Goalkeeping is perhaps the most unrewarding position in a soccer field. The man in charge of stopping shots is asked for perfection, because the slightest mistake could become a goal. They are rarely acclaimed as the star in a game; nevertheless, they are strongly criticized if they fail. Taking so much pressure is not easy at all and only a few of these stars have written their names in history. Who have been the best goalkeepers in World Cups? PanamericanWorld puts on the table a list made up of 10 men that took center stage in the wins of their national teams.
The “Black Spider” is described as the best goalkeeper of all time. His superb skill to stop shots and usual dark uniform made him famous. Yashin participated in three World Cups: Chile 1962, England 1966 and Mexico 1970, with the Soviet Union. His most outstanding performance was witnessed during the British event, when the Soviets finished fourth. Four years later, in Mexico, Yashin barely took two goals in four games; but his team was defeated by Uruguay in quarterfinals, in overtime.
Yashin played a leading role in the Soviet win in the 1960 Eurocup; as well as the Olympic crown conquered in Melbourne Games, in 1956. In 1963 was given the Golden Ball as the most outstanding soccer player of the world. So far, he is the only goalkeeper that has been given this award. That is the reason why Yashin’s image was chosen by the Russian organizers for the 2018 World Cup poster.
Perhaps he was not the most virtuous goalkeeper, but he was key to obtain Brazil’s world crown in 1994. Taffarel participated in three Cups: Italy 1990, United States 1994 and France 1998. In the first one, the “Canarinha” was taken out by Argentina in the round before quarterfinals; four years later, Brazil made to a historic final against Italy, since it was the first time a World Cup was defined in the round of penalties. Taffarel was the hero by stopping Massaro’s shot. In his last world event, in 1998, Taffarel played for the tile once again, but he could not avoid the defeat against France, after Zinedine Zidane’s two headers.
“Giggi” has been one of the most complete goalkeepers of all time. He played in five World Cups with Italy, 1998-2014, and his utmost result was obtained in 2006. In the World Cup hosted by Germany, Italy was coached by Marcello Lippi and the “azzurris” showed a strong defense, so Buffon only took two goals in seven games. The final, against France, was decided in the round of penalties and, although “Giggi” did not catch any ball, his 1.90 meter figure made the French players lose concentration.
Casillas, Barthez and Buffon are the champion goalkeepers that have taken the lowest number of goals in a Cup. In South Africa 2010, the “Red Fury” recovered from the initial setback against Switzerland and won six games in a row, in which Casillas only took another goal. The Iberian defense and Iker’s great work made Portugal, Paraguay, Germany and Holland go empty handed in decisive games. Among the unforgettable moments of “Saint Iker” we can mention the penalty he stopped from Paraguayan Oscar Cardozo and a spectacular catch against Dutch Arjen Robben. Casillas played in another three World Cups (2002, 2006 and 2014), won two Eurocups, 2008-2012, and stood out with the Real Madrid team.
Barthez was the goalkeeper during the golden age of the French national team. In the 1998 World Cup, the kiss given by Laurent Blanc to Barthez’s bold head was registered by history as a symbol of good luck. The French team actually did it great in front of its public and won its only world title, by prevailing over Brazil in the final, 3-0. In that Cup, Barthez was only scored two goals and he was excellent in the round of penalties against Italy, in quarterfinals. Four years later, in 2002 Korea-Japan, France let everybody down because it did not even make it to the second stage. Barthez’s last world event was held in 2006. In the edition organized by Germany, France was in the final, against Italy. The game was tied with one goal, so they went to the round of penalties. Barthez could not stop the Italian shots, so the “azzurris” got their fourth World Cup.
Kahn has been one of the best German goalkeepers of all time. Both his face and body were intimidating on the field; besides, the team followed him, so he was chosen captain. He played in four World Cups, 1994-2006, and his main result was the second position in the 2002 Korea – Japan edition. In that Cup, Kahn only allowed three goals, two of which were scored by Brazilian Ronaldo. In the next World Cup, in 2006, Kahn was the substitute of Jens Lehmann, but he played the leading role in the game for the third position, against Portugal. The triumph was not a great consolation because the German team was hoping to be in the final, but it was the best farewell for Kahn.
Zoff is the goalkeeper that has won a World Cup at the highest age. In Spain 1982, the Italian player was 40 years old, but his reflexes were still excellent and he did a great work for the “azzurris” to win the tournament, with a final win against Germany. That was how Zoff joined Giampiero Combi as the only goalkeepers in the history of World Cups that conquered the title as captains of their team. Zoff had already participated in the 1970 World Cup, where he was the substitute of Enrico Albertosi, and he later strengthened his position in Germany 1974 and Argentina 1978.
Banks is described as the best goalkeeper in the history of British soccer. His moment of glory in World Cups came in 1966, when England was proclaimed champion in front of its public. In the six games of that event, Banks allowed three goals, two of them in the final against Germany. In the next Cup, in Mexico 1970, England faced Brazil in the first stage of the tournament. In that game, Banks spectacularly intercepted Pele’s attack. The action was so amazing that many people labeled as one of the best goalkeeping performances in the 20th century.
This Italian goalkeeper was one of the most complete players of the world in the 1980s and early 1990s. In the 1990 Cup, Zenga wrote his name on record books by spending 518 minutes without taking any goal, a record that has not been broken. In the first stage, Italy was undefeated, with three wins. In the round before quarter finals, the Uruguayan team did not score and the same happened with the Irish in quarterfinals. In the semifinal duel, against Argentina, Claudio Paul Caniggia, in the 67th minute, finally took Zenga’s defensive wall down.
This Mexican goalkeeper shares a record with Buffon and German Lothar Matthaus: they are the only players that have participated in five Cups. His first World Cup took place in 1950, when Mexico lost three games and he got 10 goals. Afterwards, in the World Cup hosted by Switzerland in 1954, he was defeated by France, 2-3. In Sweden 1958, he was the goalkeeper in the tie with Wales and he also played in two more games, which were lost by his team. In the Chile edition, in 1962, he got his win against Czechoslovakia, 3-1. Carbajal retired after the England Cup, in 1966.