Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo will get all the headlines, of course, but it is goalkeeper Iker Casillas who should be receiving all the praise in the wake of his exploits Wednesday night.
Casillas made several exceptional saves in the last 15 minutes of regulation to deny a rampant Barcelona attack, and Real Madrid went on to win the Copa del Rey, 1-0, after extra time, in front of 52,000 at Valencia, Spain.
The victory ended an 18-year Copa del Rey drought for Real Madrid, which had last won the trophy in 1993. If not for Casillas, that drought would have been extended by at least another year.
First, Spain's World Cup-winning goalkeeper flung himself low to his right to block a fierce shot by Lionel Messi.
Casillas then launched himself high to his left to tip away a shot by winger Pedro.
Finally, the man who is widely regarded as the best in the world at his profession threw himself down and to his left to turn away Andres Iniesta's goal-bound shot with a fingertip save.
Those three moments, all in the space of a furious 15-minute assault by Barcelona, kept Real Madrid in the game and, when Ronaldo completed a fine attacking move in the 13th minute of extra time, the Catalan club knew it was not to be its night.
The decisive goal came on a swift counterattack. Marcelo passed the ball out to Angel di Maria on the left wing and the Argentine's superb cross into the center was met perfectly by Ronaldo, who arched backward and then flung himself forward to power the ball into the corner of the net.
Goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto, who had made an exceptional save in the 90th minute on a shot by Di Maria, was powerless to stop Ronaldo's bullet. It was the Portuguese winger's 42nd goal this season in all competitions.
Casillas, who received the Cup from Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia, was beaming afterward.
"We proved to everyone we can beat any team we want," he said.
Both teams had come close to scoring in regulation. Real Madrid midfielder Pepe sent a header crashing off the left post in the first half and Pedro had a goal ruled offside by the narrowest of margins in the second half.
The victory earned Real Madrid its first bit of silverware in three years and its first trophy under Coach Jose Mourinho, who has won something significant in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain.
"It's a very important title and we're going to enjoy it," Ronaldo said in a postgame television interview.
It was the 18th time Real Madrid has won the Copa del Rey. Barcelona has won the trophy 25 times.
Mourinho, criticized for his counterattacking approach in the wake of a 1-1 tie with Barcelona in a league game Saturday, took the opportunity to hit back at critics who had said he cared little about coaching and only about winning titles.
"Thank you," he said. "I like being a coach who wins titles."
The one negative note for Real Madrid was that it again finished the game with 10 men. Di Maria was ejected in the final minute after picking up a second yellow card, this time for a foul on Messi, who has 49 goals this season.
Barcelona, which is all but mathematically certain of winning the Spanish league title for the third year in a row, did receive one bit of welcome news Wednesday.
Iniesta will be able to play in the team's European Champions League semifinal series against Real Madrid after UEFA, European soccer's governing body, decided that he had not intentionally earned himself a yellow card in the quarterfinals and should not therefore be banned for an additional game.
Real Madrid plays host to Barcelona on April 27, with the decisive second game in the Champions League semifinal series in Barcelona on May 3.
"It is always better to win than lose, but we have to recover because that's life," Coach Josep Guardiola said. "Life has its knocks too. Will we pick ourselves up from this? Of course."
Arsenal are reportedly ready to bid for Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas. The veteran shot-stopper has been on the bench for Madrid's first two games of the new season.
Arsenal are ready to bid for Real Madrid's veteran goalkeeper Iker Casillas. (Photo : ibtimes.co.uk)
Arsenal are ready to bid for highly decorated Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas. Andy Hodgson of the London Evening Standard reports that the Gunners are closely monitoring developments involving the veteran shot-stopper.
Casillas has been left on the bench for Real's opening two games of the new season. That could encourage Arsenal chief Arsene Wenger to move for the experienced 'keeper who has won every major prize in the game.
The Gunners have been linked with moves for a host of goalkeepers, most of them residing in Spain's La Liga. There was mooted interest in Valencia's Vincent Guaita and Espanyol's Kiko Casilla.
Many feel Wenger needs to add a more dependable custodian ahead of talented but erratic youngster Wojciech Szczesny. Still only 23, the Poland international has the attributes of an elite goalkeeper. But his game is too often blighted by inconsistency and costly lapses.
However, in fairness to Szczesny, he has been stellar in Arsenal's last two matches. He made some fine late stops to deny Fenerbahce in the UEFA Champions League and produced three top notch saves during the 3-1 away win over Fulham.
Wenger may be loathed to disturb his development while Szczesny is enjoying such promising form. But there are plenty who would argue that increased competition would make Szczesny a better 'keeper in the long-term.
Yet while that might be true to some extent, Szczesny won't get better if he is not playing and Casillas will not leave Los Blancos simply to provide competition. The World Cup winner will demand a starting berth and has the credentials to merit it.
In many ways the 32-year-old could offer greater reliability than Szczesny. Wenger often likes to trust the precocious nature of youth in his squad, but that is a risky proposition at the goalkeeping position, where every mistake is critical.
Wenger's best Arsenal teams could always depend on the steady assurance of an experienced figure between the posts, whether it was David Seaman or Jens Lehmann. Placing Casillas as the last line of defence for what is still a young team, could be a shrewd move.
This potential transfer represents the classic conundrum Wenger usually faces in the market. Does he trust that Szczesny's youthful promise will mature into consistently commanding displays, or does he invest in the dependability of Casillas and all his experience?
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By Simon Jones for MailOnline 13:32 BST 02 Jun 2015, updated 14:57 BST 02 Jun 2015
Besiktas have expressed an interest in Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
The 34-year-old has been told he has a place at Real Madrid but to expect competition in the shape of Manchester United's David de Gea.
Casillas wants to speak to incoming manager Rafa Benitez about his plans before making any decision.
He started all but six of Real's La Liga matches last term and also helped the club reach the semi-finals of the Champions League.
The arrival of De Gea would almost certainly see Casillas benched next season but the Spain international is unconcerned.Related Articles
Speaking about De Gea last week, Casillas said: 'If De Gea does come here, he'll be welcomed.
'Competition is healthy and there is not a clause in my contract which states that I have to be No 1. We'll have to compete for a place like we do with Spain.'
Iker Casillas is a dynamic football player well-known for his athletic ability and centerfold-quality good looks. Born on May 20, 1981 in Mostoles, Spain, he is a goalkeeper and team captain for the Real Madrid football team. Unlike other football and soccer stars who bounce from club to club, looking for new opportunities and better chances at fame, Casillas has been with Real Madrid since he started playing in 1990. It is a relationship that he and his team enjoy and benefit from. There is a lot of loyalty and respect between Casillas and his teammates, and his fans adore him.
Many people consider Iker Casillas to be the best goalie in the world. Even if you think someone else might be better, you would have to concede that he is surely among the top three goalkeepers on the football field today. He has more titles and honors than he can count, and is one of the most decorated players in the world. He is also gracious, and does not brag. Casillas has speed, agility, and intelligence, and he is a well-rounded football player. He is also superstitious. Any time a member of his team scores a point, he purposely touches the crossbar of the goal he is tending. It may be more skill than superstition that keeps him successful, but he enjoys celebrating all goals from his teammates in this way on the other end of the field.
At 182.2 centimeters tall and weighing 85.5 kilograms, Iker Casillas has found he has become a household name and a bit of a heartthrob. His good looks and athletic frame have helped him to become quite sought-after in the media. Casillas acknowledges this, and says he misses riding the subway in the city without being recognized, or going to the amusement park in his area. Maintaining his privacy has been challenging since he burst onto the professional football field.
Casillas spent the 1990s playing with the Real Madrid youth program. He made his first start during the 1999 season. A couple years before that, he was approached by Jupp Heynckes and offered an opportunity to travel with the First Team to play Rosenborg, but Casillas stuck with Real Madrid C. As a young player, he worked his way through the youth system quickly. In 1996, he won the Under-15 European Championships, and won again two years later in the Under-17 Championship. In 2000, he won the Bravo Trophy, which is awarded to the best European football player who is under 21 years of age.
Iker Casillas cannot imagine a future without the Real Madrid family. He has been quoted as saying he would like to be president of the organization one day. For now, he continues his amazing and attention-grabbing play, working off his experience and confidence. The team counts on his leadership, and he is an effective and respected team captain. He has played in the World Cup and continues to impress his fans and fellow players with his intuitiveness and strength as a Real Madrid goalkeeper.
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I love Him. He Is The Best. I Cannot Imagine Real Madrid Without him.
Naturally, it looks like a vital goal stays more engraved than a fine save in the mind of viewers. FIFA and UEFA awards shortlists are largely dominated by attacking-minded players. How fair is this to goalkeepers?
Goals win games but it sometimes takes a tight defence and wonder punches for a team to hold on to victory. At the 2012 UEFA European Championship, shot-stoppers will come under pressure to keep their goal line clean. We present 5 names that could win the Best Goalkeeper Award at the tournament.
Only a few people may dare to doubt the credibility of Iker Casillas. He has had his nightmares against Barcelona during the past few years in club football. With the Spanish national team, however, Casillas is an iron wall. He played a major role in Spain’s path to glory at the 2008 European Championship and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
His consistency in post has made him an undisputed first-choice goalkeeper since almost a decade now. Even Victor Valdes who has won a multitude of trophies with Barcelona cannot threaten Casillas' First XI place in Spain.
