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2018 FIFA World Cup: The men with magic hands who carry their teams’ fortunes

Over the years, both blunders and wonders by the men on the goal-line have decided the fate of teams in the FIFA World Cup.

football Updated: May 30, 2018 09:09 IST
Himanshu Dhingra
Himanshu Dhingra
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
2018 FIFA World Cup,Manuel Neuer,Hugo Lloirs
Manuel Neuer was a key cog of the Germany side that won the FIFA World Cup in 2014, and the fact that Die Mannschaft are sweating over his fitness shows the importance of a good goalkeeper in the tournament. (Getty Images)

England goalkeeper Gordon Banks made the save of the century against Brazil when he clawed out Pele’s goal-bound header to keep scores level but Jairzinho’s strike gave Selecao the win in 1970 World Cup quarter-finals.

Moacir Barbosa’s life was a purgatory after his error cost Brazil the World Cup in 1950. Such is the role of a goalkeeper that no matter how spectacular a save was, people mostly remember the mistakes.

Nevertheless, football history is littered with great goalkeeping names and how their heroics inspired teams.

Lev Yashin is regarded as the best ever; he played for erstwhile Soviet Union and while he never won the Cup, he was so good that the FIFA award for the best goalkeepers from 1994 to 2006 at the World Cups was called the Lev Yashin award before it was renamed the Golden Glove.

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The Moscow-born was once quoted as saying that secret to his brilliance was a cigarette to calm his nerves and nice vodka to tone his muscles before a match.

Goalkeepers, like any other player on the pitch can make mistakes but, on occasions, they can be required to correct others’ mistakes, especially if a penalty is conceded. A hero is born if a keeper saves a crucial penalty.

Joel Bats turned aside two penalties against Brazil to take France to the 1986 semi-finals. German custodian Jens Lehmann had notes in his socks against Argentina at the 2006 edition. We will probably never know whether it was just to psyche out the opponents but his right guesses took Germany to the last four.

Lev Yashin
Yashin is the only keeper to have won the Ballon D’Or (1963). The best goalkeeper trophy at World Cups was called the Lev Yashin Trophy from 1994 to 2006, before it was renamed the Golden Glove.
Dino Zoff
He is the oldest player in history to win the World Cup in 1982 at 40 years and 133 days. The 76-year-old still holds the record for going 1142 minutes without conceding in internationals between 1972 and 1974.
Iker Casillas
The third keeper to captain his team to a World Cup title after Dino Zoff and Gianpiero Combi of Italy, Casillas is the only one to have more than 100 international clean sheets (102). He has won a record 121 matches.
Peter Shilton
He was at the wrong end of the famous Diego Maradona ‘Hand of God’ goal in 1986. Shilton jointly holds the record for 10 clean sheets at World Cups with former France keeper Fabian Barthez . He has over 1000 games in the bag.
Sepp Maier
He won the 1974 World Cup with West Germany. Starting in the outfield, words from coaches at TSV Haar "you’re the laziest and fattest – you go in goal" pushed him to become keeper.
Moacir Barbosa
Brazil will probably never forgive Barbosa for Alcides Ghiggia’s goal in the 1950 final versus Uruguay. In 1994 Barbosa said: "The maximum punishment in Brazil is 30 years in jail, but I have been paying for 50 years."
Sergio Goycochea
The then 27-year-old saved two penalties in the 1990 quarters against Yugoslavia. He went on to repeat the feat in the semis against Italy and take Argentina to the final overshadowing Maradona. In the final though, the only goal came via a penalty, which he couldn’t save.
Joel Bats
In the 1986 World Cup quarter-finals against Brazil, Bats was the hero as he not only saved a penalty in normal time from Zico but he did one better in the shootout to thwart Socrates. And with teams at 1-1 after four shots, Julio Cesar hit the post and Brazil lost.
Tim Krul
Luis van Gaal introduced him late in extra-time for the shootout in the 2014 quarters versus Costa Rica. Krul told the Costa Ricans he knew their plan and his mind games worked as he saved two penalties from Bryan Ruiz and Michael Umana to take Holland to the semi-finals.
Keylor Navas
He was key to Costa Rica making it to the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup. In the shootout, the Real Madrid goalkeeper saved the penalty from second-half substitute Theofanis Gekas to send his team in the last-eight stage against the Netherlands.
Gordon Banks
Pele still can’t believe that his header didn’t go in at Mexico, 1970. With the ball past him and destined for the back of the net, Banks somehow clawed the ball out of the net to keep the scores level.


If goalkeepers didn’t have enough on their plates already, more has now been demanded from the glovemen from modern-day coaches.

With possession football the talk of the town, coaches prefer goalkeepers who can pass the ball well and not just clear it.

At the club level, many keepers have fallen by the way side because they can’t do that. Joe Hart at Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City is the perfect example.


Like in 19 previous editions, 2018 FIFA World Cup will see some of the best goalkeepers from all across the globe descend to Russia to showcase their skills.

Manuel Neuer and Marc-Andre ter Stegen have both been outstanding for their clubs and should the former fail to prove his fitness, Die Mannschaft have more than an able deputy to take them forward in defence of their title.

Like Germany, Brazil have two goalkeepers who have every right to think that they should be the first choice, but only one of Alisson of AS Roma and Ederson of Manchester City will start in goal.

READ | Dani Carvajal hoping to play at FIFA World Cup despite injury concerns

Other notable names manning the net for their countries in Russia include David de Gea of Spain, who has been Manchester United’s player of year four seasons running, and Hugo Lloris of France too has been outstanding for Tottenham Hotspur for a number of years.

In Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and Mohamed Salah, there is no shortage of people who have wands of left or right foot, but who takes the trophy could boil down to which team has the man with the magic hands.

First Published: May 29, 2018 09:40 IST