"A rare mistake by Oliver Kahn after all the great saves he's made and the man who pounces on the ball is Ronaldo". Like many of us, the commentator could hardly believe that Oliver Kahn had conceded a goal. Kahn, had single handedly pushed the Germans into the finals, but it was not to be his night. He slouched against the post after the final whistle. He, later described it as the "one and only mistake in seven games".
Football is cruel and unlike strikers, who may miss innumerable chances in a game, goalkeepers certainly do not have that luxury, a single mistake can pretty much seal the team's fate.
Kahn will probably be remembered as one of the best to have played the game; it will certainly not be unfair to place him among European goalkeeping giants like Lev Yashin, Peter Schiemechel.
Lev Yashin, who played his entire career behind the Iron Curtain, was captain of the Russian team that won the 1960 European nations cup. Yashin was 30 and by then regarded by many as one of the best goalkeepers in that era.
Yashin had a towering presence in goal, was always dressed in black, and for his agility was nicknamed "the black spider". In the finals against Yugoslavia, the 30 year old made a series of fine saves and kept his team in the game. The Yugoslavian team attacked relentlessly and it was only because of his herculean effort that his team won the much coveted title.
The Great Dane Peter Schiemechel described by Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson as one of the best goal keepers to have played for the club was also the fulcrum the Danish championship winning team in 1992. Schmiechel and his team qualified for the championships after Yugoslavia pulled out of the tournament. The Danes put up a rather average performance in the first half of the tournament.
In the semi- finals against Holland, Schmiechel pulled off an incredible save to push his team into the finals. It was not all smooth sailing though, the Germans were the favourites to lift the trophy. The Germans let in an early goal and then attacked relentlessly battering the Danish defence time and time again. Schmiechel had to make innumerable saves to keep his team in contention. With 12 minutes left, Denmark scored the second goal and it was game, set, and match for Denmark. Schmiechel after winning the tournament said that he and his team,"still don't understand what we have done". An outstanding performance from another goalkeeper giant helps his team win the cup for the first and only time.
There have been many more goalkeepers who have pushed their teams to greater heights. For instance Iker Casillas was outstanding during the 2008 championship, saving two decisive penalties in the quarter finals to help his team beat Italy. Goalkeepers, despite their contribution to the team's success find themselves less appreciated than the team's midfielders and strikers, hope this euro will be a welcome change.