Robert Green’s howler against the USA was the latest in an array of famous English goalkeeping errors. The history books may have recorded the exceptional talents of English goalkeepers, from Banks to Shilton, but the memories of compatriots will forever focus on the mistakes and misjudgments of their international team’s number one.
Peter Bonetti, vs West Germany, World Cup 1970
The tradition started in the 1970’s World Cup when reserve goalkeeper Peter ‘the Cat’ Bonetti was given the gloves for a vital game with West Germany while England’s number one, Gordon Banks, suffered with food poisoning.
England had seemingly booked their place in the semi-finals after going 2-0 up against the West German side while looking relatively untroubled. That is, at least, until Franz Beckenbauer launched a comfortable shot towards Bonetti’s goal. Bonetti dived in expectation but somehow managed only to grasp only the humid Mexican air as the ball rolled underneath his despairing torso.
Later, Bonetti was left stranded as Uwe Seeler’s fortuitous looping header gifted Germany an equalizer. England went on to lose the match 3-2.
David Seaman, vs Brazil, World Cup 2002
David Seaman is highly regarded as one of England’s best goalkeepers. But even he will go down in infamy for his floundering over the free-kick that dumped his country out of the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea.
Incredibly, Michael Owen wasn’t injured and it was he who had put England in an unexpected winning position against the eventual champions. Barcelona playmaker Rivaldo had leveled for the South American side, but England were still giving it all they had before Ronaldinho readied a 35-yard free-kick. His shot floated like a cross, catching out Seaman who had presumably located his mother in the crowd. Unable to retreat to his goal-line the ball flew into the net, just over his embarrassed ponytail.
Cue ‘GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLL GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLL’ from the Brazilian commentators.
David James, vs Austria, World Cup Qualifier 2004
James was never more deserving of his ill-fated ‘Calamity’ nickname than after this mistake against Austria.
England once again found themselves 2-0 up and in a fairly comfortable position until a free-kick gave the Austrian side a glimmer of hope. James then proceeded in tearing the glimmer wide open with his failure to grasp a speculative effort from Andreas Invanschitz.
Luckily, England still managed to save a draw from the jaws of victory.
Scott Carson, vs Croatia Euro 2008 Qualifier
Scott Carson found himself making his first international competitive debut in England’s single most important game since the quarterfinal against Portugal in Gelsenkirchen. A draw was all that was required but Carson promptly allowed the points to slip through England’s fingers as he palmed a long-range shot by Nico Kranjcar into the top corner of his net.
For all of England’s efforts to get back into the game, Carson was obviously overwhelmed by the situation he found himself in and was criticized further for not meeting with Mladen Petric’s winner.
Scott has since been recalled on a few occasions but was unsurprisingly left out of the World Cup squad by Fabio Capello.
Robert Green, vs USA World Cup 2010
And only on Saturday, Green continued this great tradition of English howlers by signaling his World Cup debut with a spill that the American’s can enjoy.