We take a look at the difficulty in selecting a golden glove award winner after a stunning World Cup for the men between the posts.
The world has also produced brilliant goalkeepers – there are far too many and they are far too diverse to name – but never before have we seen a tournament in which the star of the number ones shone quite so brightly as it has in Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
It hasn’t been the big boys either, as Iker Casillas, Gianluigi Buffon and Joe Hart all crashed out in the group stages, whilst of the four semi-finalists, the only first choice goalkeeper to play for one of the huge European clubs is Germany and Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer, with Julio Cesar and Sergio Romero not even being first choice for their clubs.
FIFA will have the unenviable task of picking a winner of the coveted golden glove award once the tournament is over – given to the best goalkeeper of the tournament and with an illustrious cast of former winners including Casillas, Buffon, Dino Zoff and Gordon Banks.
We’ve taken a look at some of the contenders for the award, assessing their chances of winning one of the most impressive individual prizes that football has to offer.
Keylor Navas (Costa Rica)
The progression of tiny Costa Rica through the World Cup, past three former World Champions in the group stage and into a quarter-final against Holland, was one of the most incredible stories of the tournament.
The man at the heart of it all was Keylor Navas, a goalkeeper with latex flexibility and reflexes as sharp as a guillotine, who emerged as the undisputed star of the Costa Rican show in the knock-out stages.
He wasn’t needed as much during their surprisingly serene group stage progress, but morphed into immovable object mode for the last sixteen tie against Greece, making a string of stunning saves before making the crucial block in the penalty shoot-out.
Whilst he couldn’t repeat those penalty heroics as Los Ticos finally succumbed to The Netherlands in a quarter final shoot-out, Navas was once again at his breathtaking best, the Levante ‘keeper repelling Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben as if he was batting a fly with a newspaper.
Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico)
Perhaps the earliest contender to emerge from the World Cup’s selection of lesser-known goalkeeping heroes, Guillermo Ochoa caught the eye against the Brazil with his long, curly hair, hidden away behind a headband, and also his saves – numerous as he almost single-handedly kept the hosts at bay.
Much of the aura around Ochoa came from the fact that he no longer had a club, his contract at Ligue 1 side AC Ajaccio having run out after he failed to stem the tide of impending relegation to the second tier for the Corsican club last season.
He was reportedly being chased by Arsenal and Liverpool, whilst one Ajaccio fan was so devastated at the news of Ochoa’s impending departure that he put his house up for sale. And his possession. And his family.
Just as Ochoa-mania was threatening to sweep the World Cup, however, the Mexicans were out – Ochoa having kept the Netherlands at bay for 85 minutes before Wesley Sneijder struck a fine goal from the edge of the box to equalise and Klass-Jan Huntelaar struck from the spot to end their dream.
Manuel Neuer (Germany)
Still standing tall in the tournament, Germany and Bayern Munich man Manuel Neuer is perhaps the finest goalkeeper in the world and he hasn’t put a foot wrong in the World Cup so far.
His most notable performances was against Algeria, with Germany playing a defensive line that was so high that it wasn’t a long way away from being based in Colombia.
Designated as sweeper ‘keeper, Neuer spent most of the game patrolling the edge of the box, springing from his line as soon as Algeria looked to put Islam Slimani in behind – and somehow beating the Algerian forward to the ball every single time.
Thibaut Courtois (Belgium)
If Jose Mourinho was in any doubt as to the world class credentials of Thibaut Courtois, the Belgian international goalkeeper who his club have loaned out to Atletico Madrid for three successive years due to the continued existence of Petr Cech.
Winning La Liga, reaching a Champions League final and looking thoroughly commanding throughout his country’s run to the quarter finals may just change Mourinho’s mind on Courtois, however, who looks as though he could be the world’s finest stopper for the next decade.
Tim Howard (USA)
Bearded USA and Everton glovesman Tim Howard was the star of the show in one of the tournament’s most bizarre, high-paced matches as his team took Belgium to extra-time in a pulsating last sixteen clash.
Howard became like a forcefield, standing between Belgium and the goal, as the Red Devils saw shots from all angles and distances fly towards the goal before being beaten away by Howard, who seemed to grow bigger and bigger with each parry that he made.
His performance even spawned a Twitter frenzy, which saw pictures of Howard desperately diving to his left to save the Titanic from sinking, before someone notched things up even more by making him the US Secretary of Defence on Wikipedia.
In the end Howard was beaten twice in extra time, by Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, but the experienced Everton star had already elevated his reputation to almost mythical status in his homeland.