Friday, December 7, 2007

Andoni Zubizarreta

Born in Vitoria, Andoni Zubizarreta, belongs to an exclusive list of players who have appeared in four World Cups. He had to wait for several years to break into the national team because of the presence of Luis Arconada, but made his debut against Finland in 1985. “Zubi” began his career in Athletic Bilbao and made his league debut for them in 1982. He had established himself as the national team goalkeeper before the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and gave some quality performances as Spain reached the quarterfinals and lost to Belgium on penalties.

Zubizarreta’s greatest asset as a goalkeeper was his positioning. He was seldom forced to make spectacular saves because of his ability to read the game. A goalkeeper without any special weaknesses, Zubi kept himself at the top for many years because of his great all-round abilities. In 1986, Barcelona signed him and Zubi spent eight wonderful years at the Nou Camp. He played some of his best games for Spain in the 1990 World Cup in Italy, especially against Uruguay and Belgium, but Yugoslavia won and knocked them out in extra-time already in the second round.

Four years later in USA, Zubi again had a fine tournament, but Italy beat them with a last-minute goal from Roberto Baggio in the quarterfinal. He bowed out of international football after the 1998 World Cup where he made a dreadful error against Nigeria, pushing the ball into his own net and was partially responsible for Spain’s first round exit. Despite this, Zubizarreta could look back at a very successful career having won many honours including, six Spanish league championships, three Spanish Cup titles, a European Cup Winners’ Cup title and a European Champions Cup title. He played more than 600 league games in Spain and won 126 caps, both are Spanish records.