Liverpool’s Loris Karius is not the first goalkeeper to have a shocker, though he did manage it in one of the most high-profile matches. But who are some of the other keepers from history who have made big mistakes?
This is less a tale about the error — or in this case, errors — which were bad but not heinous, and more about the aftermath. United scraped a 3-3 draw in the 1990 FA Cup final after Leighton had lost the flight of two crosses, allowing Gary O’Reilly then Ian Wright to score for Palace. Alex Ferguson ruthlessly dropped Leighton in favour of Les Sealey for the replay, which United won 1-0. It’s a bit much to say Leighton never recovered (he played at the 1998 World Cup for Scotland), but it was a long way back, finding himself dropped by Dundee after moving there in 1993. Sealey gave Leighton his cup winner’s medal, but Leighton returned it, doing the same with a special medal United had made for him.
Green probably shouldn’t have even been in the England team for their 2010 World Cup opener. Joe Hart, a man with a few high-profile gaffes in his future, was the new, young, in-form keeper, but Fabio Capello opted for Green, and the decision backfired just before half-time against the USA. Clint Dempsey lined up a speculative shot, Green dropped to gather it easily, but the ball, like a bar of soap, slipped through his hands and agonisingly trickled over the line.
You could make the argument that Cech, previously a towering colossus of goalkeeping, was never quite the same after this mistake in a madcap Euro 2008 group game against Turkey. The Czechs were 2-1 up over Turkey when Cech inexplicably dropped a cross at the feet of Nihat Kahveci, who gladly accepted the easy goal before going on to score a much more difficult one, winning the game 3-2. Cech has since been an excellent keeper, but has he ever been quite as good as he was before this game?
Ireland were already 1-0 down in their second-round game of the 1994 World Cup against Netherlands, but having beaten Italy earlier in the tournament, anything was possible. Anything, that is, until Wim Jonk’s routine shot more or less straight at Bonner simply bounced off the Irish keeper’s palms, and bobbled into the net. “In life, you make mistakes,” said a philosophical Bonner years later. “If you can minimise your mistakes down to one or two, then you’ve done well.”
The cruelness of goalkeeping was laid bare by Kahn in the 2002 World Cup final. The German No. 1 had not just been the best goalkeeper, but one of the tournament’s better players full-stop, helping carry his country to a surprise appearance in the final. But once there, his error went a good way to costing them victory, spilling a shot from Rivaldo which Ronaldo swooped in to snaffle, opening the scoring for what would eventually be a 2-0 win.
You could view Seaman being lobbed once from miles out as a misfortune … but twice starts to look like carelessness. Twice in huge games Seaman was caught out by speculative punts. Nayim’s last-minute effort from the halfway line was intentional and won Zaragoza the game 2-1. “I remember looking at Seaman the whole game and in the last minute I tried it — luckily everything went right,” Nayim, the former Tottenham player, said later. Seaman went on to have a wonderful career, but the lob came back to haunt him when Ronaldinho’s skewed cross for Brazil in the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals saw England knocked out.
If you drive everywhere at 100 mph, eventually you’re going to have an accident. Higuita would probably think himself a maverick, but in reality he was a goalkeeper who took pointless risks, and sooner or later one would prove extremely costly. Dithering near the halfway line in extra-time of Colombia’s World Cup second-round game against Cameroon, Higuita attempted a dragback but was dispossessed by Roger Milla, who ran through to score. Milla was anticipating the chance, knowing of Higuita’s tendency to wander from playing with Colombia captain Carlos Valderrama at club level.
Pumpido very nearly lost a finger after his wedding ring got caught on a hook, so his mistake in the 1990 World Cup might not have been the worst thing to ever happen to him. But it was probably close. Argentina’s keeper for their World Cup win in 1986, Pumpido let a weak Francois Omam-Biyik header squirt through his grasp to seal Cameroon’s most remarkable upset in the 1990 World Cup opener. Things got even worse for Pumpido: He broke his leg in the next game, Sergio Goycochea excelled and he never played for Argentina again.
The cruelty of top-level goalkeeping is that, even after a career of excellence, you can be remembered for one single mistake. The 1984 European Championships had been a broiling tournament, France reaching the final after an extraordinary semifinal against Portugal, but they were handed a big advantage in the final against Spain. Luis Arconada, nicknamed “the octopus” and winner of three Zamora trophies in Spain, seemed to have gathered Michel Platini’s weak free-kick from the edge of the penalty area easily, only for it to wriggle from his grasp and into the net. It would become known as “the Arconada goal.”
The old adage that a goalkeeper shouldn’t be beaten at his near post is something of a misnomer, but that didn’t stop Moacir Barbosa from getting the blame for the most traumatic single goal in Brazilian football history. Barbosa was expecting Alcides Ghiggia to cross in the closing stages of the 1950 World Cup’s final game, but instead he shot, the ball creeping in and winning the tournament for Uruguay. Barbosa was blamed for years, treated as a bad-luck charm, and went to his grave in 2000 aggrieved — quite justifiably — at being made the scapegoat of all scapegoats.
Nick Miller is a writer for ESPN FC, covering Premier League and European football. Follow him on Twitter @NickMiller79.