World Cup 2018: Top 10 Goalkeepers in the tournament
Loris Karius is a decent goalkeeper. Yes, that seems incredibly absurd considering the events of the last few weeks. In reality, Karius was statistically competent in the Premier League this season, finishing as the 5th best goalkeeper according to Squawka stats. Yet, all that will be remembered about Karius’s season is the two errors he made against Real Madrid in the Champions League final. That is the nature of the goalkeeping position, where players (with the exception of aliens like David De Gea and Manuel Neuer) are remembered for their mistakes, rather than their successes.
This is partially justified because how a poor goalkeeper can change the fortunes of a team. After all, the Champions League final may have been very different if Karius had not made those two catastrophic errors. On the other hand, the role of an excellent goalkeeper is often understated. One could even argue that a good goalkeeper is the most vital ingredient of a successful World Cup team. Don’t believe me? Just ask Oliver Kahn, Gianluigi Buffon, Iker Casillas and Manuel Neuer. Those are the starting goalkeepers for the last four winners of the World Cup. They are also arguably the four best goalkeepers of the past twenty years. Coincidence? I think not.
Note: For the purposes of this analysis, only likely starting goalkeepers will be included. Thus, the likes of Marc-André ter Stegen, Ederson, Pepe Reina and even Nick Pope have been excluded from the rankings.
Obviously, there are more than 10 excellent goalkeepers in the world. Before we get to the rankings, it is necessary to acknowledge some players who were close to making the standings.
Ospina was excellent in the last World Cup, as his performances in goal helped guide Colombia (along with the extraordinary exploits of James Rodriguez) to the quarter-finals. Ospina’s performances in that tournament helped earn him a move to Arsenal, where he has been decent as a backup goalkeeper over the past four years. In a very limited sample size, Ospina finished 11th out of 38 goalkeepers in the Premier League over the past season. Despite this, Ospina’s lack of playing time for the Gunners may be an issue in the World Cup.
England manager Gareth Southgate seems to have settled on Pickford as his first-choice shot-stopper in the World Cup. While Pickford has been decent in past seasons, he endured a rather inconsistent campaign for Everton (like many of his teammates). In fact, according to Squawka, Pickford ranked 37 out of 38 Goalkeepers in the 2017-18 Premier League. Statistically, Southgate’s decision to start the 24-year-old over Nick Pope and Jack Butland may not be the correct one.
Patricio was the last goalkeeper left off the list; the Portuguese was excellent in the Primeira Liga last season for Sporting CP as the Lisbon team finished third. Patricio's Squawka Performance Score of 547 was exceptional in the Primeira Liga, as his nearest challenger finished with a score of 435. The 30-year-old’s experience will be extremely valuable for Portugal, having been a starter in three previous major international tournaments. Patricio’s excellence was a major reason why Portugal won the Euro 2016 final, as he kept a clean sheet.
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