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   June 23, 2002 | 1630 IST


Oliver Kahn

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Goalkeeper remains a vital ingredient

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It is impossible to quantify the relative value of players in various positions but one thing is for sure -- no team will win the World Cup with a bad goalkeeper.

Forwards have always commanded the highest transfer fees and attract the most attention as their goals appear in the record books as the currency of victory.

What does not go down on paper, but remains of equal importance, are the intercepted passes made by midfielders, defenders' last-ditch tackles and saves by goalkeepers.

As the tournament has progressed into the knockout stage, with some games now being decided on penalties, goalkeepers have assumed an even greater importance, with progress or elimination sometimes depending on which of the two involved can get his fingertip to a spot-kick.

South Korea's Lee Woon-jae for once knocked the pin-up strikers off the front pages after his shootout save from Spain's Joaquin on Saturday enabled Hong Myung-bo to shoot the co-hosts in the semi-finals.


Lee has not received anything like the attention of the outfield players but he also made a great save to deny Italy's Gennaro Gattuso a golden goal winner in the second round and, like many in his position before him, is something of an unsung hero.

Korea's semi-final opponents Germany have yet to be involved in penalties but remain hugely grateful to their goalkeeper and captain Oliver Kahn.

The 33-year-old Bayern Munich giant has looked solid throughout, but was at his best in the 1-0 quarter-final victory over the United States.

The coaches and players of both sides were united in their praise for Kahn, proclaiming his performance as the decisive factor.

"We knew we would have to have a brilliant Oliver Kahn if we were to go a long way in this World Cup and that's what we've had," Germany coach Rudi Voeller said.

Kahn's opposite number Brad Friedel also praised the German having himself produced probably the most impressive all-round displays of any keeper at the tournament.

Friedel saved two penalties -- against South Korea and Poland -- in the group stage and was a rock at the back as he made a major contribution to the Americans' progress to the last eight.

Goalkeepers have often been seen as the weak link in the Brazilian team but present incumbent Marcos saved them from probable defeat in their first game against Turkey and, apart from his bizarre inability to take goal kicks, has been faultless.

Others have not been so fortunate and, as is so often the case with the last line of defence, their mistakes have proved costly.

England's David Seaman was inconsolable after he somehow allowed Ronaldinho's hopeful 35 metre free kick go in above his head for Brazil's winning goal in the quarters.

Seaman, approaching his 39th birthday, looked as if his feet were in concrete as he failed to move quickly enough to make what should have been a straightforward save.


It was the second time England have paid a high price for hanging on to an ageing keeper after 40-year-old Peter Shilton moved equally slowly when Andreas Brehme's deflected free kick looped over him in the 1990 World Cup semi-final.

England had been the beneficiaries in the previous round when only the strange workings of FIFA committees denied Denmark keeper Thomas Sorensen an own goal after he flipped Rio Ferdinand's tame header over the line and later allowed an Emile Heskey shot to go straight under his dive.

Jose Luis Chilavert's supposedly triumphant return after missing Paraguay's first game through suspension was a huge disappointment.

Looking overweight and unfit, he performed poorly, particularly in the 3-1 group defeat by Spain, and, at 37 next month, might also consider calling it a day.

Spain were the beneficiaries of an embarrassing display by South Africa's Andre Arendse -- a surprise choice ahead of Hans Vonk, who gifted goals to Raul and Gaizka Mendieta.

However, even Arendse looked good in comparison with Saudi Arabia's Mohammed Al-Deayea. It would be unfair to blame him for all 12 goals his team conceded in their three first round games -- just about half of them.

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