Mathew Ryan is the Australia goalkeeper who is primed to take the soccer universe by storm at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The goalie, who plays professionally in Belgium, is tipped to make a major move to a Spanish or English team after the tournament. With the Aussies getting a tough draw in the World Cup, paired with Spain, Netherlands and Chile, Ryan is going to have plenty of practice saving shots.
Here’s what you need to know about soccer’s next great goalkeeper:
1. Ryan’s Being Playing Regularly Since he Was 18
When he was just 18, Ryan was called into the senior team of his club, Central Coast Mariners in Australia. During his first season in goals he had an unprecedented 12 shut outs. His manager, Graham Arnold, called him “an exceptional young talent.” In total, he played 80 times for the Central Coast Mariners from 2010-2013. During his time with Central Coast, he won the national league’s Young Player of the Year two years in a row. The last player to do that was Australian soccer legend Mark Viduka.
2. Ryan Made the Move to Europe in May 2013
In May 2013, Ryan announced he was leaving Australia at the end of his Mariners contract to go and play in Belgium with Club Brugge. Ryan, despite still being just 21, walked straight into the Brugge first team. After saving a penalty kick for Brugge in a game with Charleroi in December, and helping his team to a 3-1 win, Ryan was offered a lucrative new contract.
3. Ryan’s Had 4 Shut Outs in 6 Games For Australia
He made his first appearance for the Socceroos in December 2012 in a 1-1 tie with North Korea. Since then he’s made six appearances for Australia, keeping four shut outs, having already played for his country’s Olympic team in 2011. Despite his lack of experience, Ryan is expected to be manager Ange Postecoglou’s first-choice goalkeeper in Brazil. His competition for the starting goalie position comes from Dortmund reserve keeper, Mitch Langerak and Adelaide United’s Eugene Galekovic.
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4. Ryan’s Former Coach Has Tipped Him For Stardom
His former goalkeeping coach at Central Coast John Crawley has tipped Ryan for stardom. He told FourFourTwo that his former charge could “walk into any European team.” Speaking in detail about Ryan’s abilities, Crawley said:
(Ryan) reads the game well, he’s an attacking-type goalkeeper, he’s always on the front foot and his starting positions are very bold and he takes chances. I think the modern day goalkeeper takes a few chances, they’re not stuck on the line and just shot-stoppers any more.
He’s the kind of kid that gets off his line, commands his back four very well and he’s got that added offensive game where he clears balls with both left and right foot and play balls off touches.
There has been rumors that European Champions League winners, Real Madrid, could be looking at Ryan.
5. Ryan’s is Taking Over Goalkeeping Duties for Australia From His Hero
Ryan was just one-year-old when his predecessor, Mark Schwarzer, made his debut for Australia in the summer of 1993. But Ryan remembers clearly Schwarzer’s finest moment, his penalty save against Uruguay in the winter of 2005 that sent the Aussies into the World Cup for the first time in 32 years (relive it above). Speaking to FIFA.com, Ryan said:
When I had my first few camps with the Socceroos he [Schwarzer] was here. I was a bit star-struck at the beginning seeing all those childhood heroes…I remember going crazy in the street [in 2005] yelling my lungs out at three or four am with the other people.
Ryan was born-and-bred in western Sydney.