27/12/2019

Five goalkeepers who are re-writing the position

FEATURE: With the game constantly evolving, goalkeepers are now re-writing their instruction manual, adding goalscoring to their arsenal. We analyse the best scorers from a position that used to be a defensive one

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK APRIL 13: Action from the 2020 Men's European Championship Qualifiers match between Denmark and Montenegro in Royal Arena on April 13, 2019 in Copenhagen, Denmark. (Photo by Jan Christensen / FrontzoneSport via Getty Images)

They say a goalkeeper has just the dose of insanity that can propel a team to win given he is in a good day.

While handball is a team sport and there have been countless examples of a proper team winning rather than a star-studded one, there is a position on the court that truly embodies the individual nature of handball.

For many years, the goalkeeper had only one job to do: saving as many shots as possible, from every angle and irrespective of the speed. Therefore, a good shot-stopper was a must for any team, as he could be the difference between a win or a loss.

But, as handball evolved, the goalies have now more responsibility and can become decisive even in attack.

With the slew of changes that were amended to the rules, taking out the goalkeeper to provide an extra attacking player become a staple of tactics for many coaches.

But the move is a double-edged sword, as the goal is empty and now open goal shots are a weapon for more teams.

It also helps goalkeepers to get on the scoresheet and these goals clearly help teams edge closer to a win, as the attack is given more time to refresh and think clearer.

At EHF EURO 2018, goalkeepers scored eight times, with Spanish ace Gonzalo Perez de Vargas leading the charge with two goals.

But who are the shot-stoppers that could prove useful in the EHF EURO 2020?

Gonzalo Perez de Vargas (Spain)

Despite only playing six games before getting injured at EHF EURO 2018, Perez de Vargas was superb for Spain, saving 52 shots and boasting a save rate of 34 per cent.

However, his quick feet, sharp reactions and sheer intelligence helped the Spanish goalkeeper score two goals in the process of helping his team win the gold medal.

He was the only keeper to score more than once and the 28-year old shot-stopper made a habit of doing so both for the national team and for Barça, where he plies his trade at a club level.

Perez de Vargas scored twice in the VELUX EHF Champions League for the Spanish champions this season, while adding three goals in the past season. 

He also holds the all-time scoring record for a goalkeeper in a season, as he scored six times in 2017/18, boasting 12 goals in nine seasons in Europe’s premier club competition for Barça. 

Niklas Landin (Denmark)

Niklas Landin has won gold at the EHF EURO, World Championship and the Olympic Games and his performance has been superb in every competition for Denmark.

The goalkeeper who plies his trade for Kiel since 2015 did not score in this season’s VELUX EHF Champions League, but was the goalkeeper with the most goals scored at the World Championship in January, scoring three times.

Landin also scored four times for Kiel in the 2017/18 season in Europe and has twice appeared on the scoresheet in the German Bundesliga this season.

Moreover, Landin has nine goals to his name in the Danish national team in 204 games, while adding 12 for Kiel in the domestic league since his arrival in 2015.

Vincent Gerard (France)

Taking the baton from Thierry Omeyer both in the French national team and at PSG, Vincent Gerard is also a dual-threat goalkeeper.

At the EHF EURO 2018, Gerard had a 38 per cent save efficiency, only behind Slovenian goalkeeper Urh Kastelic, but with three times the number of saves.

However, Gerard is also an excellent marksman and a very good shooter, scoring 12 goals in 92 games for the French national team.

He scored once at the EHF EURO 2018, twice at the World Championship 2019 and has at least one goal scored in each of the past five VELUX EHF Champions League seasons.

More of that and Gerard, boasting a superb defence in front of him, could get even easier on the scoresheet at the EHF EURO 2020.     

Marin Sego (Croatia)

The 34-year old goalkeeper has been playing at the highest level since he started handball and scored seven goals in the VELUX EHF Champions League while being part of teams such as Plock, Kielce and Montpellier.

Sego scored once for Croatia at the World Championship in January, while also adding another goal in the European top flight for Montpellier this season.

A goalkeeper with a huge handball IQ and fast reactions, Sego has two goals to his name in the Croatian national jersey over 39 games played in his career.

His fast delivery also netted several assists this season for Montpellier and his help will be crucial for Croatia in group A, where Lino Cervar’s side meet Belarus, Serbia and Montenegro.

Andreas Wolff (Germany)

The 28-year old German goalkeeper has been one of the best shot-stoppers in a game for a while now, also receiving the EHF Player of the Month award in November, after a superb run with his club team, PGE Vive Kielce.

While turning the screws on a tight defence, Wolff also had a great season as an attacking threat, punishing opponents who dared to leave the goal empty ahead of him.

With two goals this season in the VELUX EHF Champions League, Wolff joined Gonzalo Perez de Vargas as the most efficient goalkeeper regarding the attacking returns.

He has also scored 10 times for the German national team in 87 games, also registering on the scoresheet once at EHF EURO 2018.

written by Adrian Costeiu / cor