Much is made of the strikers who can win a game with a sensational strike, but goalkeeper’s efforts in between the sticks can never be underestimated. A solid goalkeeper can be the difference between a win or a loss and the 2014 World Cup. Being a former goal keeper, I also appreciate the fine art of a clean sheet more than most, so here is my list of the top 10 keepers in Brazil this summer;
10 – Fernando Muslera – Uruguay
Muslera is one of the most unknown goalkeepers on the European scene but he has made some very notable performances for Galatasaray in the Turkish Super League and their Champions League campaign this season. Muslera is only 27 years of age and is relatively young for a goalkeeper. He has made 55 caps for Uruguay and was influential in Uruguay’s performances at the 2010 World Cup and Uruguay’s triumph in the 2011 Copa America.
9 – Igor Akinfeev – Russia
The Russian stopper has seemed to be playing for years after making his debut for CSKA Moscow at the age of 17 in 2004. He has remained CSKA’s number 1 ever since and has made 269 appearances for the club. Akinfeev has won the Lev Yashin Prize for goalkeeper of the year award on 6 occasions and will be hoping to recover from his first game howler against South Korea.
8 – Thibaut Courtois – Belgium
Tipped to be one of the world’s best goalkeepers, the young Belgian goalkeeper has come on leaps and bounds since joining Atletico Madrid on loan. At just 21 years of age, Courtois is one of the youngest goalkeepers at the World Cup but looks to be confirmed as the number 1 choice for Belgium ahead of Simon Mignolet He is the youngest goalkeeper to ever appear for Belgium and kept a clean sheet on his international debut against France.
7 – Julio Cesar – Brazil
Julio Cesar has had a very stop start career for the national side but manager Luiz Felipe Scolari has given the Toronto FC goalkeeper a vote of confidence by having faith in the former Inter Milan goalkeeper. Cesar’s club career has stalled of late and will be hoping to enjoy a much more pleasant World Cup than his previous two for Brazil. He was third choice at the 2006 World Cup and was blamed by many for Brazil’s exit in 2010.
6 – Asmir Begovic – Bosnia & Herzegovina
If Bosnia stand any chance of putting in an accomplished performance at their first ever World Cup, they will be heavily reliant on Asmir Begovic in goal. The Stoke City goalkeeper has been linked heavily with a move away from the Premier League strugglers and a solid performance at Brazil ’14 could be the final straw for him. Despite representing Canada at youth level, Begovic switched allegiances to Bosnia in 2009 and has gone on to make 27 caps. Asmir is also one of very few goalkeepers who have a professional goal to their name! He scored in a Premier League match after just 13 seconds against Southampton from 97 yards.
5 – Hugo Lloris – France
Lloris is without doubt one of the best sweepers in the goalkeeping industry and is extremely quick off his line. A good organiser of his defence, Lloris will be hoping to help France put their demons to bed and reach the latter stages of the World Cup. Lloris was handed the captaincy by ex-manager Laurent Blanc in 2010 and has retained the honour ever since. He made his debut for Les Blues in 2008 and has made 54 caps and at 27 years of age, Hugo has a real chance of becoming one of France’s all-time top appearance holders.
4 – Iker Casillas – Spain
Once upon a time Iker Casillas was regarded as the best goalkeeper in his generation but the past couple of years have been slightly troubled for the Real Madrid goalkeeper. Suffering an injury resorted Madrid to signing a temporary back up and Iker has never been able to regain his place. Despite being captain for club and country, Iker’s place at the World Cup could be under threat with Victor Valdes, David de Gea and Pepe Reina all waiting in line and all playing regularly. Iker was part of the 2008, 2010 and 2012 winning sides at the Euro’s and previous World Cup and will be hoping to add to his 152 caps for Spain.
3 – Gianluigi Buffon – Italy
The Italian goalkeeper is one of the most experienced goalkeepers in the business. The 6’3 36 year old has spent the best part of a decade in Serie A with Parma and Juventus and still holds the record fee for a goalkeeper at 51million Euros in 2001. A World Cup winner in 2006 with Italy, the Italy captain will be hoping to emulate their success in 2006. Buffon is also one of a very few goalkeepers who has been runner up for the prestigious Ballon d’Or award which is rare for a goalkeeper to make the top 2.
2 – Joe Hart – England
England haven’t found a true number 1 since David Seaman retired having swapped between Paul Robinson, David James and Robert Green but Joe Hart looks set to be the number 1 for years to come. The Manchester City goalkeeper was given his big break for his club ahead of Shay Given who was then known for being one of the best Premiership goalkeepers. The 26 year old has 38 caps to his collection and will no doubt be a busy man at this year’s World Cup if England are to prove their doubters wrong.
1 – Manuel Neuer – Germany
Neuer has represented Germany at U18, U19, U20 and U21 level before going on to nail the number 1 jersey at the age of 22. He has since made 44 caps for Germany and his presence in the Germany side is now an integral one. He has a very commanding presence and his physicality enables him to take command of his 18 yard box. The Bayern Munich goalkeeper is also a tremendous shot stopper as you’d expect and is a very quick distributor of the ball.
So who do you think will keep the most clean sheets in Brazil?
Will a new shot-stopping hero be crowned if the World Cup Final is decided by a penalty shootout? Did we leave anyone off the list? Sound off in the comments section below for your chance to win a $50 Premier Sports Memorabilia gift voucher.