Ravelli’s maverick nature shouldn’t cloud his abilities as a goalkeeper, though, in particular his shot-stopping and his capacity to come out and collect crosses — like his boyhood idol, Sepp Maier.
In what would define his career, Ravelli — 34 years old at the time — saved two kicks in the penalty shootout against Romania in the quarterfinal match in front of more than 83,000 spectators at Stanford Stadium outside San Francisco, advancing Sweden to a meeting with Brazil in the semifinals. Despite more excellence from Ravelli, Sweden lost to the eventual champions 1-0. But the team won the third-place playoff against Bulgaria and returned to Stockholm to a heroes’ welcome.
“Before the World Cup, I was questioned as a goalkeeper. They thought I was too old, wasn’t good enough,” Ravelli recalled. “The press were a little anxious about my capacities. I started the World Cup with a knife on my throat.