Argentina’s Emiliano Martinez was named the top goalkeeper of the recently concluded World Cup in Qatar, but he was only one of a group of men who were superb between the posts. In fact, football analysts feel that the standard of goalkeeping was extremely high at the tournament.
“It’s not so much that people are missing penalties or missing goals as much as it is the goalkeepers are making wonderful saves, and if you look across the 32 teams, you can see most of the goalkeepers have just been fantastic,” said football analyst Clyde Jureidini.
Asked to select the best goalkeeper of the tournament, he sided with FIFA.
“The man who got the Golden Glove,” he replied in reference to Martinez, “In the end, for me, the hardest choice because I think the goalkeeping department over the last three World Cups has shown the most incredible improvement in any one of the lines of football, defence, midfield, attack, the goalkeeping has been incredible,” Jureidini said.
The 30-year-old Aston Villa asset kept three clean sheets and denied Frenchman Kingsley Coman’s spot-kick in the final shootout. Argentina’s coach Lionel Scaloni wasn’t surprised.
“Emi Martinez is a very positive guy and told his team-mates he was going to save some penalties,” Scaloni told the British Broadcasting Corporation afterwards.
Croatia’s shot stopper Dominik Livakovic joined Martinez on the shortlist compiled by Excelsior High School’s football technical director Xavier Gilbert.
“I was really impressed with the Croatian goalkeeper and Martinez too,” Gilbert revealed on the eve of the World Cup final. “I thought their heroics and their performances also propelled their teams in terms of what they have achieved,” he added.
Gilbert was right. Martinez also made big saves in open play with last minute rejections to rescue his team against Australia, repelling a fine effort by Aziz Behich in the round of 16 and against France in the final when Randal Kolo Muani fired in a possible World Cup winning volley. In a similar vein, Livakovic piloted Croatia through penalty shoot-outs against Brazil in the quarterfinals and Japan in the round of 16.
He finished with clean sheets in Croatia’s group games against Morocco and Belgium, 11 denials and a famous save to frustrate Brazilian Rodyrgo in the quarter final shoot-out.
Poland’s custodian Wojciech Szczesny was brilliant too. The former Arsenal stopper kept his country’s flag flying with a tournament high of 23 saves.
Others on the top list were Matt Turner of the USA, Aymen Dahmen of Tunisia and Belgian Thibaut Courtois, with nine saves each.
Jureidini lamented the tendency to overlook goalkeepers in favour of outfield players.
“The extraordinary factor is that we look for Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappé, Neymar and Luca Modric, et cetera, when they create passes or score the goal and the goalkeepers are doing the same thing in the reverