The goalkeeper is the most crucial position in soccer. They are the last line of defense, and having the perfect keeper can lift a team through the World Cup. The FIFA World Cup started in 1930, and it has a rich history of players through the years, and we have seen some memorable performances from keepers. The World Cup is the most prestigious sports tournament around the globe, and players can turn into legends overnight with a fantastic game.
We will look at the five best goalkeepers in World Cup history, discuss what makes them great, and look at what their teams did during the World Cup.
5. Sepp Maier (West Germany)
Sepp Maier was a member of four consecutive World Cups. His first was in 1966 in England, but he stayed on the sideline as a backup to Hans Tilkowski. But in 1970, Maier was the starter, and West Germany made it to the semi-finals but suffered a heartbreaking loss to Italy in extra time.
Maier allowed three goals in the additional 30 minutes, and West Germany could only answer with two goals in a 4-3 loss. Maier was able to rebound with a clean sheet in the third-place match against Uruguay 1-0.
Maier was at the top of his game when the World Cup came to West Germany in 1974. In the group stage, Maier only allowed one goal as West Germany moved on to the knockout stage, which played in a group format rather than a single-elimination tournament. West Germany won all three games and advanced to the finals, while Maier recorded two clean sheets in the three games. West Germany took on the Netherlands in the 1974 FIFA World Cup finals and won the match 2-1. The lone Dutch goal came via a Johan Neeskens penalty kick
Past his peak, Maier still performed well at the 1978 FIFA World Cup in Argentina, not allowing a goal in the group stage. He did allow five in the second round, however, and West Germany found themselves eliminated. Considered by many as one of the best German players of all time, Maier’s performance in 1974 will always be remembered by soccer fans as one of the all-time greats, with West Germany winning on home soil.
4. Lev Yashin (Soviet Union)
Nicknamed the “Black Spider” for his patented all-black look, Lev Yashin is regarded as one of the best goalkeepers of all time and revolutionized the position. He is the only goalkeeper to win the Ballon d’Or and has saved more penalty kicks than any other goalkeeper in history. Yashin never won a World Cup, but his performance in the 1958 World will be remembered as one of the best by a goalkeeper.
Sweden was the host of the 1958 FIFA World Cup. Yashin was put on the map as he helped take the Soviet Union to the quarter-finals. The Russians met Brazil, the eventual winners, in the group stage and lost 2-0, but if it were not for Yashin, the score would have been even worse.
Yashin suffered two concussions during the 1962 World Cup, an example of how physical his playstyle was, but he still helped his country to the quarter-finals, losing to host nation Chile. There were doubts that Yashin’s career would continue, but he returned in 1966 in England and led the Soviets to their best World Cup finish when they came in fourth.
He made a fourth trip to the World Cup in Mexico as a third-string goalkeeper and an assistant coach. Yashin and the Soviets never lifted the World Cup trophy, but he is still considered an all-time great. After all, the World Cup Golden Glove Award is named after the Russian goalkeeper.
3. Gilmar (Brazil)
The only goalkeeper to win back-to-back World Cups, Gilmar was a part of the historic Brazil teamwith Pele. He notched 104 caps with Brazil and conceded only 95 goals. Gilmar’s first World Cup was in 1958, where Brazil won their first World Cup.
Gilmar did not allow a single goal in the group stage of the 1958 tournament and recorded another clean sheet in the match against Wales in the round of 16. He conceded four goals in the last two games on Brazil’s way to a World Cup win, but it did not matter, as the explosive Brazilian strikers scored five goals in the semi-finals and finals in Sweden.
Brazil continued its dominance in 1962. Gilmar only allowed one Spanish goal during the group stage and moved through the knockout stage with relative ease, winning all three games by two goals. Unfortunately, Gilmar’s last World Cup was disappointing, as he allowed six goals in the first round, and Brazil was knocked out in the group stage.
Often overshadowed by the brilliance of Pele and the others in the legendary Brazilian teams during his era, Gilamar deserves praise for his stellar performance in the back-to-back World Cup odds victories.
2. Dino Zoff (Italy)
Dino Zoff was a member of four Italian World Cup teams, and he made history by becoming the oldest man to win the tournament when he was the captain in 1982. Zoff was not a part of Italy’s starting 11 in 1970 when they reached the finals, and his FIFA World Cup debut in 1974 was a disappointing tournament for Italy as The Blues were eliminated in the first round. Zoff allowed four goals in the three games.
Zoff returned to the 1978 FIFA World Cup and posted three clean sheets en route to the semi-finals. Unfortunately, Italy was defeated 2-1 by Brazil, and Zoff was criticized for an uncommon error by misreading a shot on goal.
After some disappointing moments in the World Cup, Zoffmost significant performance came in the 1982 World Cup at age 40. He had two clean sheets in the tournament and made a crucial last-minute save against Brazil, who were once again the World Cup future favorites. The save kept it 3-2, allowing Italy to advance to the semi-finals, where Zoff would shutout Poland 2-0 on the Italians march to the FIFA World Cup finals. Italy beat West Germany 3-1 to secure their third world championship and the first since 1938.
Not only was Zoff the oldest player to win a World Cup, but he was also only the second goalkeeper to be the captain of a World Cup-winning team, joining countryman Gianpiero Combi. Zoff also holds the record for the longest span without allowing an international goal at 1,142 minutes.
1. Gordon Banks (England)
Banks might not have the longevity as some of the other players on this list, but his performance in the 1966 World Cup is legendary, and he has one of the most memorable saves in World Cup history when he denied Pele in 1970.
After being a backup in 1962, Banks emerged as the top goalkeeper for England in 1966. Banks did not allow a goal in the group stage as England moved on to win the group. Banks kept another clean sheet in the round of 16, with a 1-0 victory over Argentina. England faced Portugal in the quarter-finals, and a Eusebio penalty was the only thing to get by Banks in the 2-1 England win. It was the first goal that Banks had allowed in the tournament and the first international goal in 721 minutes. In the World Cup finals, England beat West Germany in extra time and won their first and only FIFA World Cup Trophy.
The 1970 FIFA World Cup was held in Mexico, and Banks had trouble dealing with the heat and the altitude. Despite the difficulties, Banks was able to shut out Romania in the first match of the tournament. England’s second match came against Brazil, the eventual tournament winner. Brazil put pressure on England with their pace, Jairzinho crossed the ball to Pele, and the Brazilian connected with a perfect header. Banks’ extended reach was just enough to make contact and the save. Sportswriters universally regard it as one of the best saves in World Cup history. England was able to advance past the group stage, but Banks became seriously ill with Mexico’s infamous “Montezuma’s Revenge” and watched as West Germany eliminated his team in extra time.
The goalkeeper is the last line of defense on the pitch. Having a great goalkeeper can boost a team’s soccer odds in the World Cup online sportsbook, and these five men were the very best. The World Cup is the biggest stage in sports, and when the spotlight was the brightest, these men showed up and delivered. The World Cup showcases the best players on the planet, and this list shows that, as these players are considered by many to be the best goalkeepers of all-time, not just in FIFA World Cup history.
Being a goalkeeper is a thankless job. They are expected to save everything, and when the team loses, the blame will usually fall on their shoulders, even though that might not always be justified. These men were the greatest ever to do it, and except for Yashin, they were all rewarded with a World Cup victory.