5 Players To Watch This 2018 World Cup : Goalkeepers

Egypt v Algeria - FIFA2010 World Cup Qualifier
Essam El-Hadary at 45 years of age may become the oldest player to feature at a World-Cup,

Gianluigi Buffon had famously said in an interview with the Guardian that 'A goalkeeper must be a masochist and egocentric.'

It was a bold statement to make in 2014, but it highlighted the fact that 'playing in goal may look fun but it is a painful art that is much misunderstood.'

At 40 years of age and the Italian National team not qualifying for this edition of the World-Cup, Buffon’s dream and a chance at the sought-after trophy is all but over.

However, the World-Cup is a proving ground for every player who wants to make a name of himself, to outshine everyone in the field and rise to the occasion of their nation’s call.

Greats like Buffon and Casillas have done it and proved that a goalkeeper’s job is not a cake walk.

Quick reflexes, pinpoint passing, charging out of the box and aerial strength are necessary requirements of the modern-day goalkeeper.

While the likes of Neuer, De Gea and many others have proven their mettle in the past with stellar performances, we are going to look at some goalkeepers who have recently stood out or are in contention for a place in the starting XI for their respective national teams during this World-Cup.

#5 Thibaut Courtois (Belgium)

Belgium v Greece - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier
Courtois became the youngest goalkeeper to represent Belgium in 2011 at the age of 19

Courtois joined Chelsea in the summer transfer window of 2011 for a reported €9 million from Genk, signing a five-year deal.

Within weeks, the then 19-year-old was shipped to Atletico Madrid; to replace the Manchester bound David de Gea.

The Belgian spent three seasons on loan with the Los Colchoneros, in turn developing as a world-class keeping talent.

He won the La Liga, Copa del Rey and the Europa League along with a runners-up medal in the 2013-14 Champions League final.

Courtois' fine form saw him return to Stamford Bridge in 2014, having impressed Jose Mourinho with his loan stint in the capital of Spain.

On 11 September 2014, Courtois signed a new five-year contract with Chelsea, keeping him at the club until 2019.

With his impressive display in goal, he replaced the veteran Peter Cech and has gone ahead to win the Premier League twice in three years and also a League Cup.

Individual accolades include the likes of La Liga Goalkeeper of the year and the Premier League Golden Glove along with appearances in the Champions League Team-Of-The Season and accolades in his country for being a good sportsperson.

At just 25 years of age and having won major trophies in Spain and England, Courtois has had a great career so far.

However, with the recent form of Chelsea and the possible absence of Champions League football has unsettled Courtois, who according to multiple tabloids, is looking for a new club.

With reports across Europe stating his discomfort at Chelsea, his family being settled at Madrid and the likes of Real Madrid and PSG lurking over for his signature, the World-Cup seems a good place for him to display his talents and Chelsea should be wise to continue making Courtois contract offers good enough to eventually convince him to extend his stay at Stamford Bridge.

In a Belgian squad vouched by many to reach the concluding phase of the World-Cup, Courtois can be sure that opportunities shall come knocking on his goal post.

#4 Sergio Romero (Argentina)

Netherlands v Argentina: Semi Final - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil
Romero was named on the three-man shortlist for FIFA's Golden Glove award in 2014.

Sergio Romero is a goalkeeper who plays for Manchester United and the Argentina national team.

He is the most capped goalkeeper in the Argentina national team having played over 90 times since making his debut in 2009. He has represented Argentina at two World Cups and at three Copa America tournaments, finishing as runner-up in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

With the firepower up front, in an attack led by Lionel Messi, the goalkeeper isn't always the center of discussions when it comes to the Argentina national team.

There are many examples of players who don’ play for their clubs at all and they go to the national teams and Sergio Romero probably leads the list.

However, such has been Romero's influence that he has been the first choice keeper for his national team for the past few years, despite playing a reserve goalkeeper in recent times to De Gea at Manchester United and having unsuccessful stints at AZ Alkmaar and Sampdoria.

But don't let the lack of regular game time fool you, for Romero makes it up with great ball distribution, lightning quick reflexes and a commanding approach in the 15-yard box, making him an immediate starter on the first team that also has Willy Caballero and Gerónimo Rulli waiting for their turns.

With four clean sheets in seven games in the 2014 World-Cup and a Man of the Match award for his performance in the semi-finals, by saving spot kicks from Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder as Argentina defeated the Netherlands in a penalty shoot-out to reach the Finals.

