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Saving grace: Europe's favourite goalkeepers

Published: Friday 30 January 2015, 11.09CET
The Eel, The Ballerina with the Iron Fists and more than one Black Cat are among our correspondents' choices as we celebrate the safest hands in European history.

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Published: Friday 30 January 2015, 11.09CET

Saving grace: Europe's favourite goalkeepers

The Eel, The Ballerina with the Iron Fists and more than one Black Cat are among our correspondents' choices as we celebrate the safest hands in European history.

UEFA's team of correspondents introduce their nations' favourite goalkeepers.

Albania: Perlat Musta
Former team-mate Shpëtim Duro spoke for many when he said: "As a goalkeeper, in my opinion Perlat Musta is the best and the greatest in Albania." In the course of two spells at FK Partizani, Musta won two titles and two national cups, but saved his best for his 31 appearances for Albania. "Playing against European stars was my highlight," said Musta, who reached his peak for the Eagles in 1983 – producing several thrilling saves in a 2-1 defeat by West Germany. "Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was checking the clock every five minutes in the second half hoping it would end," said assistant coach Mahdin Zhega. "West Germany had a star player, but we have Musta," added commentator Ismet Bellova.

Andorra: Koldo Álvarez de Eulate
Born in Spain's Basque country, and briefly on the books at Club Atlético de Madrid, Koldo became established in Andorra during a 12-year stint at local side FC Andorra from 1994–2006 – with the club playing in the Spanish leagues. He took Andorran citizenship and duly represented his nation 78 times, receiving a standing ovation at Wembley following his final game in June 2009 having put in a fine performance in a 6-0 loss to England. Now national team coach, he was named the principality's Golden Player as part of UEFA's Jubilee celebrations in 2004.

Armenia: Alyosha Abrahamyan
A considerable figure in Armenian football, Abrahamyan made 276 Soviet Top League outings for FC Ararat Yerevan and helped them win a domestic double in 1973 and another Soviet Cup two years later. Known for his agility, reactions and bravery in coming off his line, he showcased his extraordinary skills during the 1972/73 UEFA Cup round of 16 tie against 1. FC Kaiserslautern (lost on penalties after a 2-2 aggregate draw) and the 1974/75 European Champion Clubs' Cup quarter-final versus FC Bayern München (lost 2-1 on aggregate). "A goalkeeper has always been and remains half of a team," he told UEFA.com. "I am happy I played for Ararat and was a half of that great team."

Austria: Walter Zeman
Dubbed the 'Tiger of Budapest' and the 'Panther of Glasgow' following notable showings with Austria, Zeman lifted several domestic titles during a lengthy stay with SK Rapid Wien from 1945–61, having become their first-choice keeper aged 18 after interludes with home-town club Wienerberger SV and FC Wien. Part of a great Rapid side, which included Ernst Happel, Franz Binder and Gerhard Hanappi, Zeman helped them land the 1951 Zentropa Cup – an early pan-European club competition – and was named in a FIFA World XI two years later, having already been Austria's sportsman of the year in 1950. Capped 41 times, he died in 1991 at the age of 64.

©Victoria Melnik

Kamran Agayev

Azerbaijan: Kamran Agayev
Conceding 80 goals in 51 international matches might not sound like a complimentary record, but Azerbaijan fans know that but for Agayev, they would have shipped many more. The 28-year-old Qäbälä FK player has helped his country take points off bigger teams and spared them from heavier defeats. His nation's 2009 goalkeeper of the year, the famously emotional Agayev responded to a 3-0 UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying loss to Austria with the words: "If we lose our next game, I am going to start a fight." As it happened, Azerbaijan won 1-0 against Turkey next time out.

Belarus: Mikhail Vergeenko
A key man in FC Dinamo Minsk's 1982 Soviet championship-winning side, Vergeenko's reputation rested on his positional sense, reactions and ability to launch attacks with a perceptive pass or throw. A runner-up with the Soviet Union in the 1972 UEFA European Under-23 Championship, he made his mark in what was the only Belarusian team to lift the title in the USSR era. "Our goalkeeper was someone we could always rely on – he saved us millions of times," recalled then-Dinamo captain Yuri Pudyshev, adding: "His nickname was 'Stan', because when Canada played the USSR in the legendary 1972 ice hockey super series, they had a player called Stan Mikita, whom Misha admired."

