1. Manuel Neuer Germany
Cristiano Ronaldo got an early clue that this was not going to be his tournament when Neuer produced a superb save from a stoppage-time free-kick to prevent Portugal from salvaging even a sliver of consolation from their crushing defeat by Germany. But it is not his shot-stopping that has distinguished Neuer, it is the way he has practically redefined the role of goalkeeper, taking the sweeper-keeper function to an extreme never before showcased with such success.
His charges out of his box prevented Algeria, in particular, from revelling in the space behind Germany’s high defensive line, compensating for Per Mertesacker’s lack of pace. In addition to the obvious effectiveness, the sight of the hulking keeper hurtling towards confrontation must have a potent mindgame value – Asamoah Gyan, for instance, fled ridiculously wide when presented with the chance to take on Neuer one-on-one. What is more, Neuer’s superb distribution makes him the first line of attack.
2. Guillermo Ochoa Mexico
Way to ace a job interview. Ochoa, a free agent after three outstanding seasons at Ajaccio, was unlikely to be short of offers before the tournament but his displays for Mexico may have endeared him to a new calibre of recruiter. The 28-year-old’s agility, reflexes and robust wrists enabled him to make an array of improbable saves. Brazil players wondered whether there had been divine intervention when he helped Mexico to draw against them, while it took some devilry from Arjen Robben to beat Ochoa in the end.
3. Keylor Navas Costa Rica
The 27-year-old came into the tournament after a wonderful season in which he set a clean-sheet record for Levante but it has still been a major surprise to see Costa Rica advance to the quarter-finals while conceding only two goals in five matches – Uruguay, Italy, England, Greece and Holland. Behind a solid unit, Navas was a secure presence. As the pressure increased, his performances rose accordingly, with his exhibitions of shot-stopping against Greece and Holland among the highlights of the tournament.
4. Vincent Enyeama Nigeria
Another goalkeeper who arrived after a record-breaking season at club level. Enyeama carried on the form that made him nigh-on unbeatable for Lille, pulling off a series of extraordinary saves, starting in the first match against Iran, when Nigeria dominated but would have lost if the goalkeeper had not kept enough concentration to tip away a header from Reza Ghoochannejhad. He then kept Bosnia-Herzegovina at bay before thwarting Lionel Messi and Argentina for long periods despite conceding three. When a goalkeeper falls below perfection, however, he can be punished severely and Enyeama’s mishandling of a cross against France enabled Paul Pogba to score the winning goal and ruined another otherwise immaculate performance.
5. Tim Howard USA
Even though he made a tournament-record number of saves against Belgium, the American’s shot-stopping was not the most admirable aspect of his performances in Brazil – and not only because most of Belgium’s efforts were straight at the goalkeeper, their forwards’ odd lack of composure seemingly making them unable to spot Howard’s tendency to go low prematurely, a habit that Nani had exploited earlier. That quibble aside, Howard’s influence seemed immense as his leadership helped coax valiant resistance from defenders who might otherwise have been torn apart. He inspired his team-mates with words and deeds.
Rest at the source.
The list is great for the most part, although I would kick out Tim Krul and put in Claudio Bravo. I'll post some more articles as part of the countdown to tomorrow's match.
Also, who are your favorite goalkeepers this tournament? Feel free to spam below!