It was a cold Scottish night in November 1984 and Spain was playing against Scotland in their qualifying match for the 1986 World Cup to be played in Mexico, although at the time we thought it would be in Colombia and Clos and Urtubi made their debuts with the Spanish national team, since at that time calling them La Roja would have been unthinkable. I watched it from the bench, because a legend called Luis Arconada played in goal, and there he went to listen, to hear and to learn a lot. And if the stage was the mythical Hampden Park in Glasgow, everything pointed to a big match.
Scotland overcame us with an intense game but with the quality of players like Graham Souness or Kenny Dalglish. They went 2-0 up and, just when we thought we had a chance when Goikoetxea scored with a header, Dalglish received a ball on the right edge of the area, cut back and gained ground inside to unleash a missile into what was previously the opposing corner [see now long post]. And although Arconada flew, he didn't reach that majestic white ball that embedded itself in his corner. José Ángel de la Casa's discreet and wise narration defined it with a simple and concise: "What a goal Dalglish has just scored!" No unnecessary superlatives because the superlative had just happened on the field.
If you, dear reader, see that goal today, you will say that you have seen, for example, Messi score many of that style. But back then, the precision shot, that magic thread, was an issue that was rarely seen on the pitch.
The fact is that I had met before, well me and all of Athletic, with Dalglish and his Liverpool (Souness and a certain Robinson were also there, among other Reds legends) in a European Cup tie when we met, almost exactly a year before, in the second round and with the second leg at San Mamés. The fact is that Dalglish tried that same shot when Liverpool were already leading us by one goal and looking in this case for the left corner of my goal. And I, with longer nails than today, managed to deflect a shot that had all the signs of ending in a goal. So when Dalglish scored and decided at Hampden Park, I relived the action of a year earlier at San Mamés and my head regretted not having commented on it preemptively with Arconada, since it was a time of scarce visual analysis and few references to the game except those that our own experiences had in store for us.
I was lamenting as Scotland celebrated the goal a few metres from our bench because I thought that this experience of mine would have been gold in the head and anticipation of Arconada, and that, perhaps, a small step to the right would have allowed Luis to reach that ball so that we would continue to have options in the game.
All this came to my head – it's what happens to those of us who look at today's football with some filters of the football of yesteryear – when I saw Iñaki Peña fly to his right corner to take that free-kick that Memphis Depay had placed sublimely. I thought even more about all this when I read that part of the success came from all those moments after training in which Iñaki Peña stayed so that the foul specialists could rehearse their skills, those that can even give you a Champions League title, but that in the meantime were filling Iñaki's archive with shooting modalities, postures before the shot and even the way of positioning the ball of each of these specialists. And when one of those was called Depay and he played with the Barça shirt, it was all to allow him to win the next game of the culés; But all that information also allowed the young but wise Barça goalkeeper to take that little step to the right, those five centimeters that allowed him to reach an impossible ball and leave his goal at 0.
It's just that these goalkeepers even learn from observing so much.
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