©Getty Images

Jean-Marie Pfaff

Belgium: Jean-Marie Pfaff
Raised in a caravan as one of 12 children, Pfaff was working in a weaving mill when he broke through with KSK Beveren, where he claim a Belgian Cup and a league title. He helped Belgium reach the EURO '80 final – succumbing to West Germany – before joining Bayern München in 1982, where his spectacular blocks and penalty saves facilitated three Bundesliga triumphs, all of which kept him fresh for the 1986 World Cup – where the blond, curly-haired Pfaff's side got to the last four. "What I achieved at Bayern, with Belgium in Mexico, came through effort," said Pfaff, later a reality TV star in Belgium. "I wanted to improve every time – to be the best."

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Enver Marić
The city of Mostar, situated on the river Neretva, is renowned for producing talented No1s, with Marić thought the best ever. Capped 32 times by Yugoslavia, the 'Flying Mostar-man' was Yugoslavia's player of the year in 1973, midway through his first spell with local club FK Velež, and he enjoyed a two-season stint in Germany with FC Schalke 04 before ending his 18-year playing career with his home-town team. A great believer that talent alone was not enough, Marić took his commitment to hard work and exercise into a second career as a goalkeeping coach, in Germany as well as back home in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

©Getty Images

Borislav Mihaylov

Bulgaria: Borislav Mihaylov
Mihaylov shone for PFC Levski Sofia yet saved his best for the national side; the first Bulgaria player to reach 100 caps, he captained his country 60 times – peaking as they made it to the last eight at the 1994 World Cup in the United States. "I think I had a very good career," said the current Bulgarian Football Union (BFS) president, who also plied his trade in Portugal, France, England and Switzerland. "The World Cup in the USA is something I will never forget. The joy of the people who gathered on the streets in Sofia, from the airport to the national stadium, upon our return is something I will always remember with pride."

Croatia: Vladimir Beara
Capped 59 times, 'The Ballerina with the Iron Fists' represented Yugoslavia at the 1950, 1954 and 1958 World Cups and kept out a Ferenc Puskás penalty in the 1952 Olympic final in Helsinki. Beara and the USSR's Lev Yashin formed a mutual appreciation society in their pomp. "I was always saying that Yashin is the best goalkeeper in the world and he was saying the same about me," he recalled just before his death in 2014. "We were great friends." Hugely successful at HNK Hajduk Split and FK Crvena zvezda, he loved the rough and tumble of goalkeeping from his first day as a Hajduk trainee. "I didn't have any kit and I got hurt, but I didn't care," Beara said.

Cyprus: Nicos Panayiotou
Panayiotou helped Anorthosis Famagusta FC to four league titles and four Cypriot Cups during a 17-year association with the Blue and White, before moving to AEK Larnaca FC in 2004. He represented Cyprus 75 times from 1994–2006, making him his nation's fifth-most-capped player. "It was a joyous time but we needed to work very hard to achieve our goals," he said of his stay at Anorthosis, also flagging up Cyprus's 3-2 win over Spain in a UEFA EURO 2000 qualifier as "one of my most cherished memories". The apple also does not fall too far from the tree in the Panayiotou household; his son Kyriakos now keeps goal for Russian second-tier side FC SKA-Energiya Khabarovsk.

©AFP/Getty Images

Petr Čech

Czech Republic: Petr Čech
"Ivo Viktor is a true legend of Czech football, so it is a really special evening to be compared to him," said Chelsea FC custodian Petr Čech in 2013 when he broke the record for Czech footballer of the year prizes which he had held jointly with Viktor. The 32-year-old collected his seventh such accolade in March 2014 and is now closing on Karel Poborský record total of 119 Czech caps. However, Čech is just the latest in a line of great Czech keepers; Viktor was a key man as his country won EURO '76 while František Plánička starred for 1934 World Cup runners-up Czechoslovakia.

Denmark: Peter Schmeichel
The first Dane to earn 125 caps, three-time Danish player of the year Schmeichel ended up with 129 international appearances, playing an enormous role in their shock success at EURO '92. "I am an optimist, you know, but I am not a naïve optimist," he had said before that tournament. "I do not expect us to be European champions – I simply do not think our preparations can be good enough for that." Thankfully for Denmark, the Manchester United FC great proved his own prediction wrong, and left his son Kasper – now Denmark's No1 – and every other future No1 with a huge yardstick to be measured by.