The 31-year-old is the most capped goalkeeper in the history of Spain’s national team with over 130 appearances and counting. The Real Madrid legend has yet to concede a goal in 2012. This record will apply pressure on opposing strikers during UEFA Euro 2012. Who will be the first player to score against Spain’s Iker Casillas?
2) Manuel Neuer of Germany
Manuel Neuer grabbed the attention of the public at the 2010 FIFA World Cup with his splendid display for Germany. The 2011 Best Bundesliga Player of the Year is young and continues to shine. His input at UEFA Euro 2012 will be crucial for the DFB Eleven.
Germany vs Portugal will see Manuel Neuer affronting Cristiano Ronaldo again. The latter did score twice against Neuer when Real Madrid hosted Bayern Munich in the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League semi-finals. However, team effort sent the two-legged tie into extra-time and eventually gave Neuer the chance to have the final word in the penalty shoot-outs.
Filling the boots of Oliver Khan and Jens Lehman is one hard thing to do for a goalkeeper of Manuel Neuer’s age who got his first cap for Germany at 23. Neuer has stamina in abundance. He played every single bit of Germany’s UEFA Euro 2012 qualification campaign.
In 270 minutes of group stage action, the Bayern Munich star could bring some of the world’s best forwards – Robin van Persie, Nicklas Bendtner and Cristiano Ronaldo – back to planet Earth. A golden performance from Manuel Neuer in each of the Germans’ first three UEFA Euro 2012 matches could prove to be the difference in this famous “group of death”.
3) Joe Hart of England
Having conceded 11 goals in his 18 appearances for the Three Lions, Hart cannot contemplate his statistics with pride. However, he is still considered as one of England’s most promising players and rightfully so. Hart was virtually at the heart of his team’s success when Manchester City won the 2010/11 FA Cup and the 2011/12 English Premier League.
In the just-ended club football season, the 25-year-old goalkeeper conceded only 20 goals. Joe Hart enters the 2012 European Championship as a two-time Barclays Golden Glove winner.
After missing out on the 2010 FIFA World Cup against Robert Green, Joe Hart will try to make of Euro 2012 a tournament to remember for good reasons.
Hart certainly has more to learn in his bright career but he may also have a lot to teach to France’s Karim Benzema, Ukraine’s Andriy Schevchenko or Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
4) Gianluigi Buffon of Italy
Among this shortlist, Gianluigi Buffon is the most experienced goalkeeper. At the age of 34, the Juventus player is still an integral piece in Italy’s national team. He has been through ups and downs and the youngsters in the squad can look up to him for inspiration.
If Italy’s attack does not click, Gianluigi Buffon will be responsible of maintaining the balance at the back. He has faced world football legends like Zinedine Zidane so it would be a mistake to judge his potential on his old age.
Like Iker Casillas whom he will face in the Spain vs Italy fixture, Gianluigi Buffon carries a World Cup medal under his belt. Gigi had to watch in pain as substitute goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis conceded 3 goals against Russia in Italy’s last pre-Euro 2012 game. The skipper will try to win back the fans' faith in Poland and Ukraine.
Fernando Torres, David Silva and Fernando Llorente will surely keep the Italian goalkeeper very busy on June 10. However, if Gianluigi Buffon manages to come out with a positive performance on that day, he could gain an abundant amount of momentum to repeat his achievements of Germany 2006.
5) Petr Cech of the Czech Republic
He cannot count too many spectacular moments with the national team. Petr Cech conceded the fastest goal at the 2006 World Cup when Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan scored against the Czech Republic in a group stage match.
Had he performed better in post, the Czechs might have avoided a first round exit in Germany 2006. Well, this is a story of the past. The 30-year-old goalkeeper has gone through many things since then. These include a terrible head injury as well as FA Cup and European glory with Chelsea.
Euro 2012 comes at a good time for Petr Cech. The Czech Republic veteran goalkeeper is buzzing with confidence following Chelsea’s UEFA Champions League triumph in May. The 2012 European Championship will offer Cech the opportunity to produce a memorable performance in a major international tournament at last.
Petr Cech has saved crucial penalties before. In the 2008 UEFA Champions League final, he punched the spot kick of eventual FIFA Ballon d’Or victor Cristiano Ronaldo.
Against Bayern Munich, he caught Arjen Robben’s potential match winner to save Didier Drogba from transforming from hero to villain. Group D’s attackers better watch out…
Ahead of UEFA Euro 2012, much anticipation surrounds star strikers like Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie of the Netherlands, Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, Mario Gomez of Germany and Wayne Rooney of England. What if the fans’ high expectations are just too much pressure on these decorated icons?
In a match, every player wants the ball. At UEFA Euro 2012, goalkeepers could show everyone how to catch it!
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