A selection of UEFA European Championship-winning goalkeepers will be overseeing the draw for the European Qualifiers on Sunday, a reminder that for all the memorable goals that have decided past EUROs, the most successful national teams always build from the back.
Peter Schmeichel proved that when Denmark overcame the odds to win the 1992 competition. John Jensen and Kim Vilfort scored in their 2-0 final triumph against Germany, but Schmeichel's early save from Jürgen Klinsmann set the tone. "If that had gone in, I think we would have lost easily," he said. "When my team-mates saw me saving something like that, they knew I would be in top form, that I would help them out. That sort of gave them extra powers."
The 1976 finals, meanwhile, are best remembered for the insouciant penalty that Antonín Panenka lifted over West Germany goalkeeper Sepp Maier – yet Czechoslovakia goalkeeper Ivo Viktor had a role to play too, however unusual. "It was me who made Antonín Panenka eternally famous," he explained.
"I made a terrible mistake in the last minute of regular time. I went for a cross which I was sure I would get to easily, but Bernd Hölzenbein got there first and headed over me, so extra time followed. Panenka shone in the shoot-out with his chip into the middle of the goal, but I sometimes remind him that if I hadn't made that terrible blunder, nobody would have heard of him."
Iker Casillas's stops from Daniele De Rossi and Antonio Di Natale during the spot kicks against Italy in the 2008 quarter-finals changed more than the course of a shoot-out, but the destiny of Spanish football. "That was the moment when everything Spain needed to end our run of not winning tournaments just clicked," he said. Suddenly, in Casillas's words, Spain's "inner doubts" had been banished. Two UEFA EURO titles and a FIFA World Cup followed, with Casillas becoming, in 2012, the first keeper to lift the Henri Delaunay Cup twice.
Over his career Dino Zoff had a similar steadying influence for Italy, notably in 1968 when he helped the Azzurri scrape a 1-1 draw with Yugoslavia in the Rome final before they edged the replay 2-0 in Naples two days later. "We didn't deserve to draw the first match," he recalled. "Two days later, however, we definitely deserved to win. I conceded one goal in four games at the finals, but the important thing wasn't Zoff's goalkeeping, it was the team's victory."
The EURO-winning custodians are a mix of rock-solid stoppers such as Zoff and Greece's 2004 clean-sheet king Antonis Nikopolidis, and mavericks like the Soviet Union's 1960 hero Lev Yashin. Both of France's past successes featured charismatic No1s: 1984 champion Joël Bats was an artist at heart, later writing poetry and making a popular children's record, L'Escargot (the Snail); while Laurent Blanc's pre-match routine of kissing Fabien Barthez on the head before every game was France's lucky charm at UEFA EURO 2000.
Brilliant saves, then, are not the only thing that makes a EURO-winning keeper. Victorious with West Germany in 1972, Sepp Maier believed the role was a simple one: "A goalkeeper needs to exude a sense of calm – and make sure he doesn't fall asleep!" Expect them to follow that rule to the letter during the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying draw at 12.00CET on Sunday.
2012 Iker Casillas
2008 Iker Casillas
2004 Antonis Nikopolidis
2000 Fabien Barthez
1996 Andreas Köpke
1992 Peter Schmeichel
1988 Hans van Breukelen
1984 Joël Bats
1980 Harald Schumacher
1976 Ivo Viktor
1972 Sepp Maier
1968 Dino Zoff
1964 José Ángel Iribar
1960 Lev Yashin
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