A Year In Goalkeeping - 2004
2004 was quite a year in our game.
Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ made Premier League history by going a whole season undefeated, Greece emerged from footballing obscurity to spectacularly win Euro 2004, a Jose Mourinho led Porto team did the same in the club game by winning the Champions League and Millwall contested in their first ever FA Cup final, securing European football from the second tier.
You might have been taking in the first season of Peep Show, marvelling at the alien technology that was the camera phone one of your mates had, or mugging an unsuspecting old lady in GTA Vice City. Transport yourself to 2004.
The summer of 2004 saw the arrival of one the best goalkeepers in Premier League history, as Jose Mourinho made Petr Cech one his first signings at Chelsea from Rennes for an eyebrow raising £7 million.
Cech consigned the reputable Carlo Cudicini to a permanent spot on the Stamford Bridge bench and was a mainstay in the Chelsea squad for eleven years, the most successful period in the club’s history, which included; 1 Champions League, 4 Premier League titles, 4 FA Cups and 3 League Cups.
The Czech Republic’s most-capped player was an instant hit keeping seven clean sheets in the opening games of the 2004/05 campaign, as Chelsea stormed to a domestic double and a first league title for half a century.
Cech retired at the end of last season whilst with Arsenal and bizarrely has switched sports, featuring for English ice hockey side, Guildford Phoenix.
2004 saw the birth of the popular Total 90 shirt design by Nike, which coincided the release of the second edition of the namesake boots. At Euro 2004 nations sponsored by Nike were identical in design with a trim around the front and back of the shirt, the team badge positioned centrally with the patented Total 90 circle around their squad number at the front.
England fans will not want to be reminded of Ricardo’s pre-70’s throwback in the quarter final of the competition, where he saved Darius Vassell’s penalty without wearing gloves. In this game he wore his trademark grey short-sleeved shirt which donned the Total 90 design. One of the most iconic kit designs in recent years was befittingly present during one of the most iconic moments of the tournament.
Antonios Nikopolidis v Portugal
Greece’s triumph in Portugal was the biggest upset in international football since Denmark lifted the trophy in 1992 and most definitely the biggest since.
Antonios Nikopolidis who also won ‘Keeper of the Tournament was arguably the star of the side, much to the detriment of many a commentator who would have to unfurl the tongue-twister as the Zeus-esque figure kept Europe’s finest at bay (any chance of a Sparta glove named after him?).
Nikopolidis, the most capped goalkeeper in Greece’s history, put in a storming performance in the final which produced a fantastic save off a long-range effort from a young Cristiano Ronaldo.
A star-studded Portugal side which included Luis Figo, Deco and Pauleta were unable to break down the brick wall of the Greek rear-guard and went down in history as the men who foiled the Portuguese in their fairy-tale home final.
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‘I’ve got your nose’
At the risk of generalising, German goalkeepers have a reputation of being absolutely nuts. Oliver Khan, one of the greatest German stoppers of all time, should be the pinnacle of aspiration for any of his countrymen looking to emulate this stereotype.
Nearing the end of his illustrious career, 2004 wasn’t a great year for Khan who saw his Bayern Munich miss out on the Bundesliga title to Werder Bremen and the national side crashing out of Euro 2004 at the group stages in humiliating fashion.
He was at the end of his tether in a match against the reigning champions when he faced off against his fellow countryman, Miroslav Klose in October 2004.
In the first half of Bayern’s 2-1 win, Khan furiously raced towards Klose after a pretty innocuous aerial challenge with his finger pointed and screaming hell for leather in the striker’s face. He then squashed Klose’s nose against his face with his index finger.
Much to the bemusement Klose, his World Cup-winning teammate went unpunished and started a feud between the pair which resulted in Khan being ‘rested’.