World Cup 2014: Ranking the Top 5 Saves from Semi-Final Games
This summer’s two World Cup semi-final games could not have been more contrasting.
In the first semi-final match, Germany hit Brazil for seven at the Estadio Mineirao, going 5-0 up in under half an hour.
The second match at Arena de Sao Paulo between the Netherlands and Argentina finished 0-0 after extra time. It was the first ever time in World Cup history that a semi-final game has gone to penalties after a goalless draw, according to BBC Sport. The South Americans ended up the victors.
In both semi-finals, the shot-stoppers put on a good show with a selection of fine saves and brave goalkeeping.
Which of those saves, across both semi-final matches, deserve notable praise?
Manuel Neuer Thwarts a Low Cross vs. Brazil
Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has enjoyed a brilliant tournament in terms of his form between the sticks.
His dominance was on full display as he quickly got down to meet a cross into his six-yard box in the second half against Brazil.
Striker Fred put a ball through to substitute Ramires on the right-hand side. However, the midfielder's quick ball into the middle was cut out by Neuer before Oscar was able to convert.
Julio Cesar Quick off His Line vs. Germany
Despite being 6-0 down at the time, Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar reclaimed some pride after quickly coming off his line to stop a through ball to Andre Schurrle on a quick German counter-attack.
If there was any hesitation by the Brazilian shot-stopper in racing off his line, Schurrle would have likely scored.
However, Cesar trusted his decision-making and took the ball cleanly from the German to provide one positive piece of defensive play for the host nation amid their semi-final humiliation.
Manuel Neuer Point-Blank Save vs. Brazil
Being 5-0 down inside half an hour was a clear indication that it wasn’t going to be Brazil’s night, but a point-blank save made by Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer confirmed it.
Second-half substitute Paulinho had his initial effort saved from close range. He was then able to produce a volley on the rebound, but at point-blank range Neuer was again equal to it, somehow getting both hands up to parry the shot away.
The Bayern Munich shot-stopper has had an incredible World Cup. His save against Paulinho was one of many highlights he’ll be taking from the tournament.
Sergio Romero Penalty Save vs. Netherlands
Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero made an excellent spot-kick save against Wesley Sneijder to help lead the South Americans to victory in the penalty shootout.
Romero dived fast to his right to keep out the midfielder’s effort, getting two firm hands behind the shot to break Dutch hearts in the World Cup.
Julio Cesar Tips Curling Effort over vs. Germany
Julio Cesar may have spent the majority of his time picking the ball out of his net in the World Cup semi-final defeat to Germany, but he made one of the saves of the tournament, too.
With one hour gone, the impressive Thomas Mueller thought he had scored after curling a beautiful effort into the top corner, but Cesar pulled off a finger-tip save to push it just over the bar to the surprise of many.