The Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup is just around the corner. In this edition of the tournament, CONCACAF, the Confederation of North and Central American and Caribbean Football, has four nations representing the region. The United States of America, Costa Rica and Honduras qualified directly to the tournament. Mexico earned their ticket after winning a home and away playoff against Oceania Football Confederation representative, New Zealand. In this edition we’ll look at the probable goalkeepers that could be guarding their nation’s posts in South America.
Tim Howard - USA
The United States Men’s National Team won the final hexagonal and qualified as the top team in the region ending the final phase with 22 points. The USMNT were unbeatable at home winning their five games on U.S. soil. One of the players responsible for this was Tim Howard “the Duck.” Of the chosen three, Howard has the most experience defending the U.S. net with 97 appearances. During the hexagonal, the 35 year-old Howard participated in seven games. He won five games with four shutouts. However, in the two losses the 6’3” 210lbs New Jersey native gave up five goals.
Howard made his World Cup debut against England in South Africa 2010. He was a key player in the 1-1 draw that helped the USMNT reach the Round of 16. The Everton FC goalkeeper should be USMNT Coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s first choice to start for the USA against the Group G competition. Howard will have to defend his net against Portugal and Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo; heavy favorites Germany, and Ghana.
Keylor Navas - Costa Rica
If there is one team that had bad fortune at the world cup draw, it would be Costa Rica. The “Ticos” will be facing three former FIFA World Cup Champions. England won the title in 1966, Uruguay won the initial world cup in 1930, then again in 1950. The Azurri have taken the world cup to Italy on four occasions, 1934, 1938, 1982, and recently in 2006. It will be Nava’s responsibility to stop players like England’s Wayne Rooney of Manchester United, Italy’s Mario Balotelli of AC Milan, and Uruguay’s Luis Suarez of Liverpool FC. It is a daunting task for the 27 year-old keeper who defends Spanish La Liga side Levante UD. Despite the odds, don’t count Costa Rica out. Smaller teams have surprised their competition in past world cups.
Noel Valladares - Honduras
Noel Valladares is the senior man when it comes to goalkeepers. The 37 year-old keeper has been a post on the Honduras lineup and has been playing with the national team since the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup Qualifiers. He has played in 119 games for Honduras and defends his nations’ CD Olimpia. In South Africa 2010, Valladares defended the Catrachos’ net in all three games they participated in, which included a 0-0 against Switzerland.
Honduras may have the most manageable group, with Ecuador, Switzerland and France in the first round of Brazil 2014. Valladares will have to at his best if Honduras wants to reach the Round of 16.
Guillermo Ochoa - Mexico
Mexico has three good goalkeepers, so there has been debate over who should guard El Tri’s net. Some argue for Cruz Azul keeper Jose de Jesus Corona, while there are staunch supporters for Ochoa who plays for AC Ajaccio of France’s Ligue 1. Despite being one of Mexico’s best goalkeepers, the 28 year-old has yet to get game time at the World Cup. He was on the squad that travelled to South Africa 2010, but was passed over for Oscar “Conejo” Perez by then coach Javier Aguirre. Ochoa had been the starting keeper and played in seven games registering three shutouts. For 2014, Ochoa played in four WCQ games, including the crucial game against Panama in Mexico City.
At FIFA level, Ochoa was part of the Mexican squad that played in Brazil for the 2013 Confederations Cup representing CONCACAF. Then Coach Jose Manuel de la Torre did not utilize Ochoa until the third game against Japan. At that point, Mexico had been eliminated from the competition. If El Tri is to advance to the Round of 16, Ochoa will have to be his calm and cool self under the posts. Mexico is in Group A with hosts Brazil, Cameroon and Croatia.