Lev Yashin

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Lev Ivanovich Yashin (Russian: Лев Ива́нович Я́шин) (22 October 1929 – 20 March 1990) nicknamed as "The Black Spider", was a Russian-Soviet football goalkeeper, considered by many to be the greatest goalkeeper in the history of the game.[2] He was known for his superior athleticism in goal, imposing stature, amazing reflex saves and inventing the idea of goalkeeper sweeping. Yashin was voted the best goalkeeper of the 20th century by the IFFHS.[3]


Life and career

Yashin was born in Moscow into a family of industrial workers. At twelve years of age, the Second World War forced him to turn to factory work to aid in the war effort. He was sent to work in a military factory in Moscow, where he played for its football team. It was there that he was spotted and invited to join the Dynamo Moscow youth team. Yashin’s debut for Dynamo came in 1950 in a friendly match. It was not the debut he would have hoped for, as he conceded a soft goal scored straight from a clearance by the opposing keeper. That year he played in only two league games, and did not appear in a senior match again until 1953. But he remained determined, and stayed at Dynamo in the reserves waiting for another opportunity. Yashin also played goalie for the Dynamo ice hockey team during those early years of trying to break into the senior squad. He managed to win a USSR ice hockey cup in 1953 and was third in the USSR hockey championship as goalkeeper.

He spent his entire professional football career with Dynamo Moscow, from 1949 to 1971, winning the USSR football championship five times and the USSR Cup three times. Yashin’s club team-mate, rival and mentor was Alexei ‘Tiger’ Khomich, the keeper of the Soviet national team, who had become famous for his role in Dynamo Moscow’s British tour.

In 1954, Yashin was finally called up to the national team, and would go on to gather 78 caps. With the national team he won the 1956 Summer Olympics and the 1960 European Championship. He also played in three World Cups, in 1958 World Cup, 1962 and 1966. The 1958 World Cup, played in Sweden, put Yashin on the map for his performances, with Soviet Union advancing to the Quarter-finals. At group stage, in the match against the eventual Cup winners Brazil, which the Soviet team lost 2:0, Yashin’s performance prevented the score from becoming a rout.[4] He was selected into the All-Star Team that World Cup. In 1962 he once-again led the team to a Quarter-final finish, losing to host country Chile, despite suffering two concussions during the tournament.[5] That tournament showed that Yashin was all too human, having made some uncharacteristic mistakes. In the game against Colombia, which the Soviet Union was leading 4:1, Yashin let-in a few soft goals, including an Olympic goal, scored by the Colombian football player Marcos Coll, directly from a corner kick (First and the only Olympic goal scored in the FIFA world cup history). The game finished in a 4:4 tie, which led the French newspaper l'Equipe to predict the end of Yashin’s career.[6] But he would bounce back to win the Ballon d'Or the following year, and to lead the Soviet team to its best showing at the 1966 World Cup, a Fourth Place finish. Always ready to give advice to his comrades, Yashin even made a fourth trip to the World Cup finals in 1970 as the third-choice back-up and an assistant. The Soviet team again reached the Quarter-finals. Yashin is credited with four clean sheets out of the 12 games he played in the World Cup finals.

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