Talented goalkeepers vying to become Greek number one
Greece do have various problems on the playing field, but the country possesses some rock solid, talented goalkeepers among its ranks. AGONAsport investigates.
Ethniki Omada boss Michael Skibbe has a growing headache. However, it’s one which he doesn’t mind having. Greece started the UEFA Nations League with a victory and a loss in two matches, but while those games showed where the national side needs to improve, there is one position on the pitch which is in great shape. Goalkeepers Vasilis Barkas, Andreas Gianniotis, Orestis Karnezis, Alexandros Paschalakis and Odysseas Vlachodimos are all at Skibbe’s disposal, but only one can take his place in net. AGONAsport takes a closer look at the leading goalkeeping candidates:
When the 24-year old returned from injury in November 2017, he was third choice at AEK Athens behind Giannis Anestis and Panagiotis Tsintotas, but Barkas quickly proved his worth and has fully gained the trust of new boss Marinos Ouzounidis to become the Enosis’ undisputed number one. This summer, Barkas made a huge contribution to AEK’s qualification for the UEFA Champions League group stage, impressing with a number of excellent saves against Celtic and Vidi. As a result, he was made the starting goalkeeper for the UEFA Nations League matches with Estonia and Hungary, and he does seem to be Skibbe’s favoured choice at this moment in time.
In recent weeks, Barkas has suddenly displayed signs of cracking, and he will be thoroughly disappointed with his role in AEK’s dramatic 2:3 Champions League loss to Benfica.
Having captured the headlines with Atromitos last season, Gianniotis was recalled to Olympiacos, where he is the starting goaltender with Pedro Martins at the helm. Now 25 years of age, he’s long been one of the top goalkeepers in Greece, in particular making a name for himself at Panionios in the 2016/2017 campaign.
Unfortunately for Gianniotis, he made an awful mistake in Olympiacos’ bitter 0:1 derby defeat to PAOK in Piraeus, an error which resulted in him being left out of the Ethniki roster for the Nations League fixtures in October.
Until recently, the experienced Karnezis was the top dog in Skibbe’s eyes, however he was dropped for the Nations League matches and it’s doubtful whether he can withstand the competition within the team. After an acceptable season on loan at Watford in the English Premier League, the ageing 33-year old transferred to Napoli on a three-year contract in July, but Karnezis will mainly play a back-up role to David Ospina. On his day, he’s still an agile shot stopper.
Since surprisingly ousting Rodrigo Rey between the sticks at PAOK, there had been several calls for Paschalakis to be summoned to the Ethniki Omada, but Skibbe refused to budge until finally including him in the squad to face Hungary and Finland in October’s Nations League games.
While his talent can’t be disputed, Paschalakis is guilty of committing the odd howler, something which was clearly evident when he endured a shocking night against Benfica in the decisive Champions League playoff game. Nevertheless, he redeemed himself in the Super League derby with Olympiacos, pulling off several quality saves to see PAOK through to a pivotal victory at the Karaiskakis Stadium.
The Benfica star was born in Stuttgart and has represented Germany at youth level, but holding the right to play for Greece through his family heritage, Vlachodimos has a big decision to make. Although he’s making waves in Lisbon, he’s unlikely to be a regular for the senior German national side, so it’s perfectly feasible that he will choose Greece. Vlachodimos only transferred to Benfica from Panathinaikos in May, but he is already the starting goalkeeper for the Portuguese organisation and shone in Athens as he inspired the Eagles to a 3:2 Champions League triumph against AEK.
Best of the rest: Panagiotis Tsintotas, Sokratis Dioudis, Stefanos Kapino
by Shaun Nicolaides
Image Source: sport24.gr