On what was an otherwise forgettable day of soccer, two goalkeepers made the entire thing worth it.
Kasper Schmeichel and Danijel Subašić, thank you for that.
Croatia and Denmark finished 1-1 on Sunday, with Croatia winning in a penalty shootout, 3-2. The game, other than a wild first four minutes which saw both teams score goals, was a bit of a slog. Then Schmeichel and Subašić made it a classic.
Denmark’s Schmeichel had the first huge moment when Croatia’s Ante Rebic got taken down in the box in the second half of extra time, and then Luka Modric stepped up to take the penalty. Schmeichel guessed right and dove hard to his left — aided by an early step off the line — and made an incredible save to keep his team even.
(Look at Kasper’s dad Peter up there reacting to the save, too. I want Peter Schmeichel to be proud of me like that one day.)
Then we went to a penalty shootout, and Subašić went and met Schmeichel at the top of what is possible for goalkeeping.
Subašić saved three (!) penalties in the shootout. These weren’t slouches he was stopping: He blocked Christian Eriksen. He denied Lasse Schone. Schmeichel, the slouch that he is, saved only two in a loss. If you count the one from extra time, the two goalkeepers combined to block six penalty kicks. These weren’t misses. These were saves. Beautiful saves.
Yeah Schmeichel was jumping off his line early, something Subašić might have done once or twice as well. But I posit: Who cares? That’s a rule that’s enforced sometimes, but rarely called strictly, and I’m not a fan of it being called tight. I know it drives some people nuts, but come on: Saving penalties is hard. It’s incredibly hard. If a goalie takes a step forward just before the ball is kicked, and isn’t fully sprinting out and being ridiculous, I’m fine with it not being called. If that makes me a philistine, so be it.
Again, saving penalties is hard, and it’s awesome when it happens, and it’s so dramatic. And these guys saved six of them in a World Cup match.