Neuer's feel for the field

Neuer's feel for the field

There was one big unhappy German when Die Mannschaft slew Brazil 7-1 in the World Cup semi-final last Thursday.

Not for the first time this tournament, Manuel Neuer charged out of his penalty area, this time to bellow at his teammates after Oscar scored Brazil's consolation in the 90th minute, angry that he couldn't keep his fifth clean sheet of the tournament.

The 28-year-old (above) once said: "Obviously, you're angry about errors in the match, and about goals which weren't even your fault... I used to cry when I let in a goal. I always thought I was to blame because I was the last man.

"But what I learned under (former Schalke youth coordinator) Helmut Schulte is that the goalkeeper always starts again at nil, even when you're 2-0 behind. It always starts again from scratch."

And that was where it all began for Neuer - given his first football when he was two, he had his first game 24 days before his fifth birthday after signing for Schalke.

It was a dream come true for a boy who could see Schalke's old home ground Parkstadion from the window of his house in Gelsenkirchen.

And even then, being the "new kid", he was stereotypically chucked in goal for an indoor tournament even though he was a small striker with a squeaky voice, because none of the other kids wanted to keep goal.

Rising through the ranks, Neuer made his Bundesliga debut in August 2006 at the age of 20, keeping a clean sheet in a 1-0 win at Alemannia Aachen. He went on to collect another 18 shutouts as Schalke finished second behind Stuttgart.

Neuer won the best Bundesliga goalkeeper award in 2007, and understandably, Bayern Munich beckoned. The move materialised in 2011, but Neuer's Bundesliga debut for Bayern was a turbulent one.

One of his now-legendary sorties out of his six-yard box was hijacked by Igor De Camargo to give Borussia Moenchengladbach a rare victory at the Allianz Arena.

Legendary Bayern and Germany goalkeeper Oliver Kahn said: "When Manuel was at Schalke, I often thought it was madness the way he interpreted the goalkeeper's role."

And Kahn was made to eat his words as Neuer broke his Bayern record for most consecutive competitive clean sheets with a tally of 12, and went 1,147 minutes without conceding immediately after his gaffe.

In 2013, Neuer helped Bayern to the Bundesliga, Germany Cup and Champions League title, all achieved without sacrificing his distinctive style. And he is set for the biggest prize yet - a World Cup winners' medal.

Ahead of tomorrow's (Singapore time) final against Argentina, Germany coach Joachim Loew is confident that if Neuer has to take on Lionel Messi, his goalkeeper would come out tops.

Defending his tactic of pressurising opponents high upfield, Loew said: "If a team try to play high the way we did against the US and Algeria, this means you have to go into the opponents' half and it's obvious the goalkeeper has to move up too.

"If a player can hit a 60-yard pass on the counter-attack, you need a goalkeeper who can move up to intercept. Neuer has the same technical skills as the others, he could play in the midfield.

"He has a feeling for the field and a feeling for distances and that's why we are happy for him to take these risks, and that's why he's so valuable."

And should the final head for penalties for only the third time in history (after 1994 and 2006), Neuer is no slouch.

The one former German international Mehmet Scholl refers to as Icecube said: "I always prepare myself for such situations.

"Once I've decided, I see it through, 100 per cent, that's the way I play."


Name: Manuel Neuer
Age: 28
Caps: 51
Club: Bayern Munich
Height: 1.93m
Weight: 92kg
Glove size: 13
Girlfriend: Model Kathrin Glich (since 2009)
Car: Volkswagen GTI Gold
Other sports: Skiing, tennis
Favourite player: Jens Lehmann
Favourite band: U2
Favourite song: No Games by Serani
Favourite food: Italian, especially pasta

This article was first published on July 13, 2014.
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