Argentina’s Sergio Goycochea has made more of a mark on the history of the FIFA World Cup™ finals than most of his fellow goalkeepers. El Vasco started Italy 1990 on the bench, but an injury to first-choice custodian Nery Pumpido 11 minutes into the South Americans’ second group match against the Soviet Union gave the then 26-year-old the chance to shine between the posts. It was an opportunity he took with both hands, going on to become, in the opinion of no less an authority than Paraguayan legend Jose Luis Chilavert, “one of best ten World Cup goalkeepers ever”.
Goycochea played an integral part in Argentina’s run to the Final in Italy, where they lost out to Germany 1-0. Now, 20 years on, and with just a few days to go before the two sides lock horns again in the quarter-finals of South Africa 2010, the former custodian speaks exclusively to FIFA.com. Up for discussion are the form of the keepers on show in the world finals and that fateful game against the Germans two decades ago.
FIFA.com: Sergio, Saturday’s match between Argentina and Germany promises to be a classic. What memories do you have of your opponents in the Final of the 1990 FIFA World Cup Italy?
Not the best, I can tell you. Losing a World Cup Final is pretty painful and even more so when it’s against Germany. It was a strange game. We went into it with a lot of people out through injury and suspension, but we put up as much of a fight as we could and the fact that the Germans have a lot of respect for the Argentina shirt ensured it was an even game. They wouldn’t have shown so much respect if it had been someone else.
Have you watched Andreas Brehme’s match-winning penalty recently?
To be honest I’ve never seen a replay of it. I can’t save it now, can I? But that’s just the way it goes.
There’s been a big change in the team although I don’t know why. I guess it’s got something to do with the time they spent together before the first game.
What is your happiest memory of the tournament?
Celebrating after saving (Aldo) Serena’s penalty in the semi-final against Italy. I ran off towards my team-mates and it was just one of those happy moments you get in football. There I was running around a stunned stadium and all I could hear were the cries of my team-mates. It was like saving a penalty against Super Mario on a pitch in my home town of Lima. That’s what it reminded me of, although there was a lot more at stake in that game against Italy.
Saving penalties was a speciality of yours. What do goalkeepers need to be aware of in situations like that?
You don’t need to do any special training. Obviously the most important thing is to know your opponents and know where they usually place them. Strikers take them in different ways to midfielders and defenders. Skilful players take them one way and less gifted ones another. And taking the first kick is different to taking the fifth. The first is only the start but if you have to score the fifth to tie things up, then that’s a different situation altogether. Goalkeepers need to stay calm and be aware that the pressure is all on the penalty taker. Everyone knows that and what you have to do is try to transmit that to the player taking the kick.
And what about the physical aspect?
You need to have strong legs, that’s absolutely essential. And you also need strong intuition and a little bit of luck too, though it’s not all about luck. At least not for me.
You also had a peculiar superstition before the penalty shootouts at Italy 1990.
Yes, but it was born of necessity. We’d played 120 minutes against Yugoslavia and of course we couldn’t go to the dressing room before the shootout. I’d taken a lot of liquid on board and unlike the outfield players I hadn’t lost it because I hadn’t been running around. I’d drunk so much I felt like going to the toilet, and as I couldn’t go to the changing room I asked one of my team-mates to shield me so I could urinate on the pitch. And against Italy I did the same thing and it worked again (laughs).
Turning to South Africa 2010 now, which goalkeeper has impressed you the most so far?
I’d say Julio Cesar, although that’s more because of the build-up to the finals than anything else. He still hasn’t had a great game but I’m sure he’ll repeat his Inter form as Brazil progress. I’m also very relaxed about the Argentina keeper Sergio Romero. He looks very secure and very solid and he’s dealt with the ball very well. We look really good in that area.
You know Diego Maradona very well. How far can his team go at South Africa?
There’s been a big change in the team although I don’t know why. I guess it’s got something to do with the time they spent together before the first game. There was an internal problem, Diego got the qualifiers out of the way and then, when everything calmed down, he started to shape the team. That, and the commitment of the players, is what’s making things work. Let’s hope they can keep it going.