- Johnny Herrera replaced captain and talisman Claudio Bravo in the Chile line-up
- Kept La Roja’s first clean sheet in three games
- Stressed importance of making a winning start
In any big match it is always important for a goalkeeper to get things right when the opposition have their first clear-cut attempt on goal. After all, there is nothing better than a good, solid save to calm the nerves and prevent the pulse from racing.
That is exactly what Chile’s Johnny Herrera did in his side’s FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017 opener against Cameroon.
A habitual understudy to Claudio Bravo in the national team, Herrera showed rapid reflexes in using his legs to deny Vincent Aboubakar at the end of a Cameroon counter-attack 11 minutes in, this after Chile had made a bright start.
In recalling his crucial early save after his side’s 2-0 win in Moscow, Herrera told FIFA.com: “It wasn’t easy because it took a deflection, but my confidence levels were high going into the match.
“I’ve played a lot of football and it wouldn’t do for me to be getting nervous at this stage of my career. I was very relaxed during the game and I’m very happy at the result.”
Focusing on the team effort, he added: “I’m pleased to have kept a clean sheet and that we came away with three points. In a short tournament like this it’s important to make a winning start. We broke the ice, which is always hard to do.”
Johnny Herrera: fact file
Club: Universidad de Chile
International caps: 20
International debut: April 2002
Herrera did not have many other scares after that initial save from Aboubakar, aside from when Michael Ngadeu Ngadjui beat him to a cross to nod into an empty net, a goal disallowed by the referee for an earlier infringement.
“The referee was already blowing his whistle and I pulled up as I came out because I didn’t want to collide with their player,” said Herrera. “I knew it was a foul and I wasn’t worried.”
It remains to be seen whether Bravo, Chile’s first-choice keeper at the last two FIFA World Cup™ competitions and last four Copas America, will be available for the match against Germany. Herrera for one, however, is not thinking about that. So what did the skipper say to him before and after Sunday’s match?
“First of all, he wished me luck,” Herrera said. “And then he congratulated me and the rest of the team. We go way back. We’ve been rivals since we were kids, him at Colo Colo and me at Universidad de Chile, and we’ve since spent years fighting for the position. He’s a friend.”
Herrera on Chile’s match against Germany
“With the quality of their players, it might be more of an end-to-end match, which could, in theory, help us to play our game. It’s always hard to break down a side that defends and hits on the counter. They’re going to be very, very tough opponents.”