Following the announcement of the preliminary World Cup squads we ask who are the top five goalkeepers from the many selected.
See my personal selections below.
Iker Casillas – An unsurprising choice. The Real Madrid stopper, regarded by many as the best goalkeeper in the world, has managed to maintain exceptionally high standards year after year. Despite his relatively short height, his reflex speed, agility and shot stopping ability make him a definite choice. At times when Real Madrid have struggled both domestically and in Europe, he has managed to single-handedly keep them in matches.
Pepe Reina – Casillas’s international colleague and rival for the number one shirt, Reina is arguably the best goalkeeper in the world not to be automatic choice for his country. In terms of ability there is not much to separate the two Spaniards, but Casillas, due to his ties with Real Madrid, perhaps seems the most obvious choice to many.
Reina’s strengths link closely to those of Casillas, though he stands apart as the world’s best at his distribution of the ball and his ability with it at his feet. If called upon by Spain, he certainly will be no second rate replacement. Blessed with two such strong goalkeepers, it shows the quality Spain possess throughout their ranks. If only England had such keepers to choose from…
Gianluigi Buffon – At the age of 32, many may believe Buffon’s ability to perform at the very highest level is questionable. However, as a veteran of many international tournaments with Italy, and a reigning World Cup winner, Buffon comes with a mass of big game experience. The pressures on goalkeepers in tournaments such as the World Cup are huge, one mistake could see your country exit the competition. Buffon is one of the best prepared to deal with this pressure. The £32 million price tag that accompanied him to Juventus, back in 2001, highlights the quality he possesses. In a position where players can play well into their late 30’s, Buffon is in the peak years of his career.
Mark Schwarzer – Many readers will be surprised to see this selection, but Schwarzer merits an inclusion in this list. What became apparent when studying the World Cup squads was the general lack of the recognisable, big name goalkeepers that we have been accustomed to. Gone are the days of Edwin van der Sar, Fabian Barthez, Oliver Kahn and the rest. Throughout the bigger nations in world football, the stand-out goalkeepers are in short supply.
This observation is not intended to downplay Schwarzer’s inclusion but rather to show it perhaps is not as surprising as some, at first glance thought.
Schwarzer has completed a fantastic season with his club, a European final still to come. He must go down as one of the best foreign imports, for his small price tag when he first arrived in England at Bradford City but more importantly for his consistent performances since. Schwarzer’s size and ability to impose himself within his goal make him hugely difficult to beat. Despite his size, his agility does not suffer, able to dominate his penalty area in the air as well as pull off great reflex saves. Schwarzer may be kept busy in South Africa this summer but this is a challenge that he will certainly relish.
Julio Cesar – The last on the list, blessed with great quality but at times subject to lapses in concentration that can blight a goalkeeper. Playing for Brazil, means the goalkeeper may only be required to make one important save throughout an entire match so concentration needs to remain high. Able to pull-off a world class save at one stage of a match and then concede a relatively soft goal minutes later is the reason why he comes in the list at number 5. Goals conceded against Liverpool and Chelsea in the Champions League in recent years leave a question mark above his name, albeit a very small one. A first choice for both Inter Milan and Brazil, Ceasar is undoubtedly a fantastic goalkeeper and arriving at the World Cup after the possible treble success he could yet enjoy domestically, Cesar will certainly be buoyant and raring to go.
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