©Getty Images

Gordon Banks

England: Gordon Banks
Peter Shilton said of his England predecessor: "He's a World Cup winner and he made a wonderful save from Pelé, the world's greatest player, and you don't need to have done anything else in your career if you have those two on your CV." A low-profile club career with Leicester City FC and Stoke City FC contrasted with Banks's 1966 England success and that save against Brazil at the 1970 World Cup – "the pitch was really hard, like a blooming main road," he recalled. Banks credited early jobs bagging coal and laying bricks for his upper body strength, while his positional sense enabled him to carry on playing in the USA after a 1972 car accident robbed him of the sight in one eye.

Estonia: Mart Poom
Named Estonia's Golden Player as part of UEFA's Jubilee celebrations in 2004, Poom spent more than ten years in England, with his reputation at Derby County FC such that their fans did not mind too much when the net-minder scored against his old club with Sunderland AFC in September 2003. "It's just unbelievable! Such things happen very, very rarely," he said at the time. "It's a very special day for me." An unused squad member as Arsenal FC got to the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League final, the 120-times-capped Poom's example remains the one all young Estonian players aspire to follow.

Faroe Islands: Jákup Mikkelsen
Second choice behind the bobble-hatted Jens Martin Knudsen for the Faroe Islands' first official international in 1988, Mikkelsen made the No1 shirt his own thereafter. He enjoyed his 73rd and final outing against Iceland on 15 August 2012 – one day after turning 42, anointing him as the oldest goalkeeper to play a FIFA-registered game. "It's not that great to be the oldest goalie in the world," he said with a smile. "It would have been more enjoyable to be the best." He retired at the age of 44 in 2014, having claimed titles in the Faroes and Denmark as well as playing in Scotland.

Finland: Antti Niemi
A cornerstone of the early 2000s Finland side – regarded as the nation's finest vintage – Niemi appeared 67 times for his country. He started his career at HJK Helsinki before moving via FC København to the United Kingdom, where he spent over a decade with Rangers FC, Heart of Midlothian FC, Southampton FC and Fulham FC. He was a reliable glovesman who frequently produced a magic save when his team needed it most. "I have got much more from football than I ever imagined as a boy," said Niemi in assessing his playing days. "I am proud of myself and pleased with the career I had."

France: Fabien Barthez
"The more important the match, the more people there are, the more Fabien is there for you," said Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson of the man he signed in 2000 to replace the seemingly irreplaceable Peter Schmeichel. "He knows no fear, no stress." Notoriously eccentric, with occasional dribbling forays, Barthez showed his shot-stopping prowess via an acrobatic denial of Brazil's Ronaldo in the 1998 World Cup final and – with Laurent Blanc kissing his head for luck – helped France win UEFA EURO 2000 too. A 1993 European champion with Olympique de Marseille, 'Fabulous Fab' retired as France's most-capped keeper on 87 and is now building a new career as a racing driver.

FYR Macedonia: Blagoje Vidinić
A custodian with an impressive physique and a unique habit of entertaining team-mates by singing operatic arias, Skopje-born Vidinić collected two Olympic medals with Yugoslavia – silver in 1956 and gold in 1960 – and also featured in the epic 1960 UEFA European Championship final against the USSR. "I had matches when I simply couldn't catch a ball but hanging up my gloves never crossed my mind," said the late FK Vardar hero, who later played in Switzerland and the USA. "Goalkeeping was magical for me." Vidinić sparkled as a coach too, steering both Morocco and Zaire to World Cups in the early 1970s.

Georgia: Otar Gabelia
"I don't like to boast and I don't like it when people in the street start talking football to me," said the Soviet Union's 1979 goalkeeper of the year, Gabelia. "I am just happy I managed to lay a brick in the construction of the building known as Dinamo Tbilisi, which the whole country is proud of." A Soviet champion in 1978, Gabelia saved three penalties in a shoot-out as FC Dinamo Tbilisi won the USSR Cup the following year, and his reflexes and agility would help his side claim the 1981 Cup Winners' Cup. Excitable, perhaps, but his statistics showed he was a diligent guardian of his goal; Gabelia posted 131 clean sheets in 271 Soviet Top League matches.

