Goalkeeper Yvon Mvogo the future for Switzerland and Young Boys?
Yvon Mvogo made some crucial saves to help Young Boys through to the Europa League knockout stages, and the 20-year-old goalkeeper will hope to produce a similarly strong performance when they host Everton on Thursday in the first leg of their round of 32 tie.
Born in Yaounde, Cameroon, Mvogo's earliest memories include his family gathering around a television set to watch the country's national team in action. He and his parents moved to Switzerland when he was 6, and he began his training at local side FC Marly before moving on to FC Fribourg and then, at the age of 16, to Young Boys. He advanced to the first-team ranks during the 2012-13 season after showing well at youth level.
Mvogo impressed sufficiently when stepping in for the injured Marco Wolfli in December 2013 to be promoted to the role of regular No. 1. following the winter break. Young Boys' coach Ulrich Forte has since shown great faith in his young custodian -- "I owe everything to him," Mvogo told La Liberte last year -- by handing him almost 50 starts in all competitions and retaining him between the sticks even after Wolfli's return from injury last August.
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The goalkeeper's displays attracted the attention of Cameroon national team coach Volker Finke, who travelled to Bern to speak with then-19-year-old ahead of last year's World Cup. But Mvogo elected to turn down Finke's advances in favour of Switzerland after previously representing his adopted homeland at under-17, U19 and U21 level. He was among the substitutes in their 2-2 friendly draw with Poland last November.
This season has been another good one, and, despite a couple of errors, he was largely excellent during Young Boys' Europa League group stage campaign and produced a fantastic diving save to keep out a late header in the 2-0 victory at home to Sparta Prague that saw them through to the last 32.
German side Freiburg were credited with an interest in him last summer, but Mvogo's current contract runs through to June 2018 and he has shown little indication that he is interested in a move at the present moment in time.
Mvogo is an agile and long-limbed goalkeeper who generally positions himself well, stays up big and relies on his quick reactions to make saves. An assured and accurate distributor, he is comfortable starting attacks from deep. He does, though, struggle to impose himself under high crosses and can be prone to misjudgment of the ball's flight, as seen on Napoli's opening goal in their 3-0 victory over Young Boys during the Europa League group stage.
- excellent distribution
- good positioning on shots
- very agile
- struggles with high balls into the area
- drilled shots close to his feet
Handling: Very solid in handling efforts on goal within his standing reach. When a catch is impossible, he usually gets a strong hand, or hands, to the ball and pushes it clear of the danger zone. Less comfortable when put under any pressure on high balls, he generally elects to punch and rarely clears the penalty area when doing so.
Agility: An athletic goalkeeper, very much at home flinging himself across the width of the goal to make a spectacular save, he has very quick reactions from close range efforts of medium height. As with any goalkeeper of his build, drilled low efforts either side of his feet can prove problematic.
Positioning: Generally covers his angles well and stays upright for as long as possible before committing himself. Always quick off his line to come out and sweep up passes in behind his defence, often advancing well outside his area. He does, however, have a tendency to stay rooted to his line on crosses that he should be coming to claim.
Command of Area: As noted above, he is not particularly proactive under high balls and when he does decide to come, the communication between him and his unsuspecting defenders is often uncertain. Can be a little rash when sliding out inside his area.
Distribution: Very assured with the ball at his feet and generally provides accurate clipped passes forward toward specific targets. He rarely panics and is confident enough in his ability to use his unfavoured left foot to shift the ball in an attempt to open up more space or a better angle for a forward pass.
What The Experts Say
Young Boys' displaced No. 1, Marco Wolfli: "He has a good mentality. He has good technique and the right stature, which is very important for a goalkeeper."
Young Boys coach Ulrich Forte: "In the long term, Yvon is destined to move abroad. In my opinion, his style of play would be ideally suited to the English Premier League. I am very pleased with his development, but he still has a lot of potential for growth."
Perhaps unsurprisingly given his build, Mvogo played more basketball than football up until the age of 12. He started out as a striker but soon realised goalkeeper was his best position.
There are very few goalkeepers capable of holding down a regular first-team place at Mvogo's age, and although his inexperience does show at times, he has generally been highly impressive since coming into the team at the back end of 2013. That he has kept his place even following the return to fitness of the long-serving Wolfli (who has 400 appearances in 11 years as first-choice goalkeeper) speaks volumes of the faith the club have in him.
There seems little reason for him to leave at the moment. He has made it clear that he feels at home in Fribourg among people who share a similar mindset, and it appears he can imagine a long-term future for him and his family in Switzerland. He enjoys the confidence of his coach and is being given the opportunity to work on his game in a relatively low-key environment.
The 20-year-old still has some things to improve upon, but he certainly has the makings of a very good goalkeeper. Given additional time to learn his craft and gain the experience that will be necessary to enhance his decision-making skills, a positive future awaits him. And on Thursday, he will get a further opportunity to inflate his reputation by putting his shot-stopping abilities to good use in shutting out Everton.
Nick Dorrington is a freelance football writer. Twitter: @chewingthecoca.