Men's Hockey World Cup 2018: 5 goalkeepers to watch out for
It is quite an honour to be the chosen custodian, ahead of several others in the reckoning, to be bestowed the honour of guarding the citadel for the national team.
Donning a range of diverse paraphernalia that includes specialized helmets, leg guards, kickers, abdo-guards, chest guards, arm pads, hand pads, and goalkeeping sticks, the men under the bar may well resemble knights in shining armour, but a momentary lapse in concentration, in a big match, is all it takes to destroy a reputation that has taken years to build.
Decisions, more often than not, need to be taken in the space of a split-second, the failure or success of which can change the colour of a potential medal, and result in a team either basking in glory or returning home empty-handed.
The position of a goalkeeper at the far end of the pitch can be lonely, but the performance of the last-man-standing can well determine the fortune of an entire team.
All sixteen teams at the Men's Hockey World Cup 2018 in Bhubaneswar have tried-and-tested goalkeepers -- 39-year-old Kumar Subramaniam has been in the Malaysian squad since 1999, while England has George Pinner who seems to have no trouble getting behind shots fired from point-blank range.
We take a look at five men in front of goal who have influenced the course of matches on their own and continue to grow in stature as the years roll on.
#5 David Harte (Ireland)
In a pool match of the FINTRO Hockey World League Semifinal at Antwerp in 2015, three Irish players -- Chris Cargo, Ronan Gormley, and Paul Gleghorne all picked up yellow cards one after another against the hosts Belgium with the scoreline reading 1-1.
The Irish goal seemed to be at the mercy of the Red Lions as Conor Harte had gone off the field following a shoulder injury, but the Belgian strikers still had goalkeeper David Harte to get past. Harte stood like a rock, pulling off some incredible saves and denied the opposition time and again.
It was only when Harte was taken off in the dying stages of the contest that the hosts managed to find a winner with John-John Dohmen scoring in the very last minute.
Playing alongside twin brother, Conor Harte, for HIL franchise Dabang Mumbai, the Irish goalkeeper became the second-most expensive player in the league during the 2015 season after being picked up for a mammoth $51,000.
In spite of a less-than-satisfactory last-place finish for the debutant Mumbai side, Harte was retained the following year for an even larger sum of $65,000, which effectively made him the most expensive goalkeeper of the HIL at the time.
The 30-year-old, who won the FIH Goalkeeper of the Year Award twice in a row in 2015, and 2016, will be the key for an Irish side who are drawn alongside Australia and England in the World Cup.
#4 Vincent Vanasch (Belgium)
Michael Nobbs' side lost all their pool matches in the 2012 Olympics, including their last one against a rising Belgian side, but goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch rates his own performance against the Indians at London as one of his very best.
The ace goalie, by his own admission, recalls the fact that he made ten vital saves in that particular encounter, and four years later found himself in the limelight by virtue of being the star goalkeeper of the silver-medal winning squad at Rio.
At the intensely competitive Rabobank EuroHockey Championships, Vanasch, voted Goalkeeper of the Tournament, was instrumental in helping his side finish second
At the Champions Trophy, earlier this year, Vanasch displayed, with his superb reflexes, that he continues to be in peak form, and will be a force to reckon with at Bhubaneswar.