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Millennium Post

hands of god

Two words .. TIM HOWARD #respect’, was the simple Twitter comment made by Belgium’s captain Vincent Kompany within minutes of his country finally beating the United States in the last 16 earlier this week. Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku, who hit the winning goal, and Dries Mertens, both hugged Howard at the end of their 120-minute onslaught on the 35-year-old Everton goalkeeper.

Howard’s 16 saves, some at point blank range, two spectacularly flicked over the crossbar, were a record for a goalkeeper in a World Cup match since 1966. The US defence seemed unable to resist the Belgian attack of Mertens, Divock Origi and Eden Hazard. US coach Jurgen Klinsmann said Howard kept the team in the game right to the end. The Americans had chances to equalise right until the final seconds. ‘How Tim played tonight was just phenomenal. As the game went on, on the back of Tim’s performance we got back in the game,’ Klinsmann said. Similar compliments have been paid to Ochoa for giving Mexico an unlikely 0-0 draw with Brazil in Group A, and Cesar for his heroics in keeping Chile at bay in a game Brazil won to reach the quarter finals. Costa Rica’s ‘keeper Keylor Navas was the hero as his side, down to 10 men, beat Greece in their last 16 game.

Goalkeeper as libero
Germany’s Manuel Neuer has been hailed for rushing out of his penalty area to clear the ball as North African minnows Algeria poured forward last Monday. ‘He reacted like a libero and protected us from many situations that smelled of danger,’ said Germany coach Joachim Loew. Neuer has a good job with Bayern Munich, but for some of the other goalkeepers, the brilliant performances could be a career saver. Ochoa was one of the main reasons why Mexico was on the brink of reaching the quarterfinals at the World Cup, before the Netherlands came from a goal down to win 2-1 with two late goals. The 28-year-old keeper, who plays for French second division team Ajaccio, now looks likely to attract the attention of Europe’s bigger clubs. He almost single handedly held Brazil to a 0-0 draw in the group stage and then kept the Dutch at bay until the final minutes in the second round. He twice prevented what looked like certain goals, getting between Stefan de Vrij and the ball in the 57th minute and then dropping down to stop Robben nine minutes later.

Against Brazil, his sprawling one-handed save from a powerful header by Brazil striker Neymar has been compared to the legendary stop by England’s Gordon Banks against Brazil’s Pele at the 1970 World Cup. ‘I feel really flattered. Of course I’d rather have less work,’ Ochoa, 29, said of the comparison. Neymar almost got his revenge before the game ended, sending in a free kick to Brazil captain Thiago Silva, whose close-range header was somehow stopped by the curly-haired Mexican ‘keeper.

Lucky Rabbit
Costa Rica’s Navas was another goalkeeper to earn man-of-the-match honours as his side beat Greece to reach the quarter finals for the first time. Navas has been hailed as his country’s new ‘Lucky Rabbit’, the nickname for Luis Gabelo Conejo, who kept goal for Costa Rica at the 1990 World Cup finals. Having thwarted Italy and Uruguay in landmark group victories, Navas again performed spectacular gymnastics as he punched away a spot kick by Greece’s Fanis Gekas in a penalty shootout. Navas who plays in Spain for Levante said: ‘I have already faced great players and I am not scared. It’s a good challenge for me to play against the best.’

Brazil’s Julio Cesar hopes his two penalty shootout saves against Chile will turn him from a national villain to a respected figure alongside the country’s other football legends. The 34-year-old has faced national humiliation since his mistake was blamed for Brazil’s defeat to the Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup quarter final.

Cesar revealed he took a religious cross, given to him by his reserve Victor, when he went into the goal for the Chile shootout. He saved two penalties and Chilean Gonzalo Jara’s kick came off a post and just managed to stay out of the goal. ‘Julio Cesar and the goalpost save Brazil from humiliation at home,’ said Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper’s front page. ‘

Cesar has always admitted his mistake on a ball crossed into the area four years ago led to the team’s 2-1 loss to the Netherlands in the quarterfinal in 2010. ‘Four years ago I gave a very sad, angry and emotional interview. And today I’m doing this again, with happiness. Only God and my family know what I went through and still go through today, but I know that my story is not over with the Selecao,’ he said. Cesar was visibly emotional even before the penalty shootout, when teammates came to hug him and wish him well.

Another goalie who stood out was Rais M’Bolhi of Algeria who lost 0-2 to Germany in the pre-quarterfinal. He made a series of acrobatic saves that kept his side in the game right until the end. Rais M’Bolhi pulled off a string of increasingly impressive saves while, at the other end, the likes of Sofiane Feghouli and Islam Slimani forced Manuel Neuer into the most active sweeper-keeper performance in recent memory. Rais M’Bolhi has established himself as Algeria’s first-choice goalkeeper in recent years, winning plaudits for his two games between the posts at the 2010 World Cup and playing a vital role on the road to Brazil 2014.

Tim Howard (usa)
On June 7 during the build up to the World Cup, Tim Howard received 100th cap for the United States in a 1–2 friendly defeat to Nigeria. In the group match against Portugal, Howard was named man of the match for his display in USA’s 2–2 draw. His most notable save was a reaction stop to deny Eder, having previously diverted Nani’s shot onto the post. Howard was again awarded man of the match in the last 16 tie despite USA losing 1–2 to Belgium. During the match, the Everton goalie broke the record for most saves, 16, in a World Cup clash.

Manuel Neuer (germany)
Often abandoned by his blundering defense, the Germany goalkeeper had to turn to unorthodox methods to save Germany from a stunning defeat against underdog Algeria at the World Cup.  The Bayern Munich keeper made some fine saves on the line but his rushes far out of the penalty area, clearing the ball with his feet and even his head, had the fans of the edge of their seats. He ran out of the box to take over as the right back and foil Islam Slimani in the ninth minute. In the 28th, Neuer rushed out to clear before Sofiane Feghouli got to the ball.

Keylor Navas (costa rica)
Navas appeared for Costa Rica in two CONCACAF Gold Cups, being crowned best goalkeeper in 2009 to help his country to the semifinal. He made his debut in World Cup on 14 June, appearing in a 3–1 group stage win against Uruguay. It was the only goal he conceded in the first three group contests as Costa Rica advanced to the last 16. In the pre-quarterfinal against Greece, he was named man of the match after several saves in regulation time and a stop to Theofanis Gekas’ penalty shootout attempt, with Costa Rica reaching the quarterfinal for the first time ever.

Julio Cesar (brazil)
Julio Cesar became a national hero following Brazil’s last 16 win over Chile via tie-breaker. The 34-year-old goalkeeper, who worked his way into the World Cup squad with excellent performances at Toronto FC, made two crucial saves in a penalty shootout, as Brazil won 3-2 in penalties. Cesar made one save in the dying moments of extra-time, stopping a Charles Aránguiz shot from close range. In the shootout, Cesar made world-class stops against Mauricio Pinilla and Alexis Sanchez.
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