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The special 'one'

Rashneel Kumar
Monday, July 07, 2014

CAN Louis van Gaal become the "Special One" of the 2014 World Cup?

The Netherlands coach is looking good at the moment and after that genius move in the quarter-final against Costa Rica, the new Manchester United manager may well be worthy for that title.

He can be the one to end Netherlands' jinx in the World Cup and help them win the first-ever title. Still a long way to go though.

Against Costa Rica with a minute remaining in the extra time play and the game locked at nil-all heading into the penalty shootout, Van Gaal brought in stopper Tim Krul to replace experienced Jasper Cillessen.

This was probably his trump card after the Dutch failed to find the back of the net despite having huge advantage in possession and scoring opportunities.

Netherlands players and team management looked frustrated. Those on field did everything but somehow, they were unable to put the ball pass Costa Rica stopper Keylor Navas. But excellent goalkeeping from Navas.

Then came Krul and what an impact he made. He blocked two spot kicks to send Netherlands into the semi-finals where they will face Argentina which defeated Belgium 1-0 in the other quarters. What a tussle this will be!

Van Gaal's genius (or gamble as an anti-Dutch fan suggested) paid off. Whatever the tactic was, goalkeepers have proven to be the heroes of this World Cup.

The Daily Mail looks at the shot-stoppers who have taken our breath away. Here are the top three:

Tim Howard (USA)

His 15 saves against Belgium — a World Cup record — have turned the Everton goalkeeper into a national hero in America. Breakfast television have jokingly started a "Tim Howard for President" campaign and the real vice-president Joe Biden tweeted that he was the most valuable player in the entire World Cup.

Certainly Howard's performance defied belief, stopped Belgian shots with all parts of his anatomy including his feet, legs, chest and face. And it wasn't the first time, he defied Ghana and Portugal to even get US into the knockout stages.

Whatever, Howard achieves in the rest of his career, he will forever be known as the man who tried to stop Belgium single-handedly in Salvador, a remarkable legacy as US actually ended up losing the game.

Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico)

His reflex stop from Neymar's header — somehow scooping the ball away without colliding with the goalpost — was compared with Gordon Banks' legendary save from Pele.

Then, to prove it was no fluke, he pulled off another worldie against Holland by spreading himself and somehow punching the ball away when Stefan de Vrij caught a volley full flush from only four yards. Ochoa, 28, is a free agent after his contract with French club Ajaccio ran out at the end of the season. He won't have any shortage of offers

Manuel Neuer (Germany)

Rated by many the world's best going into this tournament, Neuer took goalkeeping to a new level by being part-goalkeeper, part-sweeper to keep out Algeria as Germany made the quarter-finals.

Aware that Algeria's forwards would be too pacy for Germany's slow defenders, Neuer was on full alert to race from goal on several occasions and clear danger, showing speed, technical ability, and bravery with one diving header.

The 28-year-old Bayern No1 has a presence between the posts not seen since Peter Schmeichel's day and looks good enough on the ball to be an outfield player





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