BANGALORE: Goal-keeping errors cost Ecuador and England dear in their opening World Cup group games. Switzerland came to Brazil with some glorious games in the European qualifying process. Veteran manager Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side opened their campaign with victories over Slovenia and Albania. They then drew with Norway and defeated Iceland. A draw and a victory over Cyprus followed. But after leading 4-1 against Iceland, the Swiss literally froze and were held to a 4-4 draw. They then downed Norway and Albania to ensure that their flight tickets to Brazil were booked.
Remember, Switzerland are playing in their 9th World Cup and are presently ranked as high as No 6 on the FIFA ladder. Their dramatic 2-1 victory over Ecuador in the Group E opener was not surprising. But the manner in which they went about it indeed was. For they frittered away with some casual play when making the final pass or strike.
However, more than anything else, the game stood out for some crucial goalkeeping errors from both sides and that largely contributed to the eventual outcome. The same was the case with Italy's win over England.
Of course, in the Group ‘F’ match between Argentina and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Bosnian goal-keeper Asmir Begovic could hardly be blamed for letting in that own goal and Lionel Messi's brilliant left footer.
Swiss shot stopper Diego Benaglio and Ecuador custodian Dominguez were both guilty of the same mistake, not learning from the others' gaffe. That's how and why all the three goals came about. Bengalio allowed Enner Valencia the liberty of a header from inside the small box. Dominguez then left Admir Mehmedi and Haris Seferovic unattended in virtually the same area, and spot, to let in goals to his team's detriment.
A goal-keeper who stays on his line as the ball is curled or lobbed into the small box (6 yards), invariably invites disaster. That's precisely what happened on all three occasions. The players concerned were far too close to the goalkeeper and the defenders were playing in line for they had little or no room to get behind. The normal assumption of any defence is that their goal-keeper would handle everything thrown so close to him. But if the goal-keeper decides to retreat, remember he is the last man standing as a defender. In this case, even God may not be able to save his team. Goal-keepers who rule the penalty box (18 yards) which includes the smaller six yard area always play a very vital role in keeping the opponents at bay. Timely charges from the line can nip in the bud many a developing attack. That eases the pressure on the defence appreciably, leaving them with more freedom to support the attack.
The Swiss were fortunate that Dominguez remained on his line twice and that Benaglio faltered only once. England goalkeeper Joe Hart did the same and Italian striker Mario Balotelli, Hart’s former Manchester City teammate, sprang up at the far post to bury his header in to seal Italy's win. It, indeed, was a day of goal-keeping errors.