Like a Broadway understudy, Goycochea was the backup at that tournament to starter Nery Pumpido, who had helped Argentina win the World Cup four years earlier. With Pumpido the starter once again, Goycochea didn’t expect to see any action in Italy.
That all changed very quickly.
Pumpido broke his leg in the second game of the tournament against the Soviet Union. While Pumpido was stretchered off, Goycochea hastily put on his gloves and entered the match. Argentina had lost the opener 1-0 to Cameroon – a first for a reigning World Cup champion – and the team was on the brink of elimination after just one game.
In what turned out to be an impressive run, Goycochea recorded a shutout against Brazil in the Round of 16 and saved penalties in the quarterfinals against Yugoslavia and semifinals versus Italy, putting Argentina in the final.
Goycochea became the face of the successful backup. He quickly became the starter as clubs from Europe clamored for him. In an odd twist, Goycochea had been Pumpido’s backup at River Plate a few years earlier. He had moved on to lesser-known Millonarios just for the chance to get more minutes.
In another twist of irony, a penalty kick – the preferred weapon of Diego Maradona and his teammates to win games – did in Argentina in 1990. In the final, Goycochea could not save a penalty kick by Andreas Brehme that turned out to be the game-winner in 1-0 loss to Germany, a team that also featured current US coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
Although soccer is a game where goals win games, there is no more important position than that of the goalkeeper. Like an NFL quarterback or starting pitcher in the major leagues, only one person can play the position at a given time. The goalkeeper is the one position in soccer that – barring an injury or ejection – almost always plays the entire game.
Teams don’t usually sub out a goalkeeper unless forced. As a result, the backup goalie has become essential, especially for teams competing in short tournaments such as the World Cup. There have been some notable instances over the decades. A notion not lost on National Team managers who are currently assembling their rosters ahead of this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
As for the USMNT, Tim Howard will be the starter in Brazil with Brad Guzan his likely backup. Since 1990, a backup goalie (Brad Friedel) has appeared in just one (in 1998 against Yugoslavia) of 22 World Cup matches. It’s not likely Guzan, or anyone else for that matter, sees any time this summer.
Of course, anything can happen. The first goalkeeper to be red-carded at a World Cup was Italy’s Gianluca Pagliuca against Norway — a game the Italians ultimately won 1-0 – which forced second-stringer Luca Marchegiani into action. Pagliuca had handled the ball outside the penalty area on a Norway breakaway attempt. Marchegiani went on to play in two more matches, enough to get Italy out of the first round, before Pagliuca returned in time for the quarterfinals following a two-match ban.
Pagliuca had been the first-choice goalie for Italy since Walter Zenga following the 1990 World Cup. Marchegiani, on the other hand, had played only sporadically for the National Team, amassing just nine caps between 1992 and 1996. But even with Pagliuca back, Italy would go on to lose in the final to Brazil in a shootout.
Italy was involved in another famous backup goalie incident. Gianluigi Buffon was sidelined at the 2010 World Cup when an injury forced him out at halftime of Italy’s first game against Paraguay. Buffon suffered a back injury, replaced by Federico Marchetti. Buffon never returned and Italy crashed out of the tournament in the first round.
Marchetti, who had made his Italy debut in 2009, allowed four goals on just five shots. To this day, Marchetti has only has 11 caps to his name. Luca Prandelli may or may not name Marchetti to the squad in time for Brazil 2014. Either way, Prandelli and the other 31 managers at the upcoming World Cup know that their second-choice goalkeeper could very well end up a starter.
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