David Marshall is the toast of Scotland today as his penalty shoot-out heroics against Serbia in the Euro 2020 (2021) play off last night, booked the Tartan Army a ticket to their first major tournament since France ’98.
Not only did Marshall save Alexandra Mitrovic’s all important spot-kick, he also prevailed in the semi-final shoot-out with Israel which will only serve to further cement his place in recent Scottish history.
Undoubtably one of the heroes of the elongated Euro 2020 qualification process, we take a look at some of the other goalkeepers who lent more than a helping hand in sending their nation to this summer’s European Championships, which will go down in history for a myriad of reasons.
Stole Dimitrievski - North Macedonia
Not to be outdone by David Marshall’s exploits yesterday, Stole Dimitrievski’s clean sheet away to Georgia, ensured North Macedonia would be playing in a first major tournament in their twenty-seven year history.
A successor state of Yugoslavia, North Macedonia was granted independence in 1991 but did not play a UEFA recognised match until 1993, the same year Dimitrievski was born and despite memorable draws with England and Holland in its short existence, have never really been close to qualifying for a major tournament.
The match in Tbilisi was understandably cagey, with two young nations aiming to reach their inaugural competitions. Dimitrievski was tested early on and produced a fine save from a long-range effort from Tornike Okriashvili.
The Rayo Vallecano ‘keeper would keep his composure for the nervy minutes proceeding Goran Pandev’s opener with the help of his defence and although he would not have to produce the level of saves he did in the semi-final with Kosovo, he was there when his country needed him.
North Macedonia will face the Netherlands, Austria and Ukraine in their historic Euro campaign.
Mert Guenok - Turkey
Turkey qualified for their first major tournament since reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2008 as a result of an impressive qualification campaign built on solid defensive foundations.
Senom Gunes’ side boasted the joint best defensive record in Euro 2020 qualification of just four goals against, with the majority of clean sheets heralded by Mert Guenok, who is enjoying a purple patch in his career having recently won the Turkish Super Liga with Istanbul Başakşehir.
Guenok played in Turkey’s historic 2-0 win over France, keeping a frightening trio of Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud at bay and was a behemoth between the sticks for the return 1-1 draw at the Stade de France. He furthered his standing in Turkey by keeping a clean sheet in a goalless draw with Iceland last November, which secured their place in the finals.
Who could blame the thirty-one-year-old, who had only made six appearances for his national side prior to the 2020 qualification, for rolling into the delayed tournament with extreme confidence. He is certainly one to watch ahead of the showpiece.
Andriy Pyatov - Ukraine
Anriy Pyatov is a veteran of the Ukrainian game, with the thirty-six year old a mainstay in the national side and the top domestic club Shakhtar Donetsk since 2007.
Due to a battle with Corona Virus, Piatov’s appearances for Ukraine have been more sporadic this year, sharing the gloves with Dynamo Kiev’s Heorhiy Bushchan, but the former played in every minute of Ukraine’s successful Euro 2020 qualification.
Ukraine, who have appeared the last two European Championships but missing out on the last three World Cups, this time qualified as group winners conceding only four times, with half of those coming in the final game with Serbia when qualification had already been sealed.
Pyatov’s goal was near enough impenetrable, with a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty the only breach in two games against Portugal, which proved to be scant consolation and the other a goal that gave Luxembourg a shock (and short-lived) lead
The Shakhtar legend is likely to shore up a Ukrainian defence that conceded seven to France in his absence, in time for the finals and add to his 95 caps. Could he make it to 100 during the finals?