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Euro 2021: The goalkeeper’s final: Pickford and Donnarumma, the inheritance of opposite lines

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Euro 2021: The goalkeeper's final: Pickford and Donnarumma, the inheritance of opposite lines

Both goalkeepers, marked by their predecessors, seek to become protagonists of the first title of England or the second of Italy

Pickford and Donnarumma, during the Eurocup.MATT DUNHAMAFP

The history of the great teams is built through their goalkeepers and forwards. If the deceased Lev yashin has a privileged place in the football legend is largely due to the victory of the Soviet Union in the first European Championship in history, in the year 60. The same happens to a large extent with the long-lived Dino zoff, link between the Italian triumphs in the Euro of 66 and the World Cup of 82, or with the German Sepp maier, European champion in 72 and world champion in 74, and of course with Jos ngel Iribar, continental champion in 64, the first of Spain’s titles. And what about Gianluigi Buffon, by Iker Casillas or Manuel Neuer, modern representations of the mysticism that surrounds the best goalkeepers in history.

Who knows if in the future the name of Gianluigi Donnarumma (22 years old) or Jordan pickford (27) will evoke the highest level of those previously mentioned. Tonight Wembley offers a passport to glory to the two goalkeepers, still short of history in their passes. The first European Championship in England or the second in Italy, after the already distant one in 1968, bear the stamp of one of the two men who are now beginning to write their first paragraphs with their respective teams. The Italian is playing his first major tournament and the English is the second, after starting at the World Cup two years ago.

Opportunity unites them, but everything else separates them, beginning with the national tradition of the position they occupy. Italy has always been the territory of solid and durable goalkeepers. The catenaccio of which they made religion for decades in the transalpine country began with the stability of a reliable goalkeeper whose hierarchy is not disputed. Zoff set for 15 years the gold standard of the ‘Italian portiere’, a standard that Walter zenga maintained at a high level in the late 1980s. The following decade was marked by the alternation, not always friendly, between Gianluca Pagliuca and Angelo Peruzzi until, with the turn of the century, Buffon took over the position from 2002 to 2018.

Banks and Shilton

In England, on the other hand, the position of goalkeeper has been a headache and even a source of derision among the local fans for more than three decades. After the hegemony of Gordon Banks in the 60s and 70s and that of Peter Shilton in the 80s, David seaman he picked up the baton for almost a decade, never quite convincing. His remembered farewell to the Three Lions was signed by Ronaldinho in the 2002 World Cup, surprising him with a direct free kick from 40 meters. It was not an isolated mistake. From then until 2018, the England goalkeeper became an electric chair through which, unstably, goalkeepers of dubious level were passing: Paul Robinson, Robert Green, Scott Carson, David James -His nickname, Calamity, save explanations-, Joe Hart …

Thus, sons of their lineage, Pickford and Donnarumma have followed antagonistic processes of consolidation in their selection. English was the bet of Gareth southgate in 2017 after Joe Hart was ruled out by Guardiola at Manchester City. That choice was never quite convincing in an England divided between the Everton goalkeeper and Nick Pope (Burnley), later also with Dean Henderson in the equation. Not even their great World Cup in Russia, in which they remedy the eternal curse of their team with penalties, closed the debate. His uneven performance at the always uneven Everton hasn’t helped either. In this European Championship, despite having conceded only one goal – from Damsgaard in the semifinals – he has not eradicated doubts either, offering insecurity in several games. An English victory tonight at Wembley will finally close the debate, at least until it is ascertained how far the promising Dean Henderson – who had to leave the tournament due to injury midway through the first phase – can grow at Manchester United.

Pickford’s slow climb from England’s fifth division to starting his national team contrasts with Donnarumma’s unprecedented precociousness. Gigi debuted in the goalkeeper of an entire Milan at just 16 years old in 2015 and from the first day she took over the position, seating Diego Lopez, and with 17 he was already an absolute international. Italy, enthusiastic about his credentials, immediately blessed him as Buffon’s natural replacement, in a process that culminated after the Nazionale was left out of the 2018 World Cup, something that has not happened since 1958.

In these almost four years no doubts have arisen, in part due to the limited nature of its competence –Alex Meret and Salvatore Sirigu accompany you in this Euro-. The growth of the entire selection, 33 games without defeat, has also contributed to consolidating its position in the azzurra. A title, which will be the first for Italy since 2006, will definitely consolidate him as one of the best goalkeepers in the world, if he is not already: when this European Championship ends, seek a new leap in his career in the ranks of PSG . Before, you must honor a race like there is no other in the world. Pickford, meanwhile, try to banish his for good. Only one will do it.