Football: World Cup '94: Swedish recovery reveals Cameroon's soft underbelly: Ken Jones reflects on the fallibility of goalkeepers under the spotlight

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The Independent Online
IN THE circumstances, it was hardly a stunning surprise when Joseph-Antoine Bell drew back from the impression that he could be held culpable for Sweden's 74th-minute equaliser here. You win some, you lose some is more or less what the Cameroon goalkeeper was saying.

Bell was contemplating a celebration when suddenly his fingers were stung by a shot from the substitute, Henrik Larsson, that rebounded from the crossbar to Martin Dahlin for a final score of 2-2. 'If I was at fault there is no point in worrying about it,' Bell said.

Bell should think again. One of the things that emerged from a renewal of Cameroon's romantic presence in the World Cup is that he may be the soft underbelly of their defence. Bell makes spectacular saves, but he is all too frequently fallible.

Elaborating on what he perceives to be a critical factor, Brazil's coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira, defined the issue exactly. 'Goalkeeping errors undermine morale,' he said. 'They can tear the heart out of a team. On the other hand, great goalkeeping inspires confidence.'

Parreira was in the audience when Bell made the first of his mistakes, so deceived by the flight of an angled free-kick that he was still flailing beneath the ball when Roger Ljung put Sweden in front with a firm header. Parreira was sitting alongside me. 'That sort of thing sends all your planning up in smoke,' he said while making a note of Bell's inadequacy.

There was wide sympathy for Bell because overall he performed valiantly. Much the same can be said about Sweden's goalkeeper, Thomas Ravelli, who clearly was at fault when Francois Omam- Biyick put Cameroon in front a minute after half-time.

No matter how football progresses, and the World Cup appears to be progressing favourably, fundamentals will always apply. Expert goalkeeping is crucial.

There is no pretence here to read minds as deep as the World Cup coaches. But a safe bet is that they all tremble at the thought of being hostage to eccentricity. Ideally, they want a goalkeeper who can state without fear of contradiction, 'I was there, where were you?'

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