2010 FIFA World Cup: Top 10 Goalkeepers
While players further up the field may grab more of the headlines, it is impossible to overstate the importance of a reliable goalkeeper.
Interestingly a number of world class keepers such as Shay Given, Petr Cech and Edwin Van Der Saar will be notably absent from this year's World Cup. Others, like Jose Reina and Victor Valdes, appear destined to remain on the sidelines.
For me there is very little to choose between the top three goalkeepers on the list, and I also struggled to separate the keepers in the bottom half of the list. Take a look.
Along with fellow Brazilians Maicon and Lucio, Julio Cesar is a part of an Inter Milan defense which has established itself as the best in club football.
He may not be the busiest keeper in the world but on the rare occasions when he is called into action he generally excels.
Brazil have always been gifted with talented attackers, but this outstanding shot stopper could be just as important if they are to emerge victorious from South Africa.
The Real Madrid stopper has established himself as arguably the best goalkeeper in the world since breaking into the team as a teenager. Despite Real Madrid's extensive investment on other players, he has probably been their most consistent player in the last decade.
Spain are strong in every department and with Casillas in goal and Victor Valdes and Jose Reina on the bench they have the best collection of goalkeepers at the World Cup.
Long established as Italy's number one, Buffon is a World Cup veteran who has been Italy's first choice keeper for an entire decade.l
Italy's attacking options look extremely limited but they are always defensively sound, and Buffon will probably need to have an outstanding tournament if the reigning champions are to have any hope of retaining their crown.
Lloris has gone from strength to strength since snubbing the overtures of AC Milan to sign with Lyon two years ago. He is by far the best goalkeeper in the French League and one of the better goalkeepers in European football.
Had it not been for two outstanding performances by Lloris against the Republic of Ireland in the World Cup qualifier playoff this slot might well be occupied by Shay Given. Lloris played a huge role in getting France to the World Cup and will be equally important if the French team are to be successful in South Africa.
Carlos Kameni is a relative rarity, a talented African goalkeeper. The continent produces more than its fair share of players in every other position, but decent goalkeepers tend to be a bit thin on the ground.
He once went 497 minutes without conceding a goal for Espanyol and has been involved in the Cameroon set up since the 2002 World Cup.
The USA tends to produce reliable keepers and Howard is the latest in a long line. Although he was not a success at Man Utd, he has been an increasingly dependable presence for Everton since joining the club in 2006.
Howard is hugely experienced at international level and is on the verge of winning his 50th cap.
Probably the best young goalkeeper in Europe, Neuer's education has been accelerated dramatically with an injury to German number one Rene Adler which rules him out of contention.
Neuer, who has emerged from the youth system at Schalke 04, was named the best goalkeeper at last year's under 21 championships. The world cup will be a big step up and could make or break Neuer's international reputation.
Schwarzer has consistently been one of the Premiership's better goalkeepers without ever spending too much time in the limelight. That has changed this season as Fulham have reached the final of the UEFA Cup.
Some silverware would be little more than the Australian deserves. He turned down Bayern Munich and Juventus in order to play first team football with Fulham. Schwarzer has been one of their best performers as the team has gone from strength to strength in the two seasons since his arrival.
Benaglio has been the Swiss first choice keeper since the European 2008 Championships and helped Wolfsburg to gain the first Bundesliga in their history last season.
Little will be expected of Switzerland, who surpassed expectations in qualifying, but in Benaglio they at least have a dependable presence between the posts.
Sorensen's contract with Stoke City has almost expired and there will be no shortage of suitors for his signature this Summer. Denmark will be praying that the man who succeeded Peter Schmeichel as their first choice keeper can recover from injury in time for the tournament.
Sorensen is already a veteran of two world cups and a series of good performances in South Africa would do wonders for his marketability as a footballing free agent.