Wed, Mar 19, 2014 - Page 19 News List

Poor ’keeper culture may hurt Brazil’s Cup bid


Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar, back left, poses with his teammates before their international friendly against France at the Arena del Gremio in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on June 9 last year.

Photo: EPA

Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar — on the wrong side of 30 and past his prime — is the weakest link in a team which most Brazilians expect to win the FIFA World Cup in July, and that is no accident, since the country of soccer legend Pele has long paid far more attention to players who score and make goals than to those who save them.

Brazil’s best-known goalkeeper is probably Barbosa and he became famous not for a great save, but for the national agony he caused when he let in the two goals that gave Uruguay the World Cup in 1950.

The first thing Brazilian children often do before pick-up games is play “rock, paper, scissors” to decide who gets stuck in goal. With so many superb Brazilian strikers and midfielders, few soccer fans chose ’keepers as their childhood idols.

“If the kid is good enough with the ball, probably he will not want to play in goal,” Zetti, a reserve goalkeeper in Brazil’s 1994 World Cup-winning squad, said in a telephone interview.

“Kids are usually scared of playing in goal and most of the time parents are always trying to convince them to play in a different position,” said Zetti, who opened the nation’s first academy exclusively for goalkeepers six years ago.

He said that Brazilians have long neglected to take goalkeeping seriously and since, teams did not hire trainers for that position, goalies could not match strikers and midfielders for quality.

However, Zetti said things have changed in recent decades. The attitude shift is at least partly due to Marcos and Rogerio Ceni, goalkeepers in Brazil’s 2002 World Cup-winning squad, who have both influenced the sport with their successes and became idols for a new generation of soccer enthusiasts.

“Marcos and Rogerio Ceni really contributed to get more kids to want to become goalkeepers,” Zetti said. “In my academy, I can see this. Because of them, there is a generation coming up that really likes goalkeepers. They are not ready to play yet, but in a few years we may be able to start seeing some results.”

Marcos’ saves in the 2002 final against Germany helped Brazil secure their fifth world title. He also enjoyed success with Sao Paulo side Palmeiras, winning the 1999 Copa Libertadores with the club he played on for nearly two decades.

Easygoing, but known for speaking his mind, Marcos was easy for fans of all ages to like, even those from rival teams.

Ceni was a reserve Brazil ’keeper for the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, where he came on as a substitute for No. 1 goalie and captain Dida late in a 4-1 demolition of Japan in the group stage. Ceni has won three Brazilian championships and the 2005 FIFA Club World Cup with Sao Paulo, where he remains a starter.

He stands out for scoring goals, not just saving them, having netted more than 100 penalties and free-kicks — by far the most for a goalkeeper.

Cesar was a reserve with Ceni in the 2006 World Cup squad before getting Brazil’s No. 1 spot at the 2010 tournament and is considered one of the world best goalies, despite his mistake in Brazil’s 2-1 quarter-final elimination by the Netherlands, when — obstructed by midfielder and teammate Felipe Melo — he failed to punch away Netherlands striker Wesley Sneijder’s equalizer.

At Inter from 2005-2012, Cesar won five Italian championships and the Champions League in 2010. He and Spain’s 2010 World Cup winner Iker Casillas were the only goalies nominated that year for FIFA’s Ballon d’Or.

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