The Vindication of Claudio Bravo

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BRAVO! BRAVO! ABSOLUTELY SENSATIONAL! It’s “How to save a penalty show by Claudio Bravo” on display here! He guessed right again, diving towards his left to parry Nani’s effort, and Chile are through to the Confederations Cup Final. 

As Claudio Bravo was engulfed by a good old-fashioned bundle by his Chile teammates, he must have felt relieved. All those critics and pundits tearing him down, people betting about when he will be replaced, he had answered them all.

He didn’t need to. He had already displayed his class for Barcelona and Chile. Not many current goalkeepers can match his skillset, nor many can boast of similar achievements. He was instrumental to Chile’s back to back Copa America wins, playing a pivotal role in consecutive penalty shootouts against Argentina in 2015 and 2016. He was an individual at the peak of his career when he responded to Pep Guardiola’s call to join Manchester City.

English football has never really witnessed a goalkeeper like him before. “Sweeper-keeper”, the term used to describe him back at Barcelona was highly unnatural in the rugged English league. And Bravo was considered one of the World’s best in this role along with Manuel Neuer. Either way, it all felt very new for the Premier League and no doubt there are still many people who find it all slightly perplexing.

2Bravo had found his going tough in England ever since his debut when he dropped a simple cross to gift Zlatan Ibrahimovic a goal in City’s 2-1 victory over Manchester United on September 10, 2016.

He had a paltry six clean sheets in 27 appearances before losing his place to understudy Caballero. With an embarrassing statistic of 42.6% goals conceded of the total shots on target faced, the English media was at his throats. City was conceding a goal with every 2.5 shots on target they faced, numbers which are particularly unfavorable for the team’s last line of defense. Guardiola stood behind his keeper, staunchly supporting his decision to sign Bravo.

” He reads when men are free. It is not easy to read that,” he said.

“He gives us the continuity to play. What the fans express, I am not here to judge.”

“He is strong enough,” he continued. “He was nominated with the five best goalkeepers in the world this year.

“I am safe with both goalkeepers I have. I am delighted and so happy he is with us. I know I can count on him.”    

 

3Looking back today, not many can disagree with the bald genius. Yes, Bravo had a torrid first season in the Premier League. Yes, Manchester City has signed Ederson from Benfica to compete and put pressure on Bravo for the number one spot. But the Catalan never doubted his man, he always knew the Chilean was the one who suited the best with his philosophy.

The season ended on a sour note, with an injured Bravo mainly playing second fiddle to his South American Compatriot throughout the second half of the campaign. He even had to sit out the first match in the Confederations Cup against Cameroon.

He was emphatic after his outstanding penalty shootout performance. “It was not just luck,” the 34-year-old said through a translator. “Towards the end we were quite tired but we were still passionate – playing with our head and our heart.”

It might sound ludicrous, but Bravo’s three saves against Portugal equalled the total number he made for City in six Premier League games in 2017.

Germany awaits, which will be the third consecutive international tournament final Chile has progressed to. And Claudio Bravo had been instrumental to all of them. After watching Bravo pointing his fingers towards the sky after saving THREE consecutive penalties, one must be wondering the outcome. Nevertheless, it will surely be an exciting summer ahead, starting this Sunday at Saint Petersburg. Only time will tell us whether his form will continue, whether he can win back Guardiola’s trust, but he sure reminded everyone who the Claudio Bravo really is.

 

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