By Eduardo Maisonet, III / @edthesportsfan
For FOX Deportes
A hot goalie can ruin any hopes, dreams and ambitions your favorite football team might have ever had in matriculating to their ultimate prize.
As a matter of fact, a hot goalie doesn’t give a damn about you, your mama, your papa, your friends, your puppy, your significant other, or your sweet abuelita that just made fresh plantains for you to devour.
No. Your ability to flourish can and will be deterred by a hot goalie, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
There’s five goalies that could have a similar impact in Euro 2012, and if they catch “on fire” like our favorite video game “NBA JAM”, then a deep run in the tournament could be in line for their respective teams.
1. Wojciech Szczęsny, Poland: The host country’s biggest star on the roster helped stabilize Arsenal during the second half of the season to help his club side secure 3rd place in the Champions League. At 20 years old, the phenomenal athlete from Warsaw commands his area as well as any keeper in the world. The former ballroom dancer and javelin thrower will need to dance with his back line to navigate a tricky but winnable group A with Greece, Czech Republic and Russia. Dancing’s one thing, throwing momentum is another. A timely save here and a strong counter-attack there could net a solid 1-0 victory for the home side, and the 20-year old will see his star power rise to unforeseen levels.
2. Manuel Neuer, Germany: Germany will once again be tournament favorites in 2012, and although many pundits and prognosticators will speak on the greatness of players like Mario Gomez, Thomas Mueller, Phillipp Lahm and Mesut Özil, the player that matters most to Die Mannschaft is Neuer. The kid who was raised through Schalke 04’s youth program since age 5, and eventually went over to Bayern Munich last year, was born for this moment. The best goalie in the Bundesliga, and arguably one of the best in the world, Neuer’s performance could dictate who wins a championship.
3. Hugo Lloris, France: The dysfunctional unit that has been the French Football National Team seems to have found stable ground in recent years. Part of the reason is Lloris, France’s team captain for the last two years, who at age 25 is the leader of Lyon and a leader of men. The team believes in him, and in turn he acts as a brick wall versus their opponents. Those opponents in France’s group will feature a trio of strikers that will include Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Andriy Shevchenko. France has a strong back four, but Lloris’ command in the box will be crucial for Les Bleus.
4. Joe Hart, England: Speaking of dysfunction, while France has been the proverbial whipping boy by the media in recent years, England has done a fine job of overtaking the French for the distinction. Players taking other players women, a lack of creativity from their best players, and an overall direction on strategy and focus derailed any hope for the Three Lions in international competitions of late. However, the 6’5” keeper from Manchester City might have the stones to help England overcome their shortcomings in this tournament. Somehow, he kept his poise when it was needed most as a similarly talented and dysfunctional unit it in City, and if he can perform similarly then England might finally be able to take pride in their national heroes on the pitch.
5. Gianluigi Buffon, Italy: “Father time is undefeated.” That quote is from every old man I’ve ever known in my family bloodline. The older you get, the more father time robs you of your natural gifts, its just a fact. For Buffon, age doesn’t seem like anything other than a number. He helped lead Juventus to another club title, and while the youth movement has taken place at other positions, Buffon still owns the box like none other. An 8-time goalkeeper of the year in Serie A, an epic performance in Euro 2012 could motivate the youngsters on the pitch, and if that’s the case then El Azzuri could be making another title run on July 1st.