In football, it is normally the players who score goals that get the most attention. Think Neymar or Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. This World Cup though, the players whose job it is to prevent goals have been grabbing the spotlight.
From the USA's Tim Howard to Mexico's Guillermo Ochoa, goalkeepers have forced the world to take notice. Howard set a new record for a World Cup game with 16 saves against Belgium. Ochoa frustrated Brazil and Neymar in their group stage clash, repelling everything thrown at him.
There were equally impressive shows from Nigeria's Vincent Enyeama, Chile's Claudio Bravo and Algeria's Rais M'bolhi, who all outshone the rest of their team-mates under the harshest of pressure.
Only Igor Akinfeev has been culpable of a howler, allowing South Korea to equalise against Russia. Apart from that, there has not been an error which makes you want the ground to open up and swallow the man with the gloves.
Sadly though, they have all fallen. As Antoinette Muller pointed out in a tweet (that inspired the headline of this article), the World Cup has become a boulevard of broken goalkeepers.
The boulevard of broken goalkeepers.
— Antoinette Muller (@mspr1nt) July 1, 2014
That doesn't mean the impact will be forgotten. Tim Howard's contributions have been well documented and illustrated, so here's remembering the other goalkeepers who kept their nations' hopes alive and the scores respectful:
Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico): Ochoa's performance against Brazil was the best until Howard's supreme effort against Belgium. Ochoa thwarted Neymar and co for 90 minutes in the group stage to salvage a draw against the hosts and a vital point for his team in a big to enter the knockouts. Ochoa displayed his bravery and willingness to put his body on the line against the Netherlands too, but Wesley Sneijder's 88th minute strike was too good to stop and so was Klaas Jan Huntelaar's penalty. He is currently a free agent after his contract at Ajaccio expired but after such an audition, can expect a host of clubs to line up.
Matches: 4 (3 goals conceded, 2 clean sheets)
Saves: 9 saves (4 diving, 2 feet and 3 with body). Also made 11 claims (100 percent success) and three punches.
Claudio Bravo (Chile): The Chilean has already been the subject of a rejected bid by Atletico Madrid and was key to Chile making the knockouts after a superb display against Spain. Bravo was on his game against Brazil in the last 16 too, forcing the match into extra-time after a string of saves — the most impressive of which was a quick double save. He also kept out a penalty in the shootout but ended up on the losing side.
Matches: 4 (4 goals conceded - 2 from corners, 1 clean sheet)
Saves: 16 (12 diving, 4 with body). Also made 25 claims (96 percent success) and 5 punches
Vincent Enyeama (Nigeria): Enyeama had a fantastic season with Lille keeping a staggering 20 clean sheets in the league and continuing his form with Nigeria. Yes, he did concede goals but was often left as the last hurdle in defence in a Nigerian squad which loved to go forward and leave gaps behind. Enyeama's best performance was probably against France in the last 16 when he forced them to go gung-ho to break the deadlock — his mistaken punch straight to Paul Pogba resulting in the first goal.
Matches: 4 (5 goals conceded - 5 from corners, 2 clean sheets)
Saves: 20 (13 diving and 7 with body). Also made 10 claims (100% success) and 1 punch
Rais M'Bolhi (Algeria): M'Bolhi managed to keep at bay two of the most talented attacking teams in the tournament — first Belgium in a match where two late substitutes scoring seemed to be the difference between the teams and against Germany, where his vital saves took the match into extra time. M'Bolhi was in excellent form against Germany as they created chance after chance, allowing his team to break free in attack.
Matches: 4 (7 goals conceded, no clean sheets)
Saves: 18 (10 diving, 1 with feet and 7 with body). Also made 19 claims (100% success) and 5 punches
Note: Only goalkeepers who are not in the World Cup anymore have been mentioned. This is not to say that the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Manuel Neuer and Julio Cesar are doing badly.
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Stats courtesy Squawka.com
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Updated Date: Jul 03, 2014 13:51:17 IST