Ruud Doevendans

Ruud Doevendans has been an official columnist for a Dutch club and owns one of the largest collections of soccer videos containing hundreds of World Cup matches. We at PWC are proud to have him as a columnist. He will share his views about the past, present and future of the World Cup.

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Dasaev was even better than Yashin

    Unfortunately, I have never been able to see the likes of James Trainer, Ricardo Zamora and Frantisek Planicka. Or Andres Mazali, Giampiero Combi and Just GŲbel, to name a few more. Great goalkeepers before television brought soccer into our homes. When it comes to naming the best goalies ever, I have to limit myself to ďmodernĒ times. The ten best that Iíve seen are, alphabetically ordered:

Luis Miguel Arconada
Gordon Banks
Jan van Beveren
Rinat Dasaev
Ladislao Mazurkiewicz
Christian Piot
Peter Schmeichel
Ivo Viktor
Lev Yashin
Dino Zoff

    Some of them (Arconada) for their fabulous style, others (Van Beveren) for their style and reflexes, for their composure under all circumstances (Banks and Zoff), their overall abilities (Mazurkiewicz, Yashin and Dasaev), braveness (Piot and Viktor) or power (Schmeichel). Many countries have produced their own talents between the posts, but no other country has had two such extremely talented shotstoppers as the Sovietunion. I am sure that I am not the only person to rank Dasaev and Yashin among the best of all time. The question that remains is: who was the better of the two. Itís like comparing two almost uniovular twins. Both tall, with magnificent reflexes, good on and off the line and although looking a little sticky, very flexible. They were the backbone of their clubteams and national teams for a long spell of years.

    What we see is that players seem to get better the longer they are not playing anymore. We tend to remember their good moments and forget their bad. I have the same problem. Look at my list of favourite goalkeepers: no Kahn, no Buffon, no Chilavert or Van der Sar. I honestly think that the ten I mention above were better. But sometimes we overstate those things. And I think that is what we see when we consider players like Yashin. Even today, people who havenít seen the great Russian play a single minute, usually say: Yashin was the best ever. Why? Because they have heard it from so many other people, who havenít seen Yashin themselves either, but say so because so many before them did the same. Yashin is a pure legend. They had never seen a goalkeeper like him before. In the first place, because he was very good, and in the second place because they had never seen soccer on television before. But it's true, he revolutionized goalkeeping by coming off his line more than any predecessor.

    I have six games on video in which Yashin plays, mainly World Cup 1966 games. And I must say, he was a maestro. A really impressing goalkeeper, with no weaknesses it seems. But the best ever? There were plenty of moments when Yashin stole the show, but he wasnít always great. Especially during the World Cups in 1958 and 1962, he couldnít fulfil the expectations. Against Chile in 1962, he gave up a silly goal that led to the Sovietunionís elimination. Yashin surely must have been the best of the late 50ís and early 60ís, no doubt about that. What helped was, that he played in the period that soccer started to reach many people through television. Nobody could compare him to the great of earlier days. But then again, the best ever? I donít know.

    I may not have seen the very best of Lev Yashin, but I have seen Rinat Dasaev in his glory days, 1982-1988. In that period Dasaev was an unmatched goalkeeper, despite the great qualities of Harald Schumacher, Luis Miguel Arconada and Jean-Marie Pfaff. He was superb during the World Cup 1982, and his save on a Joe Jordan header will be remembered as one of the best saves ever made in a World Cup. Surely equal to Banksí save against Pelť in 1970. And the USSR may not have gotten very far in the World Cup 1986 (and many may say that Pfaff was the goalkeeping hero of that tournament), for me Dasaev even then was the best, playing brilliantly against France before he was beaten by four unstoppable shots from Belgium. It took something really special to beat Dasaev. Goals scored against him were mostly beautiful goals.

    During Euro 88 he was the best again, when Holland couldnít beat a fantastic Dasaev in their groupmatch in Cologne, and neither could Italy in the semis when the Russian muslim - he had the Koran with him in every game he played - stopped a short-range header from Giannini to keep the score 0-0 at half-time. I was in the stadium both times, and he was sensational. The final of that tournament was his last as the best goalkeeper of the world. He moved to Seville and we never saw the old Dasaev again. He was omitted from the national side after playing just one game in the World Cup 1990. Shortly after that humiliation, Dasaev quit the game.

    It proves that even those who rank among the best goalkeepers ever, had their weak moments. If I had to make the choice for the best Soviet-goalie, my vote would go to Dasaev. A 51/49 score, I must admit. In the games I saw from him, Lev Yashin couldnít convince me of being better than Rinat Dasaev. And we should realize that the Dasaev-period was much more difficult for goalkeepers than the period in which Yashin played. I think that Dasaev, with his qualities of the 80ís, playing in the 50ís and 60ís, would have been considered as the best ever. His legend would have been Yashin-like. He would, together with hockey-goaltender Vladislav Tretiak, have been the great ambassador of Soviet-sport. So quick, so agile, so unbeatable when at his best. On the other hand, if Yashin had played in the 80ís, he would have been remembered as a very good goalie, the way most people see Dasaev now. The longer they have retired, you know......



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