Euro 2012 – Group B goalkeeping preview

**BET £10, GET £20 FREE ON EURO 2012 AT PADDY POWER – CLICK HERE**

Rarely has there been a stronger group assembled in international football. With all four members of Group B nestled inside FIFA’s top 10, it’s been labeled the ‘group of death’. It doesn’t lack for goalkeeping talent either and here’s a rundown of the twelve vying for game time at Euro 2012.

Denmark

The Danes go into the tournament with a trio of goalkeepers lacking experience at international level. Between them Stephan Andersen, Kasper Schmiechel and Anders Lindegaard have a grand total of 15 caps.

Anderson (30) is likely to get the nod by virtue of his slight advantage in experience and strong showing for Evian in Ligue 1. He’s a very technically correct goalkeeper with good reflexes and tidy hands. He’s arguably the least globally famous of the Danes goalkeeping ranks, but he’s a reliable presence.

Lindegaard (28) had a mixed bag of a season for Manchester United. At one point he looked unbeatable and, in contrast to the struggles of David De Gea, the keeper more able to handle the pressure of playing at Old Trafford. It didn’t take long for more suspect performances to come however and combined with the young Spaniard finding his feet, he was relegated to the bench. He wasn’t helped by injury towards the end of the season and his inactivity has counted against him.

It’s hard to disassociate Schmeichel junior with the standards set by his Dad. Examined in his own right, Kasper is a good pro, capable of pulling off some saves, but also a little too error-prone so far in his career. He has played for Denmark’s underage teams, but has yet to earn his first senior cap. If all goes to plan for Morten Olsen and his team, that won’t change at this tournament.

Germany
Manuel Neuer went to World Cup 2010 as the replacement for the tragic Robert Enke. He was good, but a little raw and it showed. Two years on, he’s got two good seasons under his belt and he looks genuinely world-class. His effort to keep out Drogba’s header in the Champions League final wasn’t his finest hour, but it was one possible mistake in a season of excellent performances.

Behind him in the order is the vastly experienced Tim Wiese. Ideally Joachim Loew would prefer not to need him, but if called upon, the 30-year-old newly signed Hoffenheim keeper will be a reliable deputy. He made a few high-profile blunders a few seasons back, but he bounced back to become a more solid keeper. Ever the man for the blunt quote, former Arsenal and Germany keeper Jens Lehmann is less convinced telling the media “If Neuer gets injured, we have no chance.”

The ‘one for the future’ in the goalkeeping division is Ron-Robert Zieler. The former Manchester United youth team player has excelled since returning to his homeland. He has just one senior international cap to his name, but has played for Germany all the way up the age groups, including the successful Under 19 European Championships campaign of 2008.

Netherlands

Spain undoubtedly have the strongest goalkeeping division at the Euros, but the Netherlands are a close second. Maarten Stekelenburg was excellent in the Oranje’s run to the final of the 2010 World Cup and it’s his experience that makes him the preferred number 1 over his two immensely talented rivals.

Michel Vorm goes into the tournament on the back of an excellent season with Swansea. His reputation grew with every Premier League performance. He’s arguably a more agile and athletic keeper than Stekelenburg, but may suffer for being a less authoritative figure under the high ball.

Tim Krul was another Dutchman to have an excellent Premier League season. He has some lightening quick reflexes (see his string of point blank saves for Newcastle this season) and more command of his penalty area than Vorm, so it looks like a lack of experience is the main issue undermining his claims.

Portugal
The official line coming from the Portuguese camp is that the goalkeeping role is up for grabs with each player having an opportunity to impress. That stance was backed up with the rotation used in the friendlies coming in to the tournament.

Rui Patricio of Sporting Lisbon is most likely to get the nod however. He was the choice for the latter stages of the qualifying campaign and is arguably the most naturally talented of the three. He lacks the experience at club of his two older compatriots, but his natural athleticism and reflexes make up for it. His handling can be a little untidy at times, but as that’s some his rivals also sometimes struggle with, it’s not a major disadvantage. Rumours have done the rounds about a possible move the Manchester United and although that makes little sense, it does suggest how highly he is rated.

Eduardo began the road to Poland and Ukraine as the first choice, but lost his place after slipping down the pecking order at Benfica. Something of a penalty saving specialist, he’s an agile keeper, but one that doesn’t exert the greatest command of his penalty area. To his credit, he played all of Portugal’s matches at World Cup 2010, conceding just one goal in four games and keeping three clean sheets.

