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'Barcelona-bound Bravo is my pick of World Cup keepers,' says Bonner

A man who knows all about being a hero on the world stage gives his thoughts on the stopper’s who have impressed in Brazil.

Bonner with Matt Dooley and Sophie Biggins at the launch of the 2014 Packie Bonner Golf Classic in aid of Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Ireland yesterday.
Bonner with Matt Dooley and Sophie Biggins at the launch of the 2014 Packie Bonner Golf Classic in aid of Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Ireland yesterday.
Image: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

WATCHING THIS SUMMER’S World Cup in Brazil has no doubt brought fond memories of representing Ireland at the finals flooding back to Packie Bonner.

The former number one was a key component of Jack’s Army and featured between the sticks in both Italia ’90 and USA ’94 – famously saving Romanian midfielder Daniel Timofte’s penalty moments before David O’Leary sent the Boys in Green into the quarter-finals.

24 years on, goalkeepers have been stealing the limelight more than ever with the likes of Tim Howard, Manuel Neuer, Keylor Navas, Vincent Enyeama, Claudio Bravo and Guillermo Ochoa all putting in exceptional performances over the past three weeks.

And while Bonner highly-rated Bayern Munich stopper Neuer, he has been impressed with Chile’s Bravo — who recently signed for Barcelona from Real Sociedad.

“I’ve really been impressed by Claudio Bravo and I’m not surprised he has gone to Barcelona,” said Bonner. “He looks the part, he’s tall enough, good with his feet and he looks composed.

I look forward to seeing how he gets on at Barca. As is often the case at the big clubs, he might not get much to do at times so he will have to deal with that sort of situation also.

“Sometimes the goalkeeper can have lots and lots to do and play exceptionally well but when he comes to the moment that he doesn’t, can he remain switched on.

Brazil Soccer WCup Brazil Chile Chile's Claudio Bravo has impressed Bonner. Source: Ricardo Mazalan

“We know Manuel Neuer well and he is an exceptional goalkeeper and one of the best in the world.

“His sweeper role is a dangerous game to play. As long as you have the ball it’s not a problem but it’s those balls played through that you have to worry about.

“If someone with electric pace like Robben is on the end of them you need to be very, very sure that you’re going to get there because you’re off if you don’t make contact with the ball.

Your starting position is very high which means a clever player might look to knock one over the top of you.

“Speed is a huge thing for a goalkeeper and the big, and the day of the big, solid, slow goalkeeper is gone especially if you’re going to play the game Neuer does.”

Back in 1990, Ireland were the plucky underdogs as they progressed out of Group F ahead Euro ’88 champions the Netherlands and Egypt. Going into the quarter-finals, which begin later tonight, there the only real surprise packages left are Costa Rica — and Bonner is glad the Central Americans are still around.

“Costa Rica are perhaps the only team from one of the smaller nations that has come through to the last eight, and that is exciting for everybody concerned,” Bonner said. “We all like to see the underdog succeed.

The US nearly got there the other night and Tim Howard was exceptional as Belgium could have had three or four. But it was lovely to see the whole country get behind them.

Packie Bonner saves a penalty to win the match Bonner saves that penalty against Romania at Italia '90. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

On who will win the tournament outright, he adds: “I tipped Brazil at the start just for the amount of emotion around it and the support from home fans. I would hate to see them get knocked out at this stage because it couldn’t be good for the country as a whole.

Germany have a great chance of going all the way and Belgium are the other one I would look at if they can get the momentum going as they have a big squad.

The 2014 Packie Bonner Golf Classic, in aid of Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Ireland, takes place on Friday 22nd August in the K Club gold course. Contact plandy@sbhi.ie for team bookings and sponsorship opportunities, to help raise funds for this very worthy cause.

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Ben Blake

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