Romero is definitely the man for the big occasions. If Argentina is to replicate their performance from the last World-Cup, Romero may be a pivotal figure in their defence.

#3 Jordan Pickford (England)

England U21 Training Session and Press Conference
Pickford is the most expensive British goalkeeper of all times.

With Joe Hart having one of his worst runs in the top flight, it was time for England to replace him with someone much more composed and experienced, than the 30-year-old with 75 caps to his name.

Step up Jordan Pickford, Nick Pope, Jack Butland and Fraser Forster, who have collectively played half the number of matches as Hart.

With composure and experience a key requirement, Pickford at 24 years of age is ironically the youngest and yet the most qualified candidate on the list.

Having signed for Everton for an astounding £25 million from Sunderland, the player is proving his doubters wrong with every passing day.

While his initial days at the club were not so good, he's produced a string of brilliant saves and commanding performances for Everton across the course of the campaign, even when his side haven't been performing well in front of him and his quality and composure have certainly grown many folds.

With England in need of a new keeper and the likes of Pope and Pickford performing well for their respective clubs, a call for the national squad was imminent.

While Pickford may not have the clean sheets and penalty saves to his name, this Premier League season to surpass Nick Pope's stats, his ability with the ball in the air and at his feet and the distribution accuracy of the Everton man is a much-coveted asset when it comes to playing attacking football.

With a good part of the Premier League yet to come and Everton performing well in the recent days, it is going to be a test of time for Pickford to be above his fellow contenders in order to cement his place on the national team for the upcoming World-Cup.

#2 Alisson Becker (Brazil)

Brazil v Peru: Group B - Copa America Centenario
Alisson has 23 caps for Brazil in International Football.

Alisson made his international debut in a World Cup Qualifier against Venezuela in 2015 and has since won 22 caps for the five-time world champions.

With his recent exploits for AS Roma, domestically and in Europe, Alisson has garnered some attention, with Liverpool and Real Madrid apparently interested in the majestic shot-stoppers services.

A youth product of Internacional in Brazil, Alisson found himself competing with Brazilian legend Dida for the No.1 spot.

A stellar performance in the following season saw him move to Roma in 2016, where he spent the majority of the season as an understudy to Wojciech Szczęsny.

Szczęsny's departure in 2017 saw Alisson become the first choice keeper and he has been pivotal to Roma's campaign that sees them sit third in the Serie-A table, with 13 clean sheets to Alisson's name and Roma is still playing in the Champions League.

With the Brazilian National team boasting a spectacular attacking prowess with the likes of Neymar, Jesus, and Coutinho leading the lines, the keeper needs to be ready to launch counter-attacks and utilise the pace in the squad.

Alisson seems to be doing great in that role as Tite seems to have found a good custodian as evident by the manager's recent praise and selection of the Roma goalkeeper.

However, Ederson Moraes is also having a fabulous first season at Manchester City under Guardiola, showcasing all the abilities needed by the attack-minded Brazilian team from a keeper.

It does make it a difficult task for Alisson to retain his position as the first choice goalkeeper of the Brazilian National team at the biggest stage.

#1 Marc-André Ter Stegen (Germany)

FC Barcelona v Juventus - UEFA Champions League
Marc-André ter Stegen has 19 international appearances for Germany since 2012.

Marc-André Ter Stegen is having one of the best seasons of his professional career, with 18 clean sheets in La-Liga and five in seven games in the Champions League, it is difficult to argue otherwise.

Signed by Barcelona in 2014 for €12 million, Ter Stegen has adapted well to life in Catalonia, winning nine trophies in the time to showcase his contribution to the team.

With quick reflexes, good decision-making and excellent shot-stopping abilities and a defense of Samuel Umtiti and Gerard Pique in front of him, Ter Stegen is flourishing well under his new manager.

While his skills between the posts are unquestionable, his ability to perform on the big stage was initially a doubt, but with Barcelona's ambitious approach to every new season, that doubt seems to have faded away.

Manuel Neuer is still recovering from a long-term injury, that has kept him out of the majority of the Bundesliga season.

With Ter Stegen's control and accurate distribution of the ball, he functions as a sweeper-keeper and his ability to play the ball out from the back makes his inclusion in the squad a perfect replacement for Neuer, should he not get fit in time for the World Cup.

Barcelona are performing exceptionally well domestically and in Europe to which Ter Stegen has been pivotal and having started all the matches.

Ter Stegen deserves a shot at being the first choice keeper of the German national team as 'die Mannschaft' try to defend their title as champions this year.

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Edited by Alan John
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