes, for a journeyman pro pressure comes in different ways. The FAI Cup Final rarely reaches an audience of hundreds of thousands, let alone hundreds of millions, but for Ciaran Kelly it was a massive game and he delivered for his team in real style. The game was played at the fabulous Aviva Stadium in front of a raucous crowd comprising Sligo Rovers and Shamrock Rovers fans. The game finished 0-0 after 120 minutes of football, but don’t allow the scoreline to paint a dreary mental image of the game. It was thrilling from start to finish and Kelly played no small part in helping Sligo Rovers keep pace with their more celebrated opponents in normal and extra time, but it was when the game reached the dramatic crescendo of a penalty shoot-out that Kelly excelled. He saved an incredible 4 of the Shamrock Rovers penalties, but even more impressive was the quality of the saves. He combined agility with intelligence and guts to put his team in with a great chance of winning – a chance they firmly grasped. Watch it all below.

Kelly’s first save was ultimately straightforward, but his movement along the goal-line plants the seed of doubt in the penalty-takers’ mind. The second save is genuinely top class. He reads the penalty-taker and flings himself acrobatically across the goal to make the save. A simple analysis would suggest he guessed right and made a full stretch save, but it’s the way in which he watches the taker – almost hunting him down – that gives you the sense he is in control. For me, the third save is the pick of the high class bunch. Kelly looks like he’s going to his left, but adjusts magnificently to stay upright and get a strong hand to the shot – it was superb anticipation from Kelly and required bravery because he ran the risk of looking very foolish indeed in front of a huge psyched up crowd. At this stage, Kelly making a fourth save looks like a mere formality, but again he adjusts brilliantly to get to one going down the middle. He has gone to his left, but the moment he realises where the shot is heading, slows down his dive and gets his legs to up and in the way. It was truly superb and it says so much about Kelly’s performance that the only criticism you could level his way is the Shearer-esque ‘too cool to celebrate wildly’ run he goes on after making the winning save. It was a great performance and the fact that it wasn’t at the highest level doesn’t take away from it one bit. Excellent goalkeeping isn’t dependent on the prize being competed for and Kelly deserves the accolade.

Honourable mentions
Joe Hart had numerous excellent performances both for Birmingham and upon his return to Man City. Petr Cech was excellent as Chelsea powered to the top of the table and still is despite the dramatic downturn in form. David de Gea has emerged as a top quality young goalkeeper and he had some outstanding games in La Liga throughout 2010. It wasn’t a good year for Liverpool, but the form of Pepe Reina saved it from being a whole lot worse. The Spaniard wasn’t always at the top of his game, but his habit of making crucial saves saved the Reds a hatful of points. He’s not without his own flaws, but Mark Schwarzer also deserves a lot of credit for his role in Fulham’s run to the final of the Europa League. It was a late entry for consideration, but Manuel Neuer’s performance for Schalke against Bayern Munich was remarkable and showed exactly why their such interest in signing him.

Disclaimer bit
Apologies for any major omissions here. As much as I try, it’s just not feasible to take in everything on offer in the lower British leagues, around Europe and across the globe. My choices are based on what I’ve watched or researched following glowing reports about the goalkeepers involved. Week in, week out there are goalkeeping performances that no doubt fully deserve to be mentioned. Although I may make the same mistakes in 2011 and miss out on some performances, I thoroughly enjoying watching and appreciate all the efforts of the goalkeepers out there.

Man Utd Goalkeeper Options

Originally written on 1st Dec. for BackpageFootball.com

As responses go, the reaction to Manchester United’s signing of Anders Lindegaard has been colder than a face full of snow. Peter Schmeichel questioned if Lindegaard is of a high enough standard to command the club’s number 1 spot and several other commentators have questioned the price tag and the pedigree of the Dane. Despite his handful of caps for the Danish national side, it looks likely he’s been signed primarily for his bench-warming ability and the occasional Carling Cup or European dead rubber outing. With Edwin Van der Sar likely to hang up his gloves at the end of the season, it’s very unlikely Sir Alex will head into the new season with his goalkeeping division so devoid of top class talent – surely he’s learned his lesson from the Massimo Tiabi incident. But who’s likely to come in? Here’s a look at some of Fergie’s goalkeeping options.

