Long lost David Ospina was Colombia's hero once again
David Ospina's climb up the soccer ladder came to a halt last year. The goalkeeper was denied a chance at being Arsenal's starting goalkeeper when the Gunners signed Petr Cech, and Ospina spent the bulk of the past season on the bench, getting a look only in cups and when Cech went down with an injury. But when Colombia needed him on Friday night on penalty kicks in the Copa America Centenario quarterfinals, Ospina was up to the task.
After three consecutive made kicks to start off the shootout, Colombia were hoping that Ospina could save one. They just needed one. And when Ospina dove to his left only for Miguel Trauco to drive his shot up the middle, it looked like Colombia were going to have to wait on that save. But Ospina kicked his leg out, making a spectacular save and putting Los Cafeteros en route to the semifinals.
It would have been a big moment for any goalkeeper. Saves in penalty kicks make heroes of the men between the sticks, and that's for even pedestrian saves. Ospina's was much more than that, a sprawling kick to send Colombia on, but it was also a moment of triumph for a man who needed it.
Ospina's career started with Atletico Nacional, as he won the Colombian league three times before he turned 20. That earned him a move to Nice, where he spent six seasons before joining James Rodriguez as Colombia's star at the 2014 World Cup. With Atletico Madrid reportedly interested in his services, Ospina looked ready to make the jump to the top of club soccer, and then Arsenal swooped in to sign him, cementing his ascendence.
It looked like Ospina had made it. Wojciech Sczcesny, the Arsenal starting goalkeeper, had been shaky for years and it seemed like a matter of time before the Colombian would take his place. But Ospina struggled, suffered an untimely injury and never convinced Arsene Wenger that he could be the team's backstop for the future.
By the end of Ospina's first season at the Emirates, the Gunners were linked to several goalkeepers, signaling the end of their belief that Ospina could be their man. And when Cech signed, it was clear that Ospina's time at Arsenal was coming to an end. He spent the last season in and out of the starting lineup, a dependable backup capable of stepping in for Cech, but there was no doubt who the No. 1 goalkeeper was.
For a goalkeeper who had made his professional debut at 17 years old and experienced nothing but success, starting year after year in his homeland and then Ligue 1, not to mention impressing at the World Cup, struggles always would be difficult. But being pushed aside and now, nearly out, by Arsenal when he was supposed to have made it to the top was especially tough.
Ospina entered Copa America still as Colombia's starting goalkeeper, but with rumors of a move to Besiktas or any number of other clubs supposedly just weeks away. His time at the top was short and, at just 27 years old, his future was in question.
Then, with Trauco at the spot and Colombia desperately in need of a save, Ospina stepped up. He did something brilliant and was once again a hero. For a Colombian team that was supposed to rely on its deadly attack, only to go quiet and fail to score, this was the match that should have done them in. But Ospina wouldn't let it happen.
Maybe Ospina goes to Besiktas, or maybe it's somewhere else. Wherever he lands, it won't be at a giant club. But he'll be a starter again and, as he reminded us with a single, magnificent penalty save, he'll do it as a nation's hero.
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