Croatia keeper Subasic quietly making a name for himself
ROSCHINO, Russia (AP) — While some big-name goalkeepers have stood out for their mistakes at the World Cup, Danijel Subasic is quietly making a name for himself with Croatia.
He has yet to concede a goal, keeping clean sheets when Croatia won its opening two group matches against Nigeria and Argentina. He was rested for the last group game, which Croatia won 2-1 against Iceland to finish top.
At this World Cup, it seems, keepers with big reputations are feeling the pressure more.
"It's a delicate position because every mistake you make is magnified, compared to other players," Subasic said through an interpreter Thursday at a team news conference.
Although David De Gea and Manuel Neuer are both vastly experienced at club and international levels, they have been talked about more for their mistakes than their saves at this tournament for Spain and Germany.
De Gea was criticized after his blunder gave Ronaldo one of his three goals in Spain's 3-3 draw with Portugal in their World Cup opener. During the 2-2 draw with Morocco on Monday, the Manchester United keeper was beaten through his legs and froze when a late header went in.
Neuer played poorly in the 2-0 defeat to South Korea on Wednesday, and was unusually sloppy on free kicks. The Bayern Munich No. 1 was stranded up the field as the South Koreans scored their second goal to send Germany out. Hugo Lloris has 100 caps for France, but he was almost embarrassed in the 2-1 win against Australia when he let a speculative long shot go and watched with relief as it hit the crossbar.
While the top goalkeepers are constantly playing under strain, others like Subasic seemingly approach games with less pressure and perform better.
"I think this World Cup has shown there are many other great goalkeepers, not only four or five who have been (at the) top level for a number of years," Subasic said. "There (have) been a number of really good goalkeepers."
Subasic hopes to keep his third straight clean sheet when Croatia faces Denmark in the last 16 on Sunday. He knows his job will be made easier by Croatia's slick and highly-organized midfield, led by Luka Modric.
But Croatia's strong work ethic sees lone striker Mario Mandzukic closing down opposing defenses and preventing them releasing the ball quicker.
"When Mandzukic is the first line of defense, the whole team works well (and) it's easier for the center backs and the goalkeeper as well," said the 33-year-old Subasic, who has played club football with French club Monaco since 2012 and is set to win his 41st cap for Croatia.
Uruguay is the only other side to have won all three group games so far in Russia, and this means expectations have been raised back home in Croatia.
"We played three excellent games against tough opponents," Subasic said. "But we need to forget that. We achieved our first goal but we want more."
Follow Jerome Pugmire on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jeromepugmire