Most fans remember who the World Cup Golden Boot winners are, but often can’t recall who stood out in net during the tournaments. It’s just natural the goalscorers usually get all the glory, but without stellar performances between the posts their goals may not mean a thing. There have been dozens of excellent goalkeepers in the World Cup over the years and this list features the 10 best.
Not all of them were fortunate enough to hoist the Jules Rimet Trophy at the end of the event, but they all stood out due to their fantastic play and superb saves. Some of the world’s best keepers weren’t able to elevate their games on the world stage, but these 10 definitely did time and time again whenever they had the chance.
10. Peter Shilton
As one of just three goalies on this list not to win a World Cup you know former England international Peter Shilton must have done something exceptional to be included. And that he did. Shilton, along with Fabien Barthez, holds the record for the most clean sheets kept in World Cup tournaments with 10 each. And while most fans will remember Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God Goal’ back in 1986 they may not remember that it came against Shilton. He didn’t play his first World Cup game until he was 32 years old in 1982, but Shilton appeared in three tournaments and his 10 clean sheets came in 17 games. The two-time European Cup winner played a record 125 times for England between 1970 and 1990 and would have easily earned more caps if he didn’t share the duties with Ray Clemence for a few years.
9. Fabien Barthez
Former French international Fabien Barthez may have struggled on occasion at the club level, but he usually shone in international matches. He co-holds the record for clean sheets at World Cup tournaments with 10 and he led his country to victory at the 1998 event in France. He held Brazil off the scoreboard in the final on the way to a 3-0 victory and allowed just two goals against in the tournament. He was named to the All-Star squad and won the Lev Yashin Award as the event’s top keeper. His teammates didn’t help him out four years later as they failed to score a goal, but Barthez was at his best once again in 2006 and led France to the final. Unfortunately, they were beaten by Italy in a penalty shootout. He played 87 times for his homeland from 1994 to 2006 and also won the European Championships in 2000.
8. Ilker Casillas
Spanish international Ilker Casillas won the Golden Glove at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and was named to the tournament’s Dream Team as he led his nation to a 1-0 win over Holland in the final. The 36 year-old, who currently plays with Porto in Portugal, has also enjoyed an incredible club career, mainly with Real Madrid, and ranks second all-time with the team in appearances at 725. Casillas has played a record 167 times for Spain up to now and has played in four World Cups, becoming the third goalie to captain a winning side when he achieved the feat in 2010. He’s also led his homeland to a pair of European Championship trophies and is one of just two active keepers on this list. With Spain qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Casillas may still get the chance to represent his nation one more time at the event.
7. Oliver Khan
Oliver Khan was a German legend for both club and country and was one of the absolute best when facing shooters in one-on-one situations. This fearless and fiery keeper won everything possible at club level, but never capped off his career by adding a World Cup winners’ medal. However, he was voted as the first and only goalkeeper to win the Golden Ball Award at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea as the tournament’s best player, was named to the All-Star Team and also took home the Lev Yashin Award as the best goalie. He led Germany to the final where they were beaten 2-0 by Brazil and allowed just three goals in the event. Khan also played the final with torn ligaments in one of his fingers. He was the first German to post five clean sheets at a World Cup and he captained his side in 49 of his 86 international matches.
6. Gianluigi Buffon
Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon is still playing at a high level for Italian side Juventus and the national team even though he’s now 39 years old. In fact, he’s also the skipper of both squads. Buffon has been named to five World Cup teams between 1998 and 2014 and was Italy’s number one in four of them. He led his homeland to the Jules Rimet Trophy in 2006 when he allowed just two goals in the tournament, posted a 453-minute scoreless streak and recorded five clean sheets. One of the goals he allowed was an own goal and the other was a penalty kick by France’s Zinedine Zidane in the final, which Italy won in a penalty shootout. Naturally, Buffon won the Lev Yashin award as the tournament’s top goalkeeper and was also named to the All-Star Team.
Although his given name was Gylmar dos Santos Neves, most football fans knew the former Brazilian international goalkeeper simply as Gilmar. He was a part of Brazil’s powerhouse World Cup teams in 1958, 1962 and 1966 and helped his team to glory in both 1958 and 1962. This feat saw him become the first goalie to backstop his team to two straight trophies and he earned seven clean sheets along the way. He played his club football at home for Santos and Corinthians before hanging up his gloves and boots in 1969. Gilmar appeared in 94 games for Brazil over 16 years and is generally regarded as the best keeper ever in his homeland. Unfortunately, Gilmar didn’t get the recognition he deserved since he played on such high-scoring squads and was often known as Pele’s goalie.
4. Dino Zoff
Legendary Italian keeper Dino Zoff holds a couple of World Cup records which will be tough to break. He’s the oldest player and captain to win the coveted trophy at the age of 40 years, four months and 13 days and also once went a record 1142 minutes without allowing a goal in international play between 1972 and 1974. Zoff played 112 times for his country between 1968 and 1983, which ranks sixth all-time for Italy. He won numerous club trophies as well as the 1968 European Championships and the 1982 World Cup with a 3-1 win over West Germany in Spain. Zoff was named the best goalie of the tournament and also placed on the All-Star Team. He also went to three other World Cups and racked up five clean sheets.
3. Sepp Maier
Former German international Sepp Maier was another keeper who won just about everything possible during his club career including three straight European Cups. As an international, Maier appeared in 95 contests with West Germany. He took home a European Championship medal in 1972 and then won the biggest trophy of them all when he led his team to the World Cup in 1974 with a 2-1 win over Holland as the host nation. Maier was named to the tournament’s All-Star Team and was also named the event’s best goalie as he allowed just four goals. Maier was one of the best keepers ever to come out of Germany and proved it by winning the West German Footballer of the Year Award on three occasions. He was also an in iron man as he appeared in 422 straight games from 1966 to 1977. Maier’s reflexes also helped Germany finish in third place at the 1970 World Cup and he played in the 1978 event as well.
2. Gordon Banks
England’s Gordon Banks will go down in history for making the greatest World Cup save ever when he robbed Brazilian legend Pele on a close-in header with some incredible acrobatics in 1970. However, the high point of his career was leading England to the World Cup at Wembley in 1966 with a 4-2 extra-time victory over West Germany. Banks allowed just three goals in the tournament, with two of those coming in the final and the other in the semifinal. Banks was generally regarded as the best goalie in the world for much of his international career between 1963 and 1972 and won the FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year Award six times. He was named the best keeper, and to the All-Star team at the 1966 World Cup, but unfortunately lost the sight in his right eye in a car accident in 1972. Banks played 73 times for England, posted 35 clean sheets and lost just nine times. He was also voted the second-best goaltender of the 20th century by the IFFHS.
1. Lev Yashin
You must be a heck of a goalkeeper to have FIFA name a World Cup trophy after you. The Lev Yashin Trophy was awarded to the best goalie in the World Cup from 1994 to 2006 before it was renamed the Golden Glove in 2010. Ironically, he never won a World Cup, made an All-Star Team or won an individual award at the event, but was named to FIFA’s all-time World Cup Dream Team. The former hockey goalie displayed tremendous reflexes and athleticism and put them on full display in his 78 games for the USSR and during his three World Cup appearances from 1958 to 1966. He did manage to win a European Championship and Olympic Games and is the only goalie to ever win the Ballon d’ Or Award. Yashin’s specialty was saving penalties as he turned back 151 of them during his career which saw him keep 270 clean sheets. In addition, an IFFHS poll named him the best keeper of the 20th century.