Germany: Sepp Maier
Maier's superb reflexes defined his long career with Bayern, along with his sense of humour – "a keeper should give off a sense of calm, and not fall asleep while doing so," he once quipped. In an astonishing run of 442 consecutive Bundesliga appearances, Maier "shaped a new era of modern goalkeepers" according to team-mate Franz Beckenbauer, who added: "He was fast, agile and dominated the box. That's why they called him 'Katze von Anzing' [the cat from Anzing]." Maier won the 1972 UEFA European Championship and 1974 World Cup with West Germany, later schooling successors Oliver Kahn and Andreas Köpke as goalkeeping coach for Bayern and Germany.

Gibraltar: Tony Macedo
Arguably Gibraltar's most successful footballer, Macedo was nicknamed 'The Rock' due to the sense of security he instilled in defences. He made just under 400 appearances for Fulham, helping the London club reach FA Cup semi-finals in 1958 and 1962. A series of injuries hampered his career, culminating in his retirement aged 31, but he is remembered with immense fondness at Craven Cottage. "I don't know what the fuss is all about," he declared modestly on a recent return to Fulham. "I wasn't an England captain like Johnny Haynes or a World Cup winner like George Cohen – I was just the guy that tried to keep the ball out."

©Getty Images

Antonis Nikopolidis

Greece: Antonis Nikopolidis
"A goalkeeper has to be patient and cash in on his experience," Nikopolidis said in 2009. Not particularly tall or exceptionally agile, Nikopolidis's gift was in his reading of the game and positioning. Józef Wandzik's deputy at Panathinaikos FC until he was well into his 20s, Nikopolidis watched and learned, and went on to greater things with Greece, winning UEFA EURO 2004. The only player in Greek history to have claimed three consecutive domestic doubles (2004, 2005 and 2006), he retired, aged nearly 40, having lifted 11 Greek titles – five with the Greens and six with Olympiacos FC.

Hungary: Gyula Grosics
Not the only 'Black Panther' on the loose in European football (see Lev Yashin), the extrovert Grosics shone with the all-conquering 'Magical Magyars' of the early 1950s, taking Olympic gold with Hungary in 1952 and figuring in the team that made it to the 1954 World Cup final. Capped 86 times, Grosics's tally has been eclipsed since, but current No1 Gábor Kiraly holds his predecessor – who died in 2014 – in huge regard. "I may be the record-holder in terms of Hungary goalkeeping appearances, but for me the record will always belong to Grosics," he said. "It is a huge thing that I got to know him personally. You could learn something from him every day."

Iceland: Bjarni Sigurdsson
"I hate to lose and am always very much ready for action, but I keep calm," said Iceland's favourite No1, explaining his philosophy. Sigurdsson twice let in nine goals in a single game; his Valur Reykjavík side lost 9-1 to KR Reykjavík in 1992 and his SK Brann team crashed 9-0 to Rosenborg BK, then Norway's top club. Tellingly, though, he was man of the match on each occasion. "There was no way I would quit – I just went on to the next game," he said at the time. Capped 41 times, he retired from playing in 1997 but remains in the game, working as goalkeeping coach with the national squad.

Israel: Yacov Hodorov
A model professional in an era when football was an amateur sport in Israel, Hodorov is still remembered as his nation's all-time No1. He spent his best years with Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC, winning the league in 1957, and reputedly declined a move to Arsenal at his peak to stick with the club. He was equally selfless in 31 internationals, notably shining against Wales with a broken nose in a 1958 World Cup play-off, and soldiering on with a broken hand in an Olympic qualifier against the Soviet Union. "He was like half the team," said ex-Israel colleague Shiye Glazer following Hodorov's death in 2007. "He was a symbol and a leader," added another peer, Ematzia Levkovic.

©UEFA.com

Dino Zoff

Italy: Dino Zoff
Though Gianluigi Buffon surpassed his haul of 112 Azzurri appearances, and matched him by helping the Italians win the World Cup (in 2006), Zoff remains sure of his place in Italy's football pantheon. "Among my many 'grandsons', Buffon is certainly the best," he said. "But if anybody says he is better than I was, they are wrong." Rock solid for Udinese Calcio, AC Mantova, SSC Napoli and Juventus – with whom he compiled six titles and the 1976/77 UEFA Cup – he was called "the world's best" when made cover star of Newsweek in 1974. Eight years later, he captained Italy to World Cup glory, his last-minute save against Brazil still arguably the most famous stop in Italian football.

