SYDNEY – Australia goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold surely won a legion of fans with her steely-eyed heroics in Saturday’s quarter-final penalty shoot-out victory at the Women’s World Cup.
Once the target of criticism in the women’s game, goalkeepers have been show-stoppers Down Under with umpteen theatrical game-salvaging saves.
Arnold – known affectionately as “Macca” – saved three spot kicks against France on Saturday, despite pinging her own penalty kick off the post.
Calling it the “craziest game” she had ever played in, the 29-year-old West Ham United goalkeeper had to stop Kenza Dali’s spot kick twice after the referee whistled Arnold had moved off her line.
“For Macca, missing that penalty and then staying in the game and being that player that wins the game for us, it’s unheard of. I mean, that mental strength of hers,” raved Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson.
Of the 60 games played through three rounds, goalkeepers have been named Player of the Match in nine of them, including Arnold.
Netherlands coach Andries Jonker was full of praise for Daphne van Domselaar after the Aston Villa custodian’s string of saves against South Africa helped secure the Dutch a spot in the quarter-finals.
“Four years ago, there were goalkeepers who could not deal with the ball just under the bar and now we’ve got a whole generation of very athletic goalkeepers, who don’t let in that kind of ball,” Jonker said.
“Daphne is one of that new generation. They’re athletic, they’re in good shape, they’ve got good positioning, so the developments in that area are incredible and the Netherlands are right along there.”
Nadine Angerer, who kept goal for Germany in their World Cup triumphs of 2003 and 2007, said there were clear signs of improved goalkeeping standards.
“Overall, there’s way better goalkeeper performances. Especially I want to highlight… making the decision to come out and then a decision whether to punch it or to actually catch the ball,” Angerer said at Fifa’s Technical Study Group (TSG) press conference on Aug 4.
“We saw an absolute increase in decision making to come out and then finally, the punching technique and the punching has improved.”
Forty-six per cent of teams have kept a clean sheet in a game, up from 33 per cent from four years ago. And save percentages with the hands have risen from 74 per cent to 78 per cent despite there being more attempts at goal from within the penalty area.
“The positioning of the goalkeepers, they’re way more connected to the defence line, the positioning is higher, and the timing is better. They’re coming out more ruthless. And yeah, the technique itself is better, so that’s one area we saw big improvement,” Angerer added.