Beto is almost certainly rated as the third choice of the three. He hasn’t been able to leapfrog Helton at Porto and spent last season on loan in Romania, playing for CFR Cluj. There’s no doubting his supreme agility or tenacity, but you get the feeling he tends to ham it up for the cameras, which isn’t ideal. At 6 foot tall, he lacks height and as a result he can be poor under the high ball.


**BET £10, GET FREE £20 ON EURO 2012 AT PADDY POWER – CLICK HERE**

Szczesny of Arsenal voted goalkeeper of the season

Wojciech Szczesny

Readers of ministryofglove.com have voted Arsenal goalkeeper, Wojciech Szczesny as the Premier League goalkeeper of the season. Szczesny (21) earned 35 per cent of the votes, David De Gea of Manchester United came second on 29 per cent with Michel Vorm of Swansea back in third on 11 per cent.

The young Pole’s natural ability has been apparent since his loan spell with Brentford in the 2009/10. When he finally made his Premier League debut for Arsenal against Manchester United at Old Trafford in December of 2010, he was a better keeper again from his time at Griffin Park, but not without his flaws. He experienced his ups and downs. In February of 2011, against Barcelona in the first leg of Champions League Last 16 at the Emirates, he pulled off a string of excellent saves to keep the Gunners in the tie and incredibly, lay the foundations for an unlikely win on the night. He received undue criticism for his role in the goal that handed Birmingham the Carling Cup later in the month, but in general, his performances suggested he still had some growing to do.

Thankfully, that growing up has happened remarkably fast. I don’t know how he spent the summer of 2011, but when he returned to the Emirates Stadium in August, he looked a bigger, more composed and authoritative figure. Previously he had the tendency to get involved when he didn’t need to – both on and off the pitch – but that feistiness has by and large been curbed and channeled into the more productive direction of leadership.

As a sign of his emerging influence at the club, it’s notable how many times he has been the one chosen for media duties, both in the build-up and after Arsenal matches. Despite only turning 22 years of age this coming Wednesday, he feels like one of Arsenal’s senior players and the role suits the more mature Szczesny perfectly. He comes across as focussed, but level-headed individual.

In this campaign he has been brilliant. Even as Arsenal stumbled their way through the early part of the season, he was excellent, making saves that eked out points for his team and stopped the club’s morale from being annihilated entirely. When Robin Van Persie clicked into gear, Arsenal’s season got up and running, but the good form of Szczesny was what ensured his goals went towards victories rather than smaller – or no – returns.

Szczesny has been brilliant this season and the underrated factor in Arsenal’s resurgence. With youth on his side, he has the time and capacity to develop further. If he gets a slice of good luck and good health, he has the potential to become an Arsenal and Premier League legend.

David De Gea was voted into second place on the poll. The Spaniard certainly has claims to the comeback of the season. His Old Trafford obituaries when being written after a poor adaptation to life in the Premier League, but since Christmas, his form has improved markedly and been crucial in forging the five point advantage United currently enjoy at the top of the table. He now cuts a more confident and comfortable figure than the forlorn young man in the glare of a critical spotlight a few months back. To draw what may in time prove to be an apt parallel, Sir Alex Ferguson wasn’t overly effusive about Peter Schmeichel’s first season at Old Trafford and that worked out pretty well for all concerned. It’s premature, but with more learning to do, De Gea has shown he has the potential to have a long and successful career at the Theatre of Dreams.

Brendan Rodgers purchase of Michel Vorm was arguably the best bit of business conducted in the Premier League this season. He made his debut in the Swans 4-0 thumping at the hands of Manchester City, but the Dutchman came away from the game with immense credit. The stats say he made 11 saves that night and it’s hard to overstate how important those saves where. Had he made only five or six of those saves and Swansea went on to lose 8-0 or 9-0, immediately the squad would have doubted their ability to compete in the Premier League and almost certainly would not have enjoyed the season of free-flowing football they did. He came up big at crucial times several times during the campaign and Rodgers next managerial trick will be keeping him away from the grasp of clubs with more financial clout than the Swans.