Kazakhstan: Kuralbek Ordabayev
"When it came to shoot-outs, I always knew I would save two out of five," enthused Ordabayev, whose nerve did not fail him during a ten-year residence at FC Kairat Almaty – then Kazakhstan's top club – from 1972–82. "I had some good ones and the newspapers labelled me a master of saving penalties; then strikers' knees started to tremble and they started to make mistakes just looking at me." Celebrated for his exploits in helping Kairat beat FC Rapid Bucureşti in the final of the 1971 European Railways Cup – a renowned friendly tournament – Ordabayev later headed up the Football Federation of Kazakhstan (KFF) and was Kairat president.

©Getty Images

Aleksandrs Koliņko

Latvia: Aleksandrs Koliņko
"Before the Netherlands match at UEFA EURO 2004 he could not even walk normally because of a rib injury," coach Aleksandrs Starkovs reminisced of his goalkeeper. "But I had no doubt he would still ask to play. It was this iron will that helped 'Sasha' become a top-class keeper." Schooled at Skonto FC, Kolinko played in England as well as Russia, helped Latvia qualify for UEFA EURO 2004, and became the first No1 to be named Latvian player of the year in 2006. "As long as my health allows, I will keep playing," he said. "I like it – I live for it – but I don't want my sons to play in goal. It's too hard on the nerves."

Liechtenstein: Peter Jehle
A veteran of well over 100 of his country's 151 official matches, Jehle is indubitably the biggest goalkeeping star in Liechtenstein, having made his national-team debut aged 16 in 1998 in a 2-1 UEFA EURO 2000 qualifying win against Azerbaijan – Liechtenstein's first competitive victory. His understudy Dietmar Kupnik said of Jehle: "He is reliable, stable and constant, and because he rarely makes mistakes, Peter Jehle is one of the most important players for Liechtenstein." Jehle himself noted: "I will never just let my career fade away. As an athlete you are always at full throttle and that's how I would like to continue until one day I can feel proud to hang up my boots."

Lithuania: Vladas Tučkus
Many rate Tučkus as the most talented Lithuanian player of all, with a goalkeeping style ahead of his time, in his ability to command the area. After leaving his home town Siauliai to join FC Spartak Moskva in 1954, Tučkus was somewhat overshadowed by FC Dinamo Moskva's Lev Yashin during his peak years. Despite aiding Spartak to the 1956 Soviet title, Tučkus left the club abruptly the next year due to off-field issues. He shone later for Latvian side FK Daugava Rīga, yet only briefly, with his career destined to be one of unfulfilled potential. According to one contemporary, Latvian football and ice hockey ace Alfons Jēgers, Tučkus "was as good as Yashin in organising and leading his defence".

©Getty Images

Jonathan Joubert

Luxembourg: Jonathan Joubert
A naturalised Frenchman, born 65km over the border in Metz, Joubert has become the most reliable goalkeeper in Luxembourg and a regular for the national team, having leapt at the chance to represent his adopted homeland at international level. The F91 Dudelange man has been between the posts for some remarkable games, not least a 3-2 success against Northern Ireland in 2014 World Cup qualifying, but he has always let his football do the talking. "I don't like speaking about myself or evaluating my own performances," he said. "I think I've always played to a good standard so far."

Malta: Mario Muscat
"I'm very honoured to have achieved this illustrious target," Muscat told UEFA.com as he chalked up 500 league appearances in Malta last August with his beloved Hibernians FC. Capped 68 times by his country up until 2009, Muscat's CV speaks for itself: four league championships, five Maltese Cups and the Maltese player of the year gong in 1997/98 – one of just two keepers ever to be bestowed with that accolade. He is now hoping to inspire the next generation of Maltese custodians after setting up his own goalkeeping academy on the Mediterranean island.

Moldova: Denis Romanenco
Goalkeeper at FC Zimbru Chisinau during their golden years, Romanenco helped the Yellow-Greens to plunder eight Moldovan league titles between 1993 and 2001, also establishing a national record by going unbeaten for 1,154 minutes in domestic matches in the 1998/99 campaign. Capped 26 times, his adventures abroad in Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan were less exciting than his achievements at home. Since retiring at 38, he has been sharing his knowledge as a goalkeeper coach, most recently with FC Veris.

