Real Madrid reached the final in a penalty shootout, despite the fact that the previous afternoon Carlo Ancelotti had recounted that they were hardly preparing for that kind of game: “It is impossible in training to replace the atmosphere of a penalty shootout,” he explained, referring to to the mental pressure that has caused him on occasion to not be able to find five willing pitchers. Against Valencia he had a simple plan: “The key has been that I have put the three most experienced, the three coldest. First Karim and Modric, who are the best. Asensio, who has a very good shot. The last one was Vinicius. He better not shoot, ”he said, laughing.
Courtois, Nacho, Rüdiger, Lucas Vázquez (Dani Carvajal, min. 68), Eder Militao (Ferland Mendy, min. 74), Federico Valverde (Dani Ceballos, min. 105), Kroos, Camavinga (Modric, min. 45), Benzema, Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo (Marco Asensio, min. 83)
Mamardashvili, Eray Cömert, Thierry Correia, Gayá, Cenk Özkacar, Lato (Moriba Kourouma, min. 95), Justin Kluivert (Hugo Duro, min. 72), Yunus Musah (Foulquier, min. 95), Andre Almeida (Hugo Guillamón, min. 114), Samuel Lino (Francisco Martinez, min. 81) and Cavani
goals 1-0 min. 38: Benzema. 1-1 min. 45: Samuel Linen.
Referee Alejandro Jose Hernandez Hernandez
Yellow cards Camavinga (min. 27), Justin Kluivert (min. 30), Eray Cömert (min. 37), Cavani (min. 91), Andre Almeida (min. 99) and Nacho (min. 108)
But in addition to the shooters, the goalkeeper is decisive in the shootouts, as was Courtois, aware of the laxity with which the shooters had prepared: “It is true that we do not train the shooters. In training, a teammate wants to take a penalty… ”, he recounted casually. And despite that, four hits from four shots, those of Benzema, Modric, Kroos and Asensio.
The Belgian, chosen as the best player of the match, had put a little more science together with his coach, Luis Llopis: “It’s watching videos of penalties that have been taken. For example, Cavani threw them more to the right, that’s why I went to that side. Gayà knew that he had missed another against Sevilla on the left and had previously shot another in the shootout with Betis in the middle, so it was clear to me that he was going to shoot in the middle or to the right. That’s why I didn’t throw myself fully to the right, because I knew I could shoot in the middle, just like Raúl García did last year. And so it has been.”
Courtois’ prodigious performance mixes that part of preparation, talent and also his laborious physical recovery, after a very bumpy start to the season. “When you have a little injury, it drags you down a bit,” he said. “Before you stop playing [por la la lesión de octubre], there were games that I did not feel so comfortable. They are not excuses. He wasn’t playing badly either, but maybe some decisive stop wasn’t there. After the World Cup we solved the problem. And now I feel 100% good and it shows.”
Even Gattuso, the rival coach, recognized the Belgian’s moment: “He is one of the four or five best goalkeepers in the world. Courtois was known to be a great goalkeeper.
Against the Italian coach’s team, the Belgian goalkeeper was not decisive only in the tiebreaker, but recorded a small collection of good interventions before, although later, in contrast to the shootout, something of importance was removed: “I didn’t have that much work either. I tried to help like everyone else does.”
In addition to Courtois’s performance, the game left another aspect that satisfied Ancelotti. “The block has been more compact throughout the match,” he explained about the defensive deficiencies that worried him. “The first part has been good. The end has been good. We are happy, because it is clear that the team is not at its best, ”he added about the point of physical recovery after the World Cup.
More than usual, he is concerned about the particular case of Lucas Vázquez, who withdrew injured and who Ancelotti believes will not make it to the final due to what appears to be a sprained ankle. Less serious were Camavinga’s blow, and Militão’s dizziness, who was already recovered at the end of the match.
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