Tim Howard, Keylor Navas and Manuel Neuer – three names that will be indelibly associated with this World Cup. Strikers often get the glory, but at the other end of the pitch it’s the goal keeper who makes or breaks matches.
Whether blocking vital shots, organising the back line or facing the gut churning tension of a penalty shootout, these keepers have put in spectacular performances. Here are my picks for the best of the competition.
Usually seen guarding the net in the UK Premier League for Everton, Tim Howard became a household name overnight in the US. His spectacular performance against Belgium saw him save no less than 16 shots on goal.
Belgium should have easily dispatched the US within 90 minutes on paper, but backed by Howards performance a US team punching above their weight fought into the dying seconds of extra time.
His efforts have led to a huge amount of internet memes and viral videos, with even president Obama getting on the act by jokingly considering Howard for Secretary of Defence.
Although eventually defeated, Howards spectacular efforts made the loss feel like a win and gave the USA something to be proud of. Take a look at his amazing performance in this compilation on YouTube:
Costa Rica hadn’t just not read the script for this World Cup – they were set on re-writing it. A team that most condemned to going out in the group stages, they fought their way into the quarter finals in style.
After taking Greece through to penalties in the knock out stages, Navas performed the vital save that won them the match and sent the Greeks home. What followed in their quarter final against the Netherlands was nothing less than a master class in defence.
Time after time the Dutch offence applied pressure, but were met with an unmoving wall of well-disciplined defenders. When they did finally breach the back line, they had Navas to deal with.
Denying all shots coming his way, at one point Navas blocked top quality efforts from Wesley Sneijder and Robin van Persie within 3 seconds of each other.
The match ended with the Netherlands winning on penalties, after Costa Rica took the match to a 0-0 draw after extra time. Despite the loss, there can be no doubt that Navas is now a national hero. Check out the below video of Navas training by saving 100mph tennis balls!
At times it has seemed like the German defence has been lacking in this tournament, but it hasn’t mattered because of the efforts of this man. Nicknamed the “sweeper keeper” after his repeated heroics well outside his area, Neuer has been a one man back four in this tournament.
In a tight match against Algeria, 21 of his 51 touches occurred outside of his area. Playing this way is risky, but Neuer proved that he has the skill and nerve to pull it off.
In his next match against France Neuer wasn’t required to repeat his midfield antics, but proved he can also excel when rooted on the line.
As the game entered injury time, France’s Karim Benzema surged forward unleashed a blistering shot. Had it found the back of the net, the French would have brought the score to 1-1 and forced the game into extra time.
Neuer had other ideas though, and in a move he has since downplayed as a “reaction”, he executed a vital one handed deflection and sealed France’s fate. Check out some of his other “reactions” below!
What do you think of the keepers performances? Do you think I’ve left out a contender?
Join the discussion below and let us know.