Penalty hero Marcin Bułka key for Nice ahead of PSG quarter-final

Marcin Bułka (24) since moving from Paris Saint-Germain to OGC Nice has become the undisputed starter for Les Aiglons this season and one of the best goalkeepers in France.

Two years ago in a match limited to just 5000 spectators, this was anything but the case for the future number one. At the time, Bułka was on loan from PSG and was being used almost exclusively as Nice’s cup keeper. 

A 1-0 victory against SO Cholet had set up an immediate return to the Parc des Princes in the Round of 16 for Bułka where the clubs battled out a 0-0 draw in front of the COVID-restricted crowd. 

Penalties were needed to separate the sides and it was there that the young goalkeeper first made his mark. Bułka saved two to win the shootout and led Nice on a journey to the Coupe de France final where they lost to FC Nantes. 

Since then Bułka has become a penalty specialist for the club having saved four of the seven he’s faced this season. However, back then it was just the two which helped him down his current path: a save against Leonardo Paredes (29) and the last to win the game against Xavi Simons (20).

‘As a goalkeeper, you know that it’s 95% of the time a goal’ – Marcin Bułka

Speaking to Le Parisien, former Nice and PSG goalkeeping coach, Nicolas Dehon points to this match as the moment that shaped Bułka. “It would be reductive to limit it to penalties, but there was already a taste for it at the time, it’s always rewarding to stop one.” 

Dehon points to a team effort that helped Bułka prepare for the shootout. “He needed to have information, but also to look at me, to feel close to me, so I gave him signs.” The ex-coach continues, “ It was a lot of preparation work on his part but also on mine: for Simons for example, he had never taken a penalty as a professional, so I went to look for images of him in the Youth League.” 

Dehon also suggests that Bułka’s physique plays a part in his success, “With his stature, he wins the psychological battle with the shooter from the start. When you see a 6ft 5 guy in front of you, you don’t know where you’re going to shoot. This allows Bułka to leave at the last moment, at the moment of the strike.” 

And yet despite his reputation, it is a part of the game that Bułka dislikes training for, speaking after the penalty win over AJ Auxerre this season “We do everything to avoid having to do a session. As a goalkeeper, you know that it’s 95% of the time a goal.”

Tonight Bułka will be hoping to avoid being called upon to repeat his past heroics against his old team, as Nice take on PSG in the Coupe de France with a semi-final berth on the line. However, if he is, then Nice can once again rely on their dependable and almost impassable wall. 

GFFN | Nick Hartland

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