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Shirt number 12 USSR flag

Yashin

USSR

Full name: Lev Ivanovich Yashin
Date of birth: 22/10/1927
Position: Goalkeeper
International caps: 78
Career penalty saves: 150
World Cups: 1958 - Quarter Finals
1962 - Quarter Finals
1966 - Semi Finals
European Footballer of the Year: 1963
Clubs: Dinamo Moscow 1949-1971

Lev Yashin, nicknamed the 'Black Panther' or the 'Black Octopus' due to his trademark all black strip (at a time when 'keepers almost exclusively wore green), was almost the complete opposite to Gordon Banks' 'save-it-without-a-fuss' mentality. He was known for his daring acrobatics and charismatic personality. He commanded the entire penalty area with confidence and reliability, and in doing so, set the standard for modern goalkeepers.

The legend of Yashin could have been so different. After making three disasterous attempts to force his way into the Dinamo Moscow first team, he played in the club's ice hockey team as netminder, and actually won the USSR ice hockey champioship in 1953. However, Yashin was always destined to play football, and once established in the team, he won the USSR championship five times (Dinamo were also runners-up five times) and the cup on three occassions.

Yashin in action

After his international debut for USSR in 1954, he became Olympic champion in 1956 and reached the quarter final in the 1958 World Cup. His Soviet team then followed winning the inaugural European Nations Cup Final in 1960, with another quarter final appearance in the 1962 World Cup, in which Yashin was unfairly blamed by some people for both goals in that 2-1 defeat to West Germany. In the 1966 tournament, the USSR had their best performance, when Yashin (still making gymnastic leaps at 36) made a terrific save from a Hungarian free kick in the quarter final to give them a 2-1 win and a place in the semis for the first time.

In all, Yashin played in 13 of the USSR's 15 World Cup games between 1958 and 1966, keeping four clean sheets. His final World Cup game was the third place play-off, which USSR lost 2-1 to Eusebio's Portugal, although he travelled as a third choice backup to Mexico in 1970.

One of Yashin's most amazing performances was for a FIFA World XI against England in 1963, where he made a number of outstanding saves in an entertaining match full of attacking football.

Yashin in action

In a 22 year playing career, all of which he spent at Dinamo Moscow, Yashin was first choice for his country for 13 years, kept 480 clean sheet in 812 games, and is believed to have saved a phenomenal 150 penalties. Yashin himself put his record down to having "a smoke to calm your nerves, then toss back a strong drink to tone your muscles". He became the only goalkeeper to win European Footballer of the Year in 1963, and also has the FIFA World Cup goalkeeping award named after him. In 1967, Yashin was awarded the Order of Lenin, for services to his country. In 1986, a knee injury led to his leg being amputated and four years later, he died after surgical complications.

Lev Yashin would have been the first choice goalkeeper of this squad if Gordon Banks had not dominated goalkeeping in the very same period. FIFA disagrees with me, giving Yashin a place in their Century XI.