The best goalkeeping performances in World Cup history
As the 2022 World Cup relentlessly marches on, fans are slowly warming to the first-ever winter edition of football’s most prestigious competition. Coming in the middle of the domestic season in Europe, plenty of nations arrive sharp and in good form, yet there have been a surprising number of goalless draws throughout the early stages of the group. Indeed, South Korea’s opener against Uruguay finished 0-0 and was the first time this millennium that a World Cup game failed to produce a shot on target.
This can be interpreted in two ways. Yes, there is less entertainment on the pitch and this can make scanning the betting odds for winners increasingly challenging, but it means defences are doing their job. Often times goalkeepers and centre-backs go overlooked in tournament football but just looking at Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Alowais you could see a keeper in inspired form. He was instrumental in his side’s upset against Argentina, but how does that compare to some of the best goalkeeping performances of years gone by?
Read on, as we take a look at some of the best individual displays between the sticks in recent history at the World Cup.
Gianluigi Buffon vs France – 2006
In fairness, there are several of Gianluigi Buffon’s performances throughout the 2006 World Cup we could have picked, but we’ll go for the one in the final against France as his best for Italy. Having helped the Azzurri reach the final in Berlin, then 28-year-old Buffon faced 13 shots from the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry, but while the former beat him from the spot in the ninth minute, Marco Materazzi’s equaliser took the game to penalties, where Buffon’s presence meant David Trezeguet re-thought his spot kick and hit the crossbar, winning the Italians the trophy after the Frenchman had beaten them in the final of Euro 2000 with a Golden Goal.
Tim Howard vs Belgium – 2014
Moving onto the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and the USA’s best tournament in recent history. They faced Belgium’s golden generation in the round of 16 – with the likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku in inspired form. However, the Europeans would be constantly thwarted by America’s goalkeeper Tim Howard.
The former Everton and Manchester United man, a veteran of Premier League football, became an internet sensation for his plethora of acrobatic saves, keeping Belgium at bay for the entire 90 minutes. Eventually De Bruyne found the net before Lukaku added a second, and a Julian Green consolation strike was not enough to avoid American hearts being broken. For Howard though, it was the finest display of his long career.
Guillermo Ochoa Ochoa vs Brazil – 2018
Four years on from his clean sheet against Brazil on their home soil, Guillermo Ochoa was at it again at a World Cup. The Mexican, who already enhanced his international reputation in Qatar by saving Robert Lewandowski’s penalty against Poland, has become a World Cup icon with his performances. One of his best was against Brazil in Russia, where after facing 25 shots throughout the group stage and beating Germany, they advanced to the knockout stages.
The South Americans peppered Ochoa’s goal, and with a weak defence Mexico struggled to deal with the quality of Neymar, who eventually found the back of the net. Pushing for a second, Brazil were frustrated when their 10 shots on target were parried away by the crazy afro of Ochoa. They finally doubled their lead through Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino, but it was a performance that Mexico’s keeper could be proud of from a personal view.