This summer’s World Cup has been full of goals and drama, but the men charged with stopping the goals should be given credit for their outstanding efforts too.
There have been a few keepers who have shone in Brazil. Here are five of my favourites (in no particular order).
Manuel Neuer (Germany)
Ever since he broke into the Germany national team, Neuer has been regarded as a keeper with immense potential. The Bayern Munich keeper has gone on to fulfil that potential and is now arguably the best keeper in the world.
Neuer is confident, decisive and offers an assurance in-between the sticks for the Germans. Neuer has become the ultimate last line of defence by almost becoming an extra defender with his sweeper-keeper skills.
At times he must give German fans some heart problems with his runs out of goal, but most of the time he gets it right and helps his defence out.
Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico)
Mexico number one Ochoa has been lauded for his display against Brazil in El Tri’s 0-0 draw against the hosts. In truth though, he has been solid throughout the tournament and for the last few years in Ligue One for Ajaccio.
Ochoa is now a free agent after his contract with the French club expired and was already in-demand prior to the tournament. His performance in Brazil has just heightened that demand. No doubt Ochoa will be appearing in one of Europe’s top leagues next season.
Keylor Navas (Costa Rica)
Costa Rica keeper Keylor Navas was another player in-demand prior to the World Cup and another who has probably earned himself a big move this summer. Navas went into the tournament having helped Levante to an 11th place finish in La Liga, collecting a club record number of clean sheets in the process.
The 27-year-old took his fine form to Brazil with him and was a key part of Costa Rica’s unlikely journey to the World cup semi-finals. Navas conceded just two goals in Los Ticos’ five games in South America.
Reportedly Navas has a release clause of £6.5million, at that price he looks to be a bargain for any big European club looking for a reliable last line of defence. English clubs Arsenal and Liverpool are believed to be interested in signing the former-Albacete keeper this summer.
Tim Howard (USA)
The Everton star has proved to be one of the most consistent keepers in the Premier League in recent years and he has been no different for his country. The veteran Toffees keeper made a World Cup record breaking 15 saves against Belgium in the last 16.
Although many of those were routine saves and Belgium’s finishing was poor at times, Howard deserves credit for some vital saves throughout the tournament. The 35-year-old was also one of his team’s leaders.
Also rallying his team and nation at times, Howard helped his country achieve a place in the last 16 of the World Cup.
Thibaut Courtois (Belgium)
Last season Thibaut Courtois kept the most clean sheets in La Liga, as Atletico Madrid claimed the Spanish title for the first time in almost two decades. The on-loan Chelsea keeper was also solid for Belgium as they reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup, only to be defeated by Argentina.
Courtois made some vital saves for Belgium earlier in the tournament, especially against USA when his team were holding on in extra-time. Courtois also showed his confidence and nerve by denying Lionel Messi a second goal late-on in the quarter-final.
The youngster will return to parent club Chelsea this summer and could battle it out with Blues long-term number one Petr Cech for the number one jersey. The 22-year-old has already proved himself an accomplished performer, both at club and international level.
I could not write an article about keepers without talking about Holland’s hero from last night’s penalty victory over Costa Rica. Newcastle keeper Tim Krul had not played a single minute at the World Cup.
However, Dutch boss Louis van Gaal brought Krul on in the last minute of extra-time for the penalty shootout. It was a strange move considering that Krul did not have a particularly great record at saving penalties (two saves from 20 taken against him).
The ploy worked though, as Krul psyched out the Costa Rica players by telling them where they were going to put the ball. Some have criticised the keeper and stated that the tactics were cheating.
It would be naïve to call it cheating. Krul used mind games and so did Van Gaal to a certain extent and they worked.
Ironically Krul’s cameo could prove to be one of the most important at the World Cup. Four of the keepers mentioned in my list have now exited the competition, but Krul’s Holland face Argentina in the semi-finals in a game he might not even feature, what a mad football world we live in.
Which keeper has impressed you the most at the World Cup?