David de Gea

1. David de Gea
So interested is Sir Alex in signing De Gea that he missed his first United game since the ‘you don’t win anything with kids’ era to go and watch him. At the time Fergie passed it off as a routine scouting mission to look at Valencia and Atletico Madrid talent in general, but the repeated visits of his scouts to the Vicente Calderon stadium would suggest the interest is more specific. Having broken into the first team last season, De Gea has gone from strength to strength in an inconsistent Atletico side and the reasons for Fergie’s interest are obvious. He’s agile, got good hands and commands his penalty area with an authority uncommon in goalkeepers only a handful of weeks into their twenties. As a bonus, having cut his teeth in the glare of the Madrid sports media, he should be well accustomed to the scrutiny he’ll encounter as United’s number 1.

On the negative side, he will cost a pretty penny. He’s good and Atletico know it. They’re under little pressure to sell and hung on to Fernando Torres for a couple of seasons longer than expected. Likewise, they’ve withstood the temptation to cash in on Sergio Aguero. Fergie would have to part with around £20 million for De Gea and with that pricetag comes real pressure. One bad game would bring a blizzard of criticism and for a young man in a strange country, it’d be interesting to see how he would react. He hasn’t really endured a significant dip in form to date and if he made some errors early on in his Old Trafford career, it would be interesting to see how he responds. He’d be a great signing for United and if all goes well, could make the spot his own for the next 15 years. But if it doesn’t, it would be a costly error.

Manuel Neuer

2. Manuel Neuer
Let’s get this clear – making a comparison to the Great Dane, does not necessarily mean he’s in the same class as the United legend. Neuer is merely very similar in style to Schmeichel. You won’t find pictures of either in books about goalkeeping technique, but they get the job done. The German has the unorthodox effectiveness that made Schmeichel such a world class keeper. He’s aggressive, his reflexes are top drawer and his physique will be well suited to the demands of the Premier League. He stays big in one on ones and will throw himself courageously at the feet of opponents when the situation requires it. One negative may be his handling, both in dealing with shots and collecting crosses. It’s not always perfect and he sometimes needs a couple of grabs to secure a ball. Similar to the De Gea however, his club are in no hurry to sell and will come with a substantial price tag. Judging by their recent recruitment policy and their loyal following, Schalke are in a healthy financial state. He’ll be expensive, but for such a young goalkeeper, he’s got the high level experience that could justify such an outlay.

Hugo Lloris

3. Hugo Lloris
Followers of the rumour mill will know that Europe’s top clubs have been sniffing around Hugo Lloris for the last couple of years. Moves to Serie A and La Liga have been mooted, but for a time during the summer, a move to a certain French enclave in North London was looking likely. Nothing came to pass and Lloris remains a big fish in the relatively small pond of Ligue 1. He has obvious appeal because despite being just 23, Lloris has amassed over 150 senior appearances and – thanks to his time at Lyon – has sampled plenty of Champions League football. This season has been more of a struggle for the French giants, but Lloris has avoided much of the criticism. He is without doubt a world class goalkeeper. He’s an excellent shot-stopper and his reflexes are superb. His hands and footwork have the technical hallmarks of the famed French coaching system and if there is an Achilles heel, it comes in the form of the difficult-to-teach area of judging crosses. When he does get there, he’s usually good to catch the ball or get a vital hand to it, but he has on occasion completely misjudged the flight of the ball and been left a spectator to the action in his own goalmouth. There’s a potential problem for Fergie if he’s serious about Lloris. If word gets out that he’s available – and club chairman Jean Michel Aulus isn’t exactly renowned for keeping quiet – it’s likely to trigger a bidding war and seriously inflate the price. In this case however, Lyon are renowned as a selling club and they may decide to cash in sooner rather than later. The last time Fergie opted for the French number 1, the results were very much mixed. It’s interesting to know if he’s tempted to go back to this particular well another time.