Montenegro: Dragoje Leković
So gangly and skinny that he was known as 'the Eel' throughout his playing days, Leković appeared alongside Davor Šuker, Predrag Mijatović and Zvonimir Boban in the Yugoslavia side that won the 1987 FIFA World Youth Championship in Chile. Having started out at FK Budućnost Podgorica and represented Crvena zvezda, Leković – who played 14 international games and travelled to two World Cups – plied his trade in Scotland, Spain and Cyprus. "I had two very bad injuries: one at the beginning of my career and another when I was at my peak," said Leković, now on Montenegro's national coaching staff. "But that's part of football and I don't regret anything."

©Getty Images

Edwin van der Sar

Netherlands: Edwin van der Sar
Already 19 by the time he came to AFC Ajax's attention, Van der Sar would develop into a superb all-round keeper under Dutch tactician Louis van Gaal, figuring in the young side that won the 1994/95 UEFA Champions League. He was victorious again in 2007/08 with Manchester United, saving a Nicolas Anelka penalty in the decisive shoot-out against Chelsea. Hans van Breukelen – the Netherlands' 1988 UEFA European Championship winning custodian – praised the Oranje's most-capped player. "Van der Sar is three classes up from me," he said. "My career had its ups and downs; he played consistently for 130 internationals, that's what I call class."

©Getty Images

Pat Jennings

Northern Ireland: Pat Jennings
It would be easier inverting a pyramid than summing up Pat Jennings's contribution to Northern Irish football in a few short sentences. The unflappable glovesman, who transcended the north London derby divide by playing for both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur FC, gained a record 119 caps for his country. He was instrumental in Northern Ireland's march to the 1982 World Cup quarter-finals in Spain and celebrated his 41st birthday at the 1986 event in Mexico, after which he called time on his illustrious career. Former team-mate Martin O'Neill said: "He was world-class week in, week out. He would have been a fantastic goalkeeper in any era."

Norway: Erik Thorstvedt
A tall keeper with safe hands, Thorstvedt kept at bay all rivals for the Norway No1 shirt for nearly 15 years, after making his debut against Kuwait in 1982. Discovered at Viking FK, he caught the eye with Sweden's IFK Göteborg following a false start at VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach. Tottenham eventually secured his services in 1989 and despite a disastrous first game, he recovered to become a regular, lifting the 1991 FA Cup and being commended as one of the top keepers at the World Cup three years later. A back injury prompted his retirement in 1996, but he remains in the game, hosting his own football show and working as a pundit.

Poland: Józef Młynarczyk
The 2005 UEFA Champions League-winning goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek was one of many young No1s inspired by Młynarczyk. "I remember watching him in the 1982 World Cup where Poland came third," Dudek told UEFA.com. "I also followed him four years later in Mexico – a great keeper and one of the first Polish goalies who was successful abroad." A star at home with Widzew Łodź, Młynarczyk moved on to SC Bastia and then FC Porto, where he won the 1987 European Cup, ousting Bayern in the final. Later a goalkeeping coach, he also ran a transport company, occasionally taking the wheel of a truck to get an idea of the challenges his employees faced.

Portugal: Manuel Bento
The late Manuel Bento was no typical goalkeeper. Just 1.73m tall, the Golega-born No1 compensated with superb reflexes, a cool head and a fearless approach. Nicknamed 'Rubber Man' for his agility, he played 63 times for Portugal and stayed on at Benfica until well into his 40s, officially hanging up his gloves in 1992 having won ten championships with the Eagles. Club-mate Álvaro Magalhães said: "He was a humble, hard-working person. He wasn't a flashy kind of footballer and lacked that sense of style; instead he was tremendously effective. If he had a broken finger, for example, he would find another way of keeping the ball away from his goal."

©Sportsfile

Shay Given

Republic of Ireland: Shay Given
Aged 19, Given had a tough baptism against Russia in 1996, with Ireland losing 2-0 and having captain Roy Keane sent off. In fact, five of Given's first six internationals ended in defeat, yet while club success eluded him – his FA Cup winners' medal with Manchester City FC in 2011 came as an unused substitute – he made a huge contribution in well over 100 national-team outings. Three losses at UEFA EURO 2012 expedited his Ireland retirement, but he was persuaded to return in 2014. "I will have just turned 40 when EURO 2016 starts," he said. "I met Pat Jennings last year; he was 41 at the '86 World Cup and he told me I should consider it."

