Manuel Veth –
It was an impossible task for Chile at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The Andean nation was facing the United States, the biggest favourites to win the World Cup this summer, and many expected this match to end in another blowout. But instead, the result, although still decisive at 3-0, remained somewhat narrow thanks to Chile’s goalkeeper Christiane Endler.
Born in Hijuelas, Chile, Christiane Endler holds both German and Chilean citizenship. In fact, German commentators were quick to point out that her German ancestry might have helped with her choosing her position in goal. Endler had always been athletic and played several sports throughout her childhood.
Athleticism from other sports that has helped her to become the world’s best goalkeeper. Pages like Musclefax.com can play a role in improving your performance, yet for Christiane Endler, it was all about match preparation ahead of the game against the United States.
Christine Endler – Her show against the United States
In his excellent piece for the New York Times, Rory Smith recently outlined Endler’s preparation ahead of Chile’s second group stage game against the United States. Together with her coaching staff Christiane Endler noticed that the USA tended to sling crosses into the box, seeking deft, flicked headers at the near post designed to pick out the target at the far.
In true fashion, that observation held true. The US women are, without a doubt the most athletic team at the tournament. Hence, they used their athletic ability to terrorise Chile’s backline but Endler, who thanks to her professional contract at Paris Saint-Germain has the time to put in the work is an extremely athletic keeper herself.
Hence, knowing what her enemy would do, she had to be simply prepared for her opponent’s manoeuvres. Smith outlined in his article how Endler put in the work at the training ground, and it showed in the game where she was prepared to deal with crosses quickly and the changing directions they would take midair.
The result was spectacular. Several times Christiane Endler managed to deal with a ball that came from either the right or the left, that was then met by an opponent to be redirected, in swift fashion. “It was a bit of intuition and reflexes,” Endler said after the game.
“She is strong, powerful and quick with excellent positioning, which hard combination to find,” Hope Solo wrote in her post on the Guardian. “Her ability to read the aerial balls is also top notch. She is a complete goalkeeper,” Solo, added.
Ahead of the World Cup, there has been some suggestions that women should be playing on smaller goals given their height disadvantage. Solo smashed that argument pointing at Endler’s performance. For her, the problem is not the goals but that countries are not looking at putting the right keeper in goal.
“Christiane is the type of spectacular athlete that every country should be looking for to tend in [goal],” Solo wrote in her Guardian column. At 181cm Endler has both the height and the athleticism to fill the goal but in truth, goalkeeping has been average at best at the tournament.
“It has been a good average,” Swedish striker Kosovare Asllani said after the game against Thailand. Named player of the match she somewhat struggled with the answer.
Making the goals smaller might help. In truth, Solo’s suggestion that nations simply fail to put the best athletes in goal. Perhaps it is simply a matter of making the position more attractive for young women.
Following her performance against the United States, the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung compared her to German keeper Manuel Neuer. It is sometimes somewhat cringe-worthy when female players are compared to their male counterparts; it just feels like players are being belittled.
In this case, there was an important point made. Five years ago at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil Manuel Neuer dazzled the world with sweeper keeper style of football. Neuer did not invent the playing goalkeeper, others have done it before him — the likes of Peter Radenković, Lev Yashin, Edwin van der Saar come to mind.
A trailblazer like Manuel Neuer?
Neuer, however, did it at the age of social media. All of a sudden, there was a hype surrounding the goalkeeper position. Neuer might not have invented the sweeper keeper, but he redefined the position nonetheless. After all, would Liverpool have paid a world record sum for Brazilian keeper Alisson, a sweeper keeper not unlike Neuer, had it not been for Manuel Neuer? Unlikely!
Hence, what the women’s goalkeeper game needed was a trailblazer. To a certain extent, Hope Solo was that trailblazer, but perhaps her appearance had come a bit too early, before the time of Twitter and Facebook — although make no mistake she is very present on the former.
Christiane Endler is not afraid to be that trailblazer both for young aspiring goalkeepers but also for women’s football in her country Chile. “We are showing that you can play professional football that there are places where women’s football is appreciated,” she said after the game against the United States.
A comment that was not just geared towards the goalkeeping position. Chile’s women’s national team spent years in the shadow of the men’s national team. At one point the team was even listed as inactive as Chile’s football federation failed to arrange games, meanwhile, clubs refused to give field time to their respective women’s teams. National team player Maria Jose Rojas, now active at Slavia Praha, pointed out that her former club team in Chile was forced to train on the parking lot.
Former national team player Iona Rothfeld, in the meantime, told CNN “we didn’t matter.” There was no respect for women’s football. But perhaps Endler’s performances at the World Cup will change the view towards women’s football in Chile.
“We are working on gaining more respect for women’s football,” Christiane Endler said after the game against the United States. Earning respect was something that Chile wanted to continue at the 2019 FIFA World Cup, but in the end, the national team missed one crucial goal to advance to the next round after defeating Thailand 2-0 on matchday 3.
Lara could have scored that goal in the final minutes of the game after Chile was awarded a penalty. But the ball hit the crossbar and Chile were eliminated thanks to Nigeria’s better goal against average. Nonetheless, Christiane Endler has become an early star at this World Cup and her performance against the United States, in particular, should set a path for more young girls to aspire to play in the goalkeeping position.
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others contributes to Forbes.com and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.