Shay Given

4. Shay Given
The most controversial and left field of Fergie’s options. The United/City rivalry has moved beyond something Sky Sports emphasize to flog a generally meaningless game. The cash injection has meant City’s aspirations go beyond bragging rights and as such United are a genuine rival rather than a Goliath waiting for a bloodied nose. That may be one obstacle in a potential move, but if selling to a direct rivals was a concern, then the move to Arsenal probably wouldn’t have been mentioned as seriously as it was. In the end it appeared to be Arsene Wenger’s reluctance to do business that scuppered the move. The situation at City has been rough on Given. He remains better than about 85% of the goalkeepers in the Premier League, but it just so happens that Joe Hart is better than about 90% of goalkeepers in the Premier League. The Irishman turns 35 next year, but that shouldn’t be a worry for Fergie as there’s no real depreciation in his talents. Any fumbles or slight mishaps he has had for Ireland or on the rare occasion he does get a game for City look to be as a result of rustiness rather than the onset of age. He should come quite cheap and he’s a proven Premier League performer. He may not be seen as a long term solution, but then again, people were probably saying the same thing about a certain Dutchman a few years back.

Van der Sar

5. Edwin Van der Sar
United’s current first choice is now in his fourth decade of professional football, but on the outside at least doesn’t seem to have lost his appetite for the game. It’s thought to be an open secret that Van der Sar will be retiring at the end of this season (so open that one of United’s coaches was talking about it openly a couple of months back)but in terms of ability, he’s got at least another season of top class football in him. With his wife suffering health problems last year, the Dutchman has a vaild reason to feel it’s time to call it a day and go about the business of enjoying life, but if it’s a possibility, Fergie could do worse than testing the Dutchman’s resolve. Much was made of his costly error against West Brom earlier in the season, but that was the type of concentration based mistake van der Sar was making in his twenties and thirties and not a result of age. Aside from that, he has been in fine form and his saves have directly earned United several points they would have otherwise dropped. Such has been the strength of his displays, that if he was still available to Bert van Marwijk, there’s every chance he’d remain first choice for the Oranje. It may only postpone a difficult decision about a long term successor for another season, but sticking with an old hand wouldn’t be the worst of options.

Goalkeeper World Rankings

The Ministry’s Top Ten Goalkeepers In The World

Current (Former)
1. (1) Iker Casillas (Real Madrid and Spain)
2. (2) Petr Cech (Chelsea and Czech Rep.)
3. (3) Gigi Buffon (Juventus and Italy)
4. (4) Edwin Van Der Sar (Man Utd)
5. (5) Pepe Reina (Liverpool and Spain)
6. (7) Victor Valdes (Barcelona and Spain)
7. (6) Shay Given (Man City and Ireland)
8. (8) Hugo Lloris (Lyon and France)
9. (9) Joe Hart (Man City and England)
10. (-) David de Gea (Atletico Madrid)

For yet another month, there can be little debate about Iker Casillas at the top of our Goalkeeper World Rankings. Critics may point to a costly error at the San Siro that handed AC Milan a goal, but on that occasion, it was a handling error accentuated by over-aggression and over confidence. Anticipating a cross along the six yard box, he took a step off his line, only to be left virtually stranded as the pass was skewed towards goal. His other performances in the last month were largely flawless however and he has plenty going for him in the pro column. Not for the first time, it’s the quality of his saves rather than overwhelming quantity that makes him so impressive. With Real’s new Galacticos routinely dismantling opponents, his involvement is kept to a minimum, but time over time throughout November he came up trumps for his team when called upon. His concentration is supreme and a great addition to his obvious athleticism. His performance could be the decisive factor in the first Clasico of the season on Monday,

Chelsea’s swift reversal of fortune has been dramatic, but the sudden glut of balls Petr Cech is now picking out of his net are no reflection on his performances. Throughout the crisis, he has remained firm and in actual fact minimized the impact of the faltering defence in front of him.

In an interesting twitter exchange with Shaka Hislop, we learned the former Newcastle and West Ham goalkeeper thinks our #3, Gigi Buffon is “well past his best”. It seems a harsh assessment for a players we haven’t seen since the World Cup in June, but clearly there’s something in the Italians game that Hislop has identified as being a concern. By his own admission, the Trinidad and Tobago international said he felt a deterioration in his own performance at around the age of 36 or 37 whilst he was still at Upton Park. Although it feels like he’s been around since the advent of the wheel, Buffon doesn’t turn 33 until next January. That would give a few more years in his relative prime to defy the predictions of Hislop. For the time being at least, we’re giving him the benefit of the doubt and leaving him largely untouched in the World Rankings until he eventually returns from injury.

