As we enter the second round of the 2014 world cup in Brazil, goalkeepers have influenced the game’s final results by their performances.  As we have always claimed the goalkeeper position is the most crucial position on the field played by the smartest most skillful players. In today’s game a goalkeeper must be able to read the game better than any other player on the field, be able to handle the ball with his hands as well as have great foot skills. Add to the mix that they must be able to process information and make decisions faster and better than any other player on the field. When it comes to positioning themselves between the pipes and in the 18 yard box it is the one single thing that separates the real deal goalkeepers from the rest of the pack. We as J4K coaches try to constantly build and cultivate a strong mind set and show goalkeepers how important it is to be mentally strong during a match. This 2014 World Cup has produced its share of exceptional and horrible performances from the pro goalkeepers. I encouraged all my students to make sure and watch the world cup matches as in this highest of football stages with arguably some of the world’s best keepers they get a chance to see goalkeepers at their best or worst and most importantly that they all are human and make mistakes.

Some of this 2014 World Cup’s goalkeepers have provided great excitement or horrible disappointment, but they all have contributed greatly to their team’s final outcome of a match.

Let’s start by Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa and his game against Brazil. The combination of good positioning, quick reflexes and Brazil’s inability to place the ball and constantly strike the ball at him produced one of the great 2014 World Cup moments to this date. Ochoa’s finest moment came in the 27th minute, when Neymar out jumped Rafa Marquez and steered a header toward the corner of the goal. Ochoa’s good positioning and quick reflexes produced one of his greatest saves. Ochoa made three other top quality saves, but the one on Neymar was the ‘keeper’s best. “It was the most difficult because at first I didn’t think he was going to win the header and then he got it off quickly,” Ochoa stated after the game. “But in that moment, you don’t think, you react.”

Brazil’s Julio Cesar had his share of quality saves to keep Brazil in the game with a clean sheet but Ochoa’s top saves outshined Cesar’s. Both keepers had a great deal in the outcome of that game. Soccer is the ultimate team sport, but the goalkeeper is the loneliest position. On Day 6 of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, we saw one of the all-time great goalkeeping performances in tournament history. Less than two hours later, another goalkeeper became the butt of countless jokes.

The dark side of the goalkeeper’s life came out In Russia’s 1-1 draw with South Korea. Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev bobbled Lee Keun-ho’s innocent shot right into his own goal. Russia was playing well before Akinfeev’s error turned the game. Luckily, Russia scored six minutes later, saving Akinfeev from the humiliation of a defeat.

And how about Iker Casillas? Casillas has been a key player in a national squad that has dominated on the world soccer stage since 2008. Some have praised him for his footwork and re distribution, as well as changing the point of attack but others have question his judgment as well as the fact that he has played behind some great players in Real Madrid and the Spanish National team. This 2014 World Cup everything was exposed as his quality field players playing in front of him have gotten older. His judgment was exposed as he made repeatedly questionable decisions in not catching the ball, coming off his line, high balls and other calls.  In my opinion Casillas’ poor decisions had a major part in Spain’s quick exit from this World Cup.

Lastly, I cannot end this post without mentioning our own USA NJ born Tim Howard. Relaxed goalkeeper Tim Howard stands behind the U.S. team

And any chance of the USA making it past the first round will depend heavily on the quality play of Tim. In the USA’s first game against Ghana Tim did come up big once or twice to keep the USA in the game and eventually help win the game. Tim is a prime example of the quality, athletic goalkeepers that the US can produce. American goalkeepers have gone to play in the world leagues. They are athletic and great with their hands. But that along is not enough. They need constant year round training by qualified trainers. Club coaches or team coaches may not have the necessary experience to train such a specialised position.

As noted above goalkeeping is not a quick fix to a position on the soccer pitch. It is the single most influential, game changing position in a team. It is time American youth soccer coaches and parents realize this and commit to the education, development and mind set nurturing of their Young goalkeepers with a steady diet of goalkeeping training year round.  J4K Summer Camps are ready to get you started down this road.