Views & Reviews
My Take on the Euro 2021: The Rise of the Goalies
The Euro 2021 for me has thrown a new light of astral proportions on goalkeepers. They have played pivotal roles since time immemorial but never has their significance in winning games been understood as much as it was during this Euro Cup. Some of them have clearly shone brighter than the most spectacular ‘superstars’ on the pitch. From dismissing decisive goals from the best sharp shooters to saving crucial ones in penalties, these goalkeepers have taken their countries where it was never dreamt possible.
Goalie Yan Sommer of Switzerland was hailed a national hero for his invincible exhibits throughout their matches and saving a crucial penalty kick from Kylian Mbappé of France to give his team a much needed victory and enter the quarter finals for the first time. Sommer helped his country provide one of the best underdog stories in football history! Later on in the Cup, Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon, who was named man of the match after saving two penalties in the 3-1 shootout win against Switzerland and booking them a berth in the semi-final, said he would have given the award to opposite number Yann Sommer who had dismissed more than 10 potential goals in the game.
Then came the finale between Italy and England which was indeed a battle of the goalies. My favourite this time was, of course, the tall Gianluigi Donnarumma of Italy, the country to which I pledged my ‘football’ allegiance since the 80’s. My unconditional support for the ‘Azzurri’ was even more profound this time as their ratings had gone down the gutters after failing to qualify for the last World Cup and subsequently tagged an underdog this Euro. Doning jersey No.21, Donnarumma went up against England’s Jordan Pickford, who was rated by his manager as the world’s best goalkeeper and was England’s number one player. Both of them showed exceptional skill and sportsmanship throughout the match, the likes of which the world rarely sees, or Wembley has ever seen. Finally, Donnarumma saved a goal from Bukayo Saka in the ultimate penalty shoot-out and Italy became Champions of the prestigious Euro 2021 after a long gap of 53 years! Pickford was awarded the ‘Golden Glove’ and most assuredly, Gianluigi Donnarumma was crowned the ‘Player of the Tournament’, a much coveted and sought-after title by every footballer, also called the ‘Golden Ball’. He became the first goalkeeper to officially win the award after its introduction in 1996!
Donnarumma was the new international hero in football.
The role of goalkeepers in changing the course of a game and the destiny of a country in football was finally understood, to some extent. They are now in the limelight, where they rightfully belong, between the anointed goalposts.
And as I slowly recover from my ‘cracked’ voice, here’s another shout-out to the Champions and all the fantastic goalkeepers, while looking ahead to the World Cup to be held next year in Qatar.
Dr. Tolto Metha