Manuel Neuer was already considered by many to be the best goalkeeper in the world. Now he can officially be considered the best goalkeeper at the 2014 World Cup after winning the Golden Glove award.
Coming into the tournament, many would have pegged the Bayern Munich star as a favorite to bring home the honor, and with Germany's World Cup win, he placed himself ahead of the pack in Brazil.
Some might argue that Costa Rica's Keylor Navas out-performed Neuer despite Los Ticos' quarterfinal exit. Heading into the final, Navas' save percentage was a little over six points higher than Neuer's, per OptaFranz:
You couldn't have gone wrong with either player, but Neuer likely won out by virtue of his team playing deeper into the tournament.
That's not to say that his performances alone—especially against Algeria and Brazil—didn't warrant the honor by themselves. Although you can credit many players for the Germans' success, having somebody like Neuer in goal went a long way toward getting Die Nationalmannschaft as far as they went.
Germany's lack of pace in the back four was exploited by the Fennec Foxes in the round of 16. Luckily for Per Mertesacker, Benedikt Howedes and Jerome Boateng, Neuer was constantly rushing off his line to make the tackle and eliminate the threat:
Is Neuer not also up for Golden Ball? Might be the best sweeper in the tournament.— Jonathan Yardley (@jtyardley) July 11, 2014
The top goalkeepers also demonstrate an ability to retain their focus, even when the opposition creates few chances and is down for most of the match.
Edwin van der Sar is one of the more recent examples of this. At Manchester United, the presence of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand often limited the opponent's scoring chances. When Van Der Sar was tested, he always rose to the occasion.
In the quarterfinal against France, Neuer wasn't deluged by shots from Les Bleus. However, his focus never faltered, and he palmed away a shot from Karim Benzema in the 94th minute that would have tied the game. The almost nonchalant way in which he dispatched the possible equalizer made the save all the more impressive.
Germany's 7-1 win over Brazil was another example of how Neuer doesn't stop until the whistle blows. Oscar's goal in the 90th minute had no bearing on the outcome of the match, but the shot-stopper was visibly upset that he lost out on a clean sheet:
No apologies or let-up at any point. Neuer frustrated with conceding. Schweinsteiger berating Özil for missing. That's a winning mentality.— Liviu Bird (@liviubird) July 8, 2014
Neuer furious at losing his clean sheet. Good on him.— Damian Spellman (@DamianSpellman) July 8, 2014
Despite the one-sided nature of the result, Neuer was tested quite a bit, facing the most shots of any Germany goalkeeper in the World Cup since 1974, per OptaJohan:
8 - Germany faced 8 shots on target vs Brazil, the most in one World Cup game since 1974 (vs Poland). Neuer.— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) July 9, 2014
His double save on Paulinho in the 53rd minute likely broke whatever was left of the Brazilians' spirit:
Some of the best goalkeepers in the history of football have taken home the Golden Glove Award in one of its various iterations. It's only appropriate that possibly the best keeper of his generation etched his name into the record books.
Germany had a successful run as a team, and Neuer can take pride in the fact he was a crucial part of their strong performance in Brazil.