Columbia – @GKacademyelite
How can we start any World Cup Goalkeeping article for Columbia without mentioning possibly the second most famous save ever made by an international GK, clearly Gordon Banks 1970 save against Pele is still ranked as the greatest save ever, but this one is more associated with the slightly crazier side to being a keeper.
Nicknamed El Loco which translated as the “mad man” Rene Higuita’s 1995 Wembley “Scorpion” kick against a Jamie Redknap’s shot for England, rapidly became the next trick that every goalkeeper from the age of 6 upwards tried in their gardens, at the local park with friends and more worryingly was used as a warm up for so many Sunday park goalkeepers up and down the country! (myself included)
Higuita comes from a long list of scoring Columbian keepers, he totalled 41 career goals for club and country. Columbia also boasts Alejandro Sinisterra (13) Andrej Pelaez (11) and Julian Viafara (10) these double figure scorers are all inside the top 28 all time world scoring goalkeepers.
David Ospina has been Columbia’s number one choice throughout the whole world cup qualifying campaign, playing in all 16 qualifying games, he has a total of 42 caps so far and with little in the way of youthful competition Ospina looks set to have a long and distinguished International career. He took over from Faryd Mondragon who is still part of the Columbian squad and turns 43 years old this summer, Mondragon is Columbia second choice for the national squad after amassing 53 caps and is likely to be second choice in Brazil behind Ospina. Mondragon has started 5 games this season and spent the rest of the games on the bench including internationals.
Ospina 25yrs old stands 6ft tall, which in English terms would probably mean that most professional clubs would have dismissed him as being “not tall enough” but as many countries see if you are good enough then you’re tall enough. Ospina started at Athletico Nacional in Columbia coming thru their academy youth system, was quickly installed as the 1st team choice and was a huge part of the successful period for Athletico which saw Ospina keep goal in back to back league titles before he reached the age of 20. His growing reputation earning him comparison to some of the worlds greatest keepers and paving the way for a 2 million Euro move to Nice in France. He was purchased to replace Lyon bound and a few years later Tottenham Hotspur bound Hugo Lloris, a local hero at Nice and a very tough act to follow. Since joining Nice in 2008 he has started nearly 200 games in French Ligue 1, in season 2013-2014 he has started 28 games keeping 13 clean sheets in the process which for an under-performing team is one of the few highlights for the whole team.
He played through all of the Columbian u15-17 and u20 national squads winning his first senior cap in 2007, when as a substitute against Uruguay, the starting goalkeeper was sent off after 7 minutes of the game giving Ospina his first of his 42 caps. During the 2010 world cup qualifiers Ospina became Columbia’s second youngest ever starting keeper at the age of 20yrs, which added to his growing reputation.
His ability to stay big for as long as possible means that Ospina is particularly strong at close range, deflected shots, he also seems to gain the advantage on 1 on 1s with lightening-speed from his goal line putting all the pressure on to the attackers. Columbia during the WC qualifying process conceded the least amount of goals in the South American group, which will breed confidence in the team and they’ll prove to be a tough team to break down during the tournament with Ospina in the heart of defensive unit. If any weaknesses to be found his stats aren’t particularly good with distribution over the half way line with less than 65% pass completion, there was no information relating if any counter attacking goals/assists had come from the keeper’s distribution.
Columbia as a team are massively reliant on Ospina as there no 1 choice keeper for the tournament, with the ageing Mondragon as second choice and untried and untested Camilo Vargas, Vargas 6’1 25yrs has yet to make his full international debut, he’s made 9 appearances this season for Sante FE who are in Columbian League and represented his national side 5 times at u20 level. With limited game time throughout the season for Mondragon and Vargas it’s easy to see why David Ospina is the clear no1 choice for Columbia in Brazil 2014