The results in full

Szczesny (Arsenal) – 35.38%
De Gea (Man Utd) – 28.72%
Vorm (Swansea) – 10.77%
Krul (Newcastle) – 8.46%
Friedel (Tottenham) – 7.44%
Hart (Man City) – 5.38%
Al Habsi (Wigan) – 2.82%
Ruddy (Norwich) – 1.03%

Premier League 2011/12 GK Preview: Swansea City

Swansea

Jose Moreira

1st Team Squad Goalkeepers: Michel Vorm, Jose Moreira, David Cornell, Yves Makabu-Makalambay

Overview: The summer transfer window has seen a complete U-turn in fortunes for Swansea’s goalkeeping ranks. It started with the disappointment of the departure of the goalkeeper who was instrumental in getting them to the promised land of the Premier League, Dorus De Vries, but they’ve done some impressive wheeling and dealing to more than compensate for his loss. I’ve said all along that as much as he was a great servant to the club, losing De Vries isn’t the a huge loss. It would have been had the Swans not strengthened their goalkeeping ranks to such an extent. He’s a good goalkeeper, but I feel his weaknesses would have been really exposed in the Premier League. He’s a good all-rounder with good natural reflexes, is very strong in one on one situations and is always brave and committed, but also found there to be a certain lack of agility to him and he was often rather untidy with his handling.

The signing of Jose Moreira was a decent signing, but not one that totally convinced. He comes with credentials. Although there’s a lack of strength in-depth in the Portuguese league, he has managed ten years at the pressure cauldron that is Benfica and that’s not something you do without a certain amount of ability. He’s also got an international cap to his name which again doesn’t necessarily translate and guaranteed quality, but does hint at something above the ordinary. Scratch the surface however and its a little more questionable. Moreira did spend a decade in Lisbon, but for much of it was only a back-up. He averaged 11 games a season and although some of that was down to injury, he hasn’t been first choice for an extended period of time.

It’s not all bad however, He’s an athletic, robust sort of keeper who shouldn’t have too many problems adapting to the English game. I’m reluctant to use the phrase ‘good shot-stopper’, but there’s little doubt that his main skill is the ability to cover his goal. After that, the question marks start to appear. He’s not the most convincing under crosses, favouring the punch rather than the catch in the majority of cases and in general he prefers to parry away shots rather than attempting the clean sheet. The commentators and pundits can get caught up in lambasting goalkeepers for punching and parrying rather than catching, but it certainly has it’s merits and there are plenty of situations in which it’s the right decision for a goalkeeper to make. With Moreira, his utter reluctance to catch the ball crosses over the line from being a sensible call by the goalkeeper to being a bit of an issue.

The signing of Michel Vorm changes everything however and when the season comes to an end £1.5 million fee could have him mentioned as the bargain of the season. Vorm is a an excellent goalkeeper. Although comparing him with a hypothetical hybrid does a disservice to all involved, for illustrative purposes I would see him as being something of a mix between Jorge Campos and Shay Given and here’s why. He’s got the spring-heeled agility of the Mexican goalkeeping legend. He absolutely launches himself at shots and combined with his superb reflexes, he is capable of pulling off virtually miraculous saves.He’s quick off his line, incredibly brave and he has got really good hands, not dissimilar to the Irish international. It’s no surprise to see him gain international recognition and he’ll surely go on to amass more than his five caps over the next few years.

The mentioning of Campos and Given does also have some negative connotations however. Vorm is on the shorter end of the spectrum when it comes to goalkeepers. His height is given as being 6ft on the nose, but as with most profiles, I think that may be a case of rounding up. As such he doesn’t have a great command of aerial situations. I’ve argued that this isn’t necessarily a terrible trait. As long as defenders know that their goalkeeper won’t be coming for a cross and it’s up to them to deal with it, confusion should be avoided. It’s something the players in front of Shay Given have had to deal with throughout his career and he has been involved in remarkably few calamities on crosses. Bigger problems arise with goalkeepers who make bad judgements of when to come for crosses and the sense of uncertainty creeps into the penalty area.

The two acquisitions mean David Cornell can go out on loan and get some much-needed first team experience. He’s a young player of immense potential, but he has long way to go and possibly a couple of loan spells away from the club before being a Premier League keeper. It also means Yves Makabu-Makalambay should see a mercifully minimal amount of playing time. At his best, the Belgian is an agile and effective keeper, but too often a howler isn’t too far around the corner.

Worst case scenario: In my opinion, the Swans have gone from a dire goalkeeping situation to one of real strength. The real concern would be that neither Moreira or Vorm settle in the English game, but even so, Brendan Rogers should be able to rotate them in such a way that he always has one who is in some kind of form.

What will probably happen: Vorm will perform well and make the difference between Swansea earning three points rather than one or one point rather than none. If there is a dip in form, Moreira can step in and more than likely do a decent job for a few games without having his weaknesses exposed to any great effect.