Elsewhere on the list, there is little change. Pepe Reina is performing well behind a misfiring Liverpool team and something similar can be said of the 40 year old Edwin van der Sar. Shay Given continues to slide based almost solely on his inability to usurp Joe Hart in the Man City team. Hart is doing little wrong and with Mancini struggling to keep fans onside, he may just stick with the residual benefit that comes from sticking with the Englishman.

David de Gea makes his first appearance on the World Rankings list after another strong month, taking the Spanish representation to 4. Atletico Madrid are being their typically inconsistent selves, but were it not for his performances, they’d be simply be their atypical woeful selves. As we’ve said many times in the past, De Gea looks to have the complete package and one thing that’s stood out over the last few games is his desire to take command in his penalty area. It’s standard for most experienced keepers, but for man who only a few weeks ago left his teenage years, it’s impressive. Igor Akineev is the goalie to drop out of the Top 10. A few weeks ago we expressed concern about his handling and over reliance on punching when Ireland hosted Russia in a Euro 2012 qualifier and our follow up scouting missions of CSKA Moscow games found this to be the norm rather than the exception. It’s probably rather telling that speculation linking him with a move to Europe’s top clubs has died down in recent months.

The keeper of the month award goes to Casillas with Cech and De Gea occupying the places. He’ll no doubt be delighted.

England’s Goalkeeping Crisis

Ben Foster

International friendlies are football’s version of elections. There’s a bit of a fuss, they get a lot of attention, but regardless of the outcome, no-one’s happy and very little seems to have changed. Win a friendly and it’s nice, but largely insignificant. Losing isn’t good, but it’s easy to turn a blind eye and concentrate on future competitive matches. More resounding victories or defeats may be harder to ignore, but ultimately it’s the qualifying campaigns for the various international tournaments that are the yardstick for progress.

So despite that inauspicious summary, England’s performance against France is a major cause for concern. With suspiciously timed vague injuries again ruling out many starters and several newcomers in the team, taking the easy option and writing it off is understandable, but a lack of quality in depth was apparent across the team. And a lack of quality in shallow according to some.

The goalkeeping division is a major concern. Ben Foster isn’t yet an international standard goalkeeper. He got beaten at his near post for the first goal and his handling looked untrustworthy a couple of time. He’s young and may yet develop, but for the moment, relying on him isn’t ideal. True enough, England may not have to be should Joe Hart maintain his form and fitness over the long term, but it’s clear England’s well of goalkeepers is remarkably dry. When Hart pulled out through injury, things got so bad that Fabio Capello had to draft in Scott Loach who the day before had been playing for the England U21 side in Germany. We’ve got nothing against Loach, but it illustrates the lack of options available to the Italian.

Elsewhere, other countries don’t have such difficulties. Spain’s goalkeeping ranks are the envy of the world, whilst elsewhere Germany, Italy and France seem to have numerous possibilities should they be denied their first choice. So why the lack of options? Well, in a rare burst of hard-work, we’ve had a look at the respective top flights of Europe’s top 5 leagues to look at the breakdown of goalkeepers eligible for that country’s national team versus those who aren’t – i.e. foreign goalkeepers. It doesn’t look good.

We’ve gone with the squad data available on UEFA.com. Flawed it may be, but at least it’s flawed for everyone. And when it comes to tricky questions regarding nationality or dual nationality, we’re side-stepping any possible controversy by going with what UEFA say. Blame them, it’s their fault.

England's Goalkeeping Crisis

It shows there are a shockingly low number of opportunities being given to English goalkeepers in the Premier League. There’s a huge over reliance on foreign talent. Although the fact that the stats mean relatively locals such as the Scottish, Welsh, Irish and Northern Irish are included as foreigner, it still paints a grim picture and suggests in the interests of the national side, Premier League sides should be producing far more indigenous talent. Admittedly, just because they’re in the squad doesn’t mean they’re close to first team football, but the fact they’ll be exposed to top class goalkeepers and coaching talent on a daily basis should stand to them and improve them over the course of a career.

Have a look at the more detailed version of the data here, but it’s not for the faint-hearted.

There needs to a serious sea-change in England or else they’ll get a serious kick in the ballots over the next few years.