January 2022. Berlin. The match between Hertha and Bayern, where Alexander Shvolov defends the gates of the Berlin club. Munich from the very first minutes begin to use the zone between the defenders and the goalkeeper. Hertha plays into the hands of the guests by flirting with artificial offside and making mistakes in timing.
Responsibility for control of the penalty area falls on Alexander’s shoulders, because that’s where the Bayern midfielders aim, throwing the ball into the penalty area.
Almost at the very beginning of the match, Shvolov saves Hertha from an inevitable goal, making a triple save! The defenders do not have time to take a synchronized step forward for Thomas Muller to be offside, so a 2v1 situation arises in the area of the goalkeeper’s zone against the home goalkeeper. Alexander, leaving the ribbon, increases the area of the body, as if with a shadow, closes the gate and blocks the possible addressee of the pass to Gnabry. Shvolov blocks Muller’s first blow, then in an acrobatic jump he reaches the ball that bounced into the goal, and then with his face he prevents finishing!
Alexander’s acrobatic abilities helped him throughout the match. For example, in the moment with Lewandovsky’s strike, Shvolov stretched out into a string and reached for the ball!
Hertha lost to Bayern with a score of 1:4, but could have lost with an even more devastating score. But the gates of the Berliners that evening were defended by Alexander Shvolov, who set the Bundesliga record for the number of saves in one match. The goalkeeper saved 14 shots! Shvolov’s record was broken by Jan Sommer. Against the same Bayern, the Swiss made 19 saves.
Shvolov is not only the last defender, but also the first player in building an attack
Almost all the clubs in which Alexander Shvolov played liked to play short. Not always in order to reach the goal with the help of low passes, but at least in order to lure the opponent into pressing, and then throw the ball behind the back of the defenders. In this component of the game, Shvolov is a good tool for Christian Streich or Sandro Schwartz, as well as for Thomas Rice.
In the initial stage of possession, Alexander actively prompts and gesticulates to his partners, but he himself is ready to join the game combination. For example, in the screenshot below, you can see how Alexander saw a possible play on the third. With simple interactions, the Hertha players managed to find the flaws in Bayern’s pressing and free space on the flank, and then move the ball into the next stage of the game!
Shvolov spent his childhood on a German farm, milking cows, and he was matched to the Russian team
Alexander Shvolov was born in the German town of Wiesbaden in 1992. He started his youth career in the local team “Veen” from the German third league. In 2008, he went to Freiburg, where he established himself by pulling out decisive penalties in the German Youth Cup.
Shvolov’s debut in the Bundesliga came in the last round of the 2013/14 season. In that match, his team lost to Hannover with a score of 2:3.
In the summer of 2014, Shvolov went on a two-year loan to Arminia. In the second round of the 2014/15 German Cup, he saved two penalty kicks in the post-match series against Hertha, and in the quarter-final match against Borussia, Mönchengladbach parried Traore’s decisive blow and thereby brought Arminia to the semi-finals of the tournament.
In 2020, Alexander moved to Hertha for 9 million, and in the summer of 2022 he went on loan to Schalke.
In interviews, the Pitmen’s goalkeeper often talks about his “farming childhood”. He once told a story about how his family hid their pigs during the Nazi rule: “My grandmother used to tell me terrible stories. The old farmhouse where he and his grandfather spent their entire lives is over 400 years old. There the ceilings have already sagged, a real antiquity. The house has secret cellars where pigs were hidden during the Nazi era to keep the animals from being taken away. I remember being there when the pig was being slaughtered. First, she was stunned with electric tongs, then her throat was cut, after which the pig bled to death. On the one hand, it was important to realize that the pig did not suffer from stunning, and on the other hand, this experience had an impact on my whole life. I know where the meat comes from in the supermarket.”
Once, Alexander admitted to a German publication that he had Russian roots, and on both parental lines. This made the Russian football community talk about the possible naturalization of the German goalkeeper, because around 2019, many were looking for a replacement for Akinfeev in the national team. Germans already have experience with obtaining Russian citizenship: Roman Neustadter received a Russian passport in 2016. Perhaps Shvolov’s ignorance of the Russian language and other reasons forced the RFU to refuse to naturalize Alexander and use the Russian football reserves to replace Igor with dignity.
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