Romania: Ion Voinescu
If the 91-times-capped Bogdan Stelea merits a mention, the small (1.74m) but extraordinarily agile Voinescu has the edge. Vastly successful with FC Steaua Bucureşti from 1950–63, he won six titles and five Romanian Cups, and represented his side in Europe as well as collecting 22 international caps. Mooted transfers to Arsenal and CR Vasco da Gama were put on ice by Romania's communist regime, yet Voinescu would have an influence beyond his retirement, coaching future stars like Vasile Iordache and Helmuth Duckadam, who told UEFA.com: "He was unique, a fantastic keeper. Thanks to him I did not quit football when I arrived at Steaua and conceded a few daft goals."

©Getty Images

Lev Yashin

Russia: Lev Yashin
Judged the best player – outfield, included – in Soviet and Russian history, Yashin helped the USSR win 1956 Olympic gold and the inaugural 1960 European Nations' Cup, plus runners-up medals at the 1964 EURO finals. A one-club man, he lifted five titles with FC Dinamo Moskva and was also a fine ice-hockey player, claiming a Soviet Cup with Dinamo early in his career. Nicknamed the 'Black Spider' or 'Black Panther' for his extraordinary agility and black jersey, Yashin was awarded the Ballon d'Or in 1963, remaining the only keeper to receive the accolade. "I gave football all my youth and all my health," he said later. He died, aged 60, in 1990.

San Marino: Claudio Maiani
Born in the same small town as ex-AC Milan and Italy coach Arrigo Sacchi – Fusignano – Maiani played in San Marino's first international, an unofficial friendly against Canada's Olympic squad in 1986. At the time, he was keeping goal for Vicenza FC, having already acquired five league titles – albeit in Serie B or Serie C – with the likes of US Cremonese, Calcio Padova and Bologna FC. A product of Juventus's academy, the closest Maiani came to appearing for the club was featuring on the bench in two Serie A games, with Zoff the established No1. He later worked with young goalkeepers at the club, and briefly trained Gianluigi Buffon in 2008.

©Getty Images

Jim Leighton

Scotland: Jim Leighton
Scotland had been the butt of goalkeeping jokes south of the border until Leighton arrived on the scene in the 1980s. The Aberdeen FC custodian, who went on to represent Manchester United, Dundee FC and Hibernian FC before returning to Pittodrie to end his career, was agile and brave. Renowned Nottingham Forest FC boss Brian Clough remarked: "Jim Leighton is a rare bird – a Scottish goalkeeper that can be relied on." With 91 caps accrued over 16 years spanning 1982–98, Leighton – who played in the 1986, 1990 and 1998 World Cups – is second only to Kenny Dalglish in terms of Scotland appearances. Remarkably he kept a clean sheet in 42 of those games.

Serbia: Milutin Šoškić
Every Serbian glovesman who shows promise is routinely compared to Šoškić, who famously chose to play for FK Partizan after a trial with rivals Crvena zvezda ("I don't know – it was just a more friendly atmosphere at Partizan," he said). It proved a great choice: he spent 11 seasons there, won Olympic gold with Yugoslavia in 1960 and then came up against Real Madrid CF in the 1965/66 European Cup final, his side losing 2-1. "We had the better team, but we lacked focus – we did not know how important that match was," Šoškić noted. "Sometimes you only have one chance in life to achieve something amazing, and we missed ours."

Slovakia: Viliam Schrojf
Another 'Black Cat', Schrojf's career pinnacle was helping Czechoslovakia to the 1962 World Cup final, where they fell to Brazil. His quarter-final display against Hungary was the stuff of legend. "It was like a football version of the Battle of Verdun – Schrojf flew from one corner to another," remembered team-mate Titus Buberník. "He managed to stop balls which we had already seen hit the net," recalled Hungary forward Florián Albert. Born in Prague, he spent his best years with ŠK Slovan Bratislava; Schrojf would pass away in the Slovakian capital in 2007, having assisted in his son's sports shop in later life.

