World Cup 2014: Ranking the Top 10 Saves from 2nd-Round Stage Games
With the second-round games at this summer’s World Cup producing an exhibition of truly world-class goalkeeping to savour, we have picked out the top 10 saves from those contests and then ranked those stops in order.
And with world football’s governing body FIFA having named a keeper as man of the match in five of those eight mouth-watering clashes, it really has been a last 16 dominated by shot-stoppers.
Now we have not included any stops from a penalty shootout, while the situation of the game and the actual difficulty of the save itself were both paramount factors in deciding the final makeup of the top 10 and its subsequent order.
10. Diego Benaglio (Switzerland)
Switzerland goalkeeper Diego Benaglio enjoyed a far quieter afternoon’s work against favourites Argentina in Sao Paulo than many had predicted going into Tuesday’s last-16 encounter, however, when the shot-stopper was called upon he proved himself to be a formidable barrier to Lionel Messi and Co.
The VfL Wolfsburg No. 1’s best save, though, came in the second period of extra time at the Arena de Sao Paulo when Benaglio demonstrated his extreme agility by somehow managing to get fingertips to Angel Di Maria’s goalbound drive from the edge of the area and turn the ball away for a corner.
109'- Argentina winger Angel di Maria shoots from outside the area and forces Switzerland goalkeeper Diego Benaglio into a flying save.— Castle Lager Africa (@CastleLagerAFR) July 1, 2014
9. Claudio Bravo (Chile)
The Chile skipper enjoyed yet another impressive performance between the posts as his side came within a whisker of eliminating Brazil in their last-16 clash in Belo Horizonte on Saturday, with one save in particular to deny Hulk truly remarkable.
With the two teams locked together at 1-1 in the second half, the muscular Zenit St. Petersburg forward somehow managed to dance his way past a throng of Chile players on the edge of the area before unleashing a powerful right-footed shot that FC Barcelona’s new keeper did well to beat away to safety.
THIS GAAAAAAME RT @SBNationSoccer: Claudio Bravo with an excellent save to deny Hulk!— SB Nation (@SBNation) June 28, 2014
8. Rais M’Bolhi (Algeria)
Algeria No. 1 Rais M’Bolhi was almost unbeatable in goal as the north Africans took favourites Germany all the way to extra time after the keeper had kept a clean sheet in the preceding 90 minutes of their last-16 encounter in Porto Alegre on Monday evening.
However, it was the second period in particular that saw the 28-year-old produce his best saves, including one brilliant fingertip stop to keep out Germany captain Philipp Lahm’s sweetly struck drive from outside the area 10 minutes after half-time.
7. Tim Howard (U.S.)
U.S. No. 1 Tim Howard was rightly named man of the match by FIFA in his country’s 2-1 loss to Belgium in Salvador on Tuesday evening after the keeper made a string of crucial saves—the most ever in the World Cup—to keep the Red Devils at bay during normal time, although the 35-year-old’s best stop actually came after just 40 seconds of the last-16 contest.
Having been slipped clean through the right-hand channel of the penalty area following a neat flick by Kevin de Bruyne, young Belgium striker Divock Origi had both the time and space to size up exactly which side of Howard’s gaping goal he wanted to put the ball into.
However, as Howard would go on to demonstrate on several occasions during the next two hours at the Arena Fonte Nova, there are few better goalkeepers in the world when it comes to the one-on-one situation, with the veteran blocking Origi’s goal-bound effort with his outstretched right boot.
6. Rais M’Bolhi (Algeria)
Germany may have overcome Algeria 2-1 after extra time in their round of 16 meeting at the Estadio Beira-Rio on Monday night, however, it was the north African’s goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi who was named man of the match by FIFA, and with good reason, too.
M’Bolhi, 28, had a surprisingly quiet first half in Porto Alegre against the much-fancied Germans, but the CSKA Sofia No. 1 was far busier after the interval as Joachim Low’s men put their foot on the gas, although they could find no way past the impenetrable Algerian shot-stopper.
And even when substitute Sami Khedira’s inch-perfect right-wing cross had picked out the unmarked Thomas Mueller six yards out, still Germany were unable to break the deadlock after the keeper somehow managed to push the prolific forward’s bullet header away for a corner.
5. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica)
Costa Rica No. 1 Keylor Navas came into this summer’s World Cup with a burgeoning reputation as one of the most promising goalkeepers in the world after a hugely impressive La Liga campaign between the sticks with Levante.
And boy did the 27-year-old not disappoint either after a string of dominant displays in goal helped his country through to an unlikely last-16 meeting with Greece in Recife on Sunday, where yet again Navas turned in another man of the match performance to see the Central Americans progress to the quarter-finals.
In particular, Navas’ close-range block with his right knee to prevent Dimitris Salpingidis from opening the scoring in the first half after a delicious left-wing centre from Jose Holebas was goalkeeping of the very highest standard by the Costa Rican.
Keylor Navas' trailing leg has broken a lot of strikers' hearts. And again.— AS English (@English_AS) June 29, 2014
4. Vincent Enyeama (Nigeria)
Nigeria keeper Vincent Enyeama was his country’s star man as the Africa Cup of Nations champions made it through to the round of 16, and the Lille shot-stopper was once again in imposing form on Monday against France in Brasilia.
In fact, were it not for a number of eye-catching saves from the experienced 31-year-old, especially after half-time, then Les Bleus’ final winning margin would have been far greater.
But it was Enyeama’s stunning reflex stop in the first half to keep out Paul Pogba’s fiercely struck volley after a flowing French move that was the pick of the custodian’s saves at the Estadio Nacional, with the Nigerian using his strong wrists to ensure the Juventus midfielder’s powerful effort did not beat him at his near post.
Superb football! Pogba wide to Valbuena, who crosses, Pogba meets it with a vicious volley, but Vincent Enyeama produces a brilliant save.— Tom Williams (@tomwfootball) June 30, 2014
3. Keylor Navas (Costa Rica)
While Costa Rica keeper Keylor Navas rightfully took all of the post-match plaudits following his heroics in the penalty shootout to deny Greece striker Theofanis Gekas, the Central Americans would not even have made it that far were it not for a number of equally sensational saves by the shot-stopper in both normal and extra time.
And none more so than Navas’ point-blank stop with his right knee again to keep out substitute Kostas Mitroglou with just seconds to go in Recife, after the Fulham frontman had been found in the six-yard box by Gekas’ clever flick-on.
2. Julio Cesar (Brazil)
In the build-up to this summer’s World Cup, many Brazilians had questioned the wisdom of Queens Park Rangers shot-stopper Julio Cesar playing in goal for the host nation at the tournament.
However, all those doubts were well and truly put to bed on Saturday after the 34-year-old’s brilliant reflex save at his near post had prevented Chile midfielder Charles Aranguiz from giving his side a second-half lead in Belo Horizonte with a close-range drive following a lovely exchange of passes between Arturo Vidal and Mauricio Isla.
1. Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico)
There cannot have been too many complaints about FIFA’s decision to name Mexico No. 1 Guillermo Ochoa man of the match against Netherlands on Sunday after the goalkeeper’s stunning display in Fortaleza.
The 28-year-old, who is currently without a club after leaving Ajaccio following their relegation from Ligue 1 at the end of last season, produced a number of outstanding stops to keep the rampant Dutch at bay throughout most of the second half at the Estadio Castelao.
However, you will be hard pressed to see a better save throughout the whole tournament than Ochoa’s instinctive effort to keep out Stefan de Vrij’s point-blank header from an Arjen Robben corner, with the Mexican deserving the little bit of luck that also came his way as the ball rebounded to safety via first the player’s face and then the post.