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Monday 23 October 2017

Memory
 stirs with Brazil

World Cup heroics remind Irish hero Packie of Romania shoot-out in 1990

THE loneliness of the World Cup goalkeeper in a penalty shoot-out.

Packie Bonner was the man on the goal-line, with the hopes of his nation on the line, in Genoa 24 years ago, so when the Ireland legend watches current keepers like Julio Cesar face into a shoot-out, the memories come back.

"It feels like yesterday," Bonner says as he reflects on that day in Italy in 1990, his save from Daniel Timofte sending Ireland into the last eight of the World Cup finals.

Those keepers on duty for penalties in Brazil are probably the best-prepared, best-informed bunch of netminders ever when it comes to looking at the opposition.

In '90, in the days before Youtube clips, DVD analysis, tablets-wielding coaches and Vine, Bonner didn't even know the names of the Romanian penalty takers.

"When you are sitting looking at the World Cup, from your own perspective, you can see parallels, thinking 'what would I do?'," Bonner asks.

"And I wouldn't do anything different, how I prepared for the penalty shoot out, that's why I was thinking about Julio Cesar, who was caught up in the emotion of it and crying, and I was thinking 'how are you going to focus on what you have to do?'.

"But he had obviously done his homework and planned so he was able to go straight from that into the zone, so that was about planning and preparation beforehand, that's the way you can do it.

"We didn't know any of their penalty takers," Bonner says of that Romanian side in 1990.

"The guy Lupescu, who took a penalty, was the sweeper and he's now in an Andy Roxburgh role in UEFA as a technical manager, I meet him every time I am over there and we work together, he tells me he lost a fortune after that penalty shoot out I said I made a fortune."

Jack Charlton, who barely knew the names of his own players, let alone the opposition, didn't weigh Bonner down with up-to-date info on the penalty styles of Romania.

"The focus for us was not on the opposition," says Bonner.

"The only thing me and Gerry Peyton looked at was looking at how they walked from the half way line and the if he was right footed or left footed. We didn't even know who the player was who was going to take it, what his name was, but we saw how he approached the ball and if he stood at those different angles we anticipated where we was going to put it and looking back we dived the right way for every one.

"And when you get one guy like Timofte who wasn't totally confident - if you look at his walk up, he hit a nice penalty. The other thing is you don't have to catch the ball, just knock it to safety. So if you the right way you've always got a chance and it worked - for that moment."

For the squad, practicing penalties was more about Niall Quinn trying to win money off his team-mates.

"Niall had this thing, you had three penalties and if you scored three he owed you a fiver but typical Niall, if you missed one you owed him a fiver," Bonner recalls.

"He would get into goals and take my gloves so everybody was practising on Niall. He was 6ft 5 and could fall down. He was well up by the end of it all."

Of course football in 2014 is another world, as evident from the current finals tournament in Brazil where some keepers have caught Bonner's eye.

"The South Americans have impressed me. Claudio Bravo has done exceptionally well. I think he has got the typical modern-day goalkeeper, he's good with his feet. He makes saves but he moves around the goal really well and I think he'll suit Barcelona down to a tee.

"If I was looking as a Barcelona scout and fitting him into that system, I think he'll do excellent. Overall I think the South Americans have done well.

"Tim Howard was exceptional the other night. I know one or two might have been criticising him beforehand, that he might have been the weak link, but I think he proved to everyone that's not the case. He's such an experienced keeper.

Criticism

"He made 16 saves, I know they were all low, around his feet and the one that beat him was high, which was the criticism, that he goes down a wee bit quick but I think he was exceptional and fair play to him, to keep that intensity of saves going within a game. You can be lucky, you can make a couple of good saves but he kept making the same type of save, one after the other."

Manuel Neuer has also made an impression. "I think he's adapted his game coming out from the back really, really well - I don't think he's that natural a goalkeeper that he could pass as well as some of them but he's done it and has worked really hard at it.

"But the other part of his game that he's added is playing that sweeper role now

"Maybe because of the tactical element, most teams now drop back that little bit more but Germany push up and so he has to do it and is brave enough to do it."

The 2014 Packie Bonner Golf Classic, in aid of Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Ireland, takes place on Friday August 22 in the K Club. Contact plandy@sbhi.ie for team bookings and sponsorship opportunities.

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