Men's Hockey Pro League 2020: 3 goalkeepers to look out for

The Great Wall continues to shine for India
The Great Wall continues to shine for India

The inaugural season of the FIH Pro League recorded an average of over 5 goals per match with the strikers running riot - but, if it had not been for some insane acrobatics from the men under the bar, a lot more balls could have landed up under the netting.

The men who don the conspicuous paraphernalia while shielding their citadel have their faces concealed, for the most part, while on the pitch - but beneath the shiny helmets lie some of the most intense, colourful, and entertaining characters in the world of hockey.

Some of the men under the bar seem to have been around forever and have, thus, become synonymous with the names of their respective sides - imagine the Los Leones without 40-year-old Juan Manuel Vivaldi who was part of Argentina's 2004 Athens Olympics squad.

It has been quite a journey for Vivaldi - and the South Americans - who rose from an 11th place finish at Athens to end up as the Olympic champions in 2016, and the veteran goalie continues to dazzle as he did in the inaugural season of the Pro League.

From Belgium's Vincent Vanasch who saw his side through the pulsating shootout of the World Cup final, to Pirmin Blaak whose towering frame has, for long, secured the Dutch goal, the seemingly-irreplaceable goalkeepers have been instrumental in charting the course for their respective sides.

We take a look at three custodians who possess the ability to singlehandedly influence the outcome of matches with their mobility, nimbleness, and resolute saves in the upcoming FIH Men's Pro League 2020.

#3 PR Sreejesh

PR Sreejesh
PR Sreejesh

The booming voice is quite enough to propel his defenders into a heightened state of vigilance. The characteristic snarl and the shake of the head when the helmet is yanked off has now become a familiar sight whenever the Indian men take the field - just as the numerous funny antics of India's Great Wall.

PR Sreejesh is today one of the most recognizable faces in world hockey - and quite a character on and off the pitch.

The accolades have been many - with the most recent being the Goalkeeper of the Tournament at the 2018 Champions Trophy where he stood like a rock against Belgium and the Netherlands to carry his side to the final.

Despite the vital shootout losses of the Champions Trophy finals of 2016 and 2018 - and the tragic Asian Games semifinal defeat against Malaysia - the stalwart from Kerala continues to be vital to India's fortunes.

Sreejesh continues to inspire - and now acts as a friend, philosopher, and guide for young goalkeepers Krishan Pathak and Suraj Karkera as the Indians get set to embark on a momentous journey in 2020.

#2 Quico Cortes

Quico Cortes - The master goalkeeper in action
Quico Cortes - The master goalkeeper in action

Quico Cortes was in the Red Sticks side who were on a roll with a stupendous show in the 2006 World Cup, in Mönchengladbach where Spain won the bronze medal, which was followed by a silver medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Spain have, since, failed to carry their ascendancy forward on the world stage, but Cortes carries on - catapulting his team to Odisha 2018 with a stupendous show in the HWL Semifinals - and while in Bhubaneswar, impressing the crowds with his breathtaking stops.

Who, for instance, can forget the saved penalty stroke against the French at the Kalinga Stadium?

At the Pro League 2019, Cortes began with a bang, saving four of four shootouts to give the Spanish a vital extra point in the shootout against Belgium and then denied Pruyser, Brinkman, and Terrance Pieters to ensure another shootout win against the Dutch.

The wily Cortes displayed his years of experience in the shootout against the Netherlands when the Dutch were awarded a penalty stroke after Pieters appeared to have been obstructed by Cortes.

The Spaniard decided to go upstairs and claimed that he was the one who had been stick-checked initially. As the video umpire announced the verdict in favour of the Dutch, an unfazed Cortes painstakingly but confidently repeated what he wanted looked into - and managed to get the penalty stroke overturned, much to the dismay of Max Caldas' team.

Not surprisingly, the Spaniards seemed to relish the tie-breakers with five shootout wins in the 2019 Pro League - and Quico Cortes will be the goalkeeper to beat in the 2020 edition.

#1 Tyler Lovell

Best Goalkeeper of the 2019 Pro League - Tyler Lovell
Best Goalkeeper of the 2019 Pro League - Tyler Lovell

The Indians came closest to winning the elite Champion Trophy in the last two editions of the historic competition.

Despite matching the Aussies in every department in the finals of London 2016 and Breda 2018, India's dream of a Champions Trophy gold will forever remain unfulfilled - largely, on account of the exploits of one brilliant goalkeeper - Tyler Lovell.

It was Lovell who kept the marauding the Red Lions at bay in the finals of the Pro League earlier this year and his overall consistency throughout the competition was there for all to see.

The 32-year-old from Perth deservingly won the Best Goalkeeper award at the 2019 Pro League, and along with Andrew Charter will be a tough nut to crack in the second edition as well.

Lovell, who was part of Australia's 2014 World Cup-winning squad is bound to get even better with time - and, is very much a legend in the making, if only he continues to perform as well as he has over the last seven years, or so, at the international level.

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Edited by Prasen Moudgal
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