Slovenia: Samir Handanovič
Perhaps the key player in the recent revival of Slovenian football, with the national team qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, the Ljubljana-born custodian is already closing in on his country's appearance record with over 70 caps at the age of 30. "The national side has always given me something extra – I've learned a lot with them," he said. "We have taken so many steps in the direction of modern football." Having made his name at Udinese, Handanovič further raised his profile with an eye-catching run of six successive penalty saves for present club FC Internazionale Milano.

©AFP

Ricardo Zamora

Spain: Ricardo Zamora
"He was more famous in his day than Greta Garbo – and better looking," said Real Madrid defender Jacinto Quincoces of Zamora, one of the first superstars of Spanish football. Nicknamed 'El Divino' (the divine one), the goalkeeper played for RCD Espanyol and FC Barcelona, but his defining moment came at Madrid – a last-gasp save from Barcelona forward José Escolá in the 1936 Spanish Cup final. Instantly recognisable for his huge frame and cloth cap, Zamora was universally revered as the best player of his generation. His legend lives on today, with the top keeper in Spain each season awarded the prestigious Zamora trophy.

Sweden: Karl Svensson
Football offered Svensson, the 12th child of a family of impoverished farm labourers, an alternative to a life of hardship. "I just happened to be good at stopping balls, and that gave me the chance to see the world," remarked Svensson years later. 'Kalle' or 'Rio-Kalle' became a national hero thanks to his efforts at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil. What's more, no other Swedish footballer can boast a haul of medals from four major tournaments: 1948 Olympic gold, 1950 World Cup bronze, 1952 Olympic bronze and 1958 World Cup silver. Svensson passed away in 2000, yet a statue of the Helsingborgs IF great stands outside their Olympiastadion home.

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Marco Pascolo

Switzerland: Marco Pascolo
The first Swiss No1 to play at both major international tournaments – the World Cup in 1994 and the UEFA European Championship in 1996 – Pascolo initially failed to make an impact with local team FC Sion, before becoming a stalwart with Neuchâtel Xamax FC and Servette FC. First drafted into the national set-up by Roy Hodgson in 1992, he claimed 55 caps and represented Cagliari Calcio, Nottingham Forest and FC Zürich, retiring following a final stint at Servette, when he said: "I want to rediscover the joy of playing football." He has since put his skills to use coaching young keepers.

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Rüştü Reçber

Turkey: Rüştü Reçber
The former Fenerbahçe SK and Beşiktaş JK goalkeeper's rise mirrored that of Turkish football. Rüştü appeared for Turkey at EURO '96 and UEFA EURO 2000, then helped his side win bronze medals at the 2002 World Cup and – with a heroic shoot-out performance against Croatia – propelled Turkey to the last four of UEFA EURO 2008. Amazingly, goalkeeping was not the one-time Barcelona man's original calling. "I played in goal because the first-choice keeper at my amateur club went to do military service," he revealed. "To begin with, I was a goalkeeper for the first team and a striker for the youth team, but my coach urged me to focus on goalkeeping due to my height."

Ukraine: Olexandr Shovkovskiy
FC Dynamo Kyiv's youngest ever glovesman when he debuted aged 18 in 1993, Shovkovskiy has compiled records aplenty since. He is the first Ukrainian to play over 100 UEFA club competition matches, the first keeper to keep a clean sheet in a World Cup finals penalty shoot-out (against Switzerland in 2006) and in November 2014 he replaced Oleh Blokhin as the player with most appearances for Dynamo. "I don't know for how much longer Shovkovskiy will be able to keep playing at such a high level," his former team-mate and now Dynamo coach Serhiy Rebrov said. "But defenders are calmer with him in goal."

Wales: Neville Southall
A dustman during his teenage years, Llandudno-born Southall became one of the world's best goalkeepers, making over 750 outings for Everton FC between 1981 and 1998. His talents were also recognised at international level and he is still Wales's most-capped male footballer with 92 games for his country. "To be a professional sportsman you have to be selfish," said Southall in 2012. "You can't do it at 95%. You have to be dedicated." It was that steely determination that brought Everton loyalist Southall two English league championships, two FA Cup winners' medals and victory in the 1985 Cup Winners' Cup final, a trophy that remains Everton's only continental success to date.

Last updated: 14/01/18 23.16CET

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