Moscow, July 2 (IANS) Spain were knocked out of the World Cup after losing 3-4 on penalties to Russia on Sunday after their round of 16 game ended 1-1 after 120 minutes. Although few members of the Spain’s football squad travel home with their reputation enhanced following their disappointing World Cup campaign, there is one player whose image has taken a bigger beating than anyone: goalkeeper David de Gea.
The Manchester United man travelled to Russia as arguably the best goalkeeper in the world after another excellent campaign in the Premier League and leaves being compared to a “tree stump”, “a traffic cone” and “a ghost” after a truly horrible World Cup in which nothing went right for him.
Spain conceded six goals in the World Cup and although you could argue that only one was because of a clear error from De Gea (Portugal’s second goal in the 3-3 draw in Sochi on June 13) the numbers are cruel, reports Xinhua news agency.
In four matches he managed to save just one shot on target from 11 he faced, including four from Sunday’s penalty shoot-out. That is the lowest percentage of stops since 1966 by a keeper who has played in a World Cup.
A supporter would argue that five of those shots came from penalty kicks and that he actually got a hand to the first penalty Russia scored in Sunday’s shoot out, but comparisons can be cruel.
Only a matter of hours after Spain’s exit, Denmark played Croatia with Danish keeper Kasper Schmeichel saving a penalty in normal time and two in the shoot-out, while Croatian keeper Danijel Subasic was the hero of the hour with three saves in the shoot-out.
Some of the saves Subasic made were from shots similar to those which seemed to go straight through De Gea, prompting Diario AS to say he was “in ghost mode”.
De Gea looked nervous, while Schmeichel and Subasic were intimidating rather than intimidated. He’d also looked uncomfortable on crosses and his distribution was poor throughout the tournament. Indeed there were strong calls for Kepa Arrizabalaga to replace him against Russia.
Perhaps Spain coach Fernando Hierro, mindful that confidence is a major factor for goalkeepers, could see the harm that dropping De Gea would do to his keeper and kept faith in him. That faith wasn’t rewarded and we will never know if Kepa could have been Spain’s saviour.
One thing is clear, with Spain set to appoint a new coach in the wake of their World Cup failure, De Gea has to convince him, the press and the fans that he is the still the man to defend the Spanish goal or he may have to get in line behind Kepa.