Tony Cascarino, writing in the Times Online yesterday, invited some sarcastic criticism in the comments section of his blog, against his claim that England should take Darren Bent to South Africa, rather than a 3rd goalkeeper. Cascarino wrote, “Third-choice goalkeepers never play, yet England could easily need a predator such as Bent if Jermain Defoe got injured.”
One kind-hearted reader commented: “Oh my, its [sic] a pity your suggestion is against FIFA guidelines. Research Tony, try it. Or leave it to the real journalists.”
And sadly that is apparently true – World Cup guidelines currently state that 3 of the 23 squad members of World Cup Finals participants must indeed be goalkeepers.
But Cascarino’s claim is interesting anyway. Should FIFA leave it up to individual managers to decide whether to take 3 or only 2 goalkeepers to the World Cup finals? And if they should, would it indeed be smarter for England to take an additional striker?
3rd choice keepers NEVER play at World Cups
Ignoring the question of whether the additional striker should be Darren Bent, or a more clinical striker (e.g. a cardboard cut out of Wayne Rooney?), it seems to me that Cascarino makes a good point. When was the last time a 3rd choice keeper was actually called into action in a World Cup Finals? Too lazy myself to do some genuine research on that, I’ll leave it to our more stat-loving readers to put me straight – but from the top of my head I wonder if England have ever used a 3rd choice keeper at the World Cup? Is the position totally useless, just a summer jaunt for an already over-pampered Premiership star?
In fact haven’t England only ever had ONE 2nd choice keeper play in a World Cup Finals?
Peter Bonetti – he played for England in the Mexico World Cup in 1970, covering Gordon Banks (rather badly it turned out). But that was only as England’s #2. I can’t think of another time after 66 when England even needed their #2 goalkeeper at the World Cup.
Contrast that with the times England have lacked extra strikers. Even at the last World Cup, when Theo Walcott was controversially picked by Sven Goran Eriksson, England were notoriously without additional firepower upfront to support Wayne Rooney. Particularly as the tournament wears on, England may increasingly wish they had more strength in depth up front.
If England have to take a 3rd choice keeper, he should be a penalty king!
But regarding the third choice keeper position – I leave you with a final thought. Given that, as Cascarino points out, the 3rd choice keeper never plays, England’s #3 should be chosen on the basis of one criterion above all else: penalty saving expertise. England went out of the 2006, 1998 and 1990 World Cups at the quarter and semi finals stages, each time choosing to stay with their first choice keeper for the shoot outs, rather than bring on a penalty saving expert. The 1990 example is particularly memorable, with Shilton left on the pitch to concede all of Germany’s spot kicks, with Penalty saving great Dave Beasant (also known as “lurch” for his imposing size) left on the bench. England went out, and the World Cup drought continued…
So who should that be? Who is the most prolific penalty saving goalkeeper from England? Is it even a Premiership keeper? Could England really go to the World Cup Finals with a 6 feet 6 goalkeeper from the Second Division?! For me, as long as we went with our best penalty saving goalkeeper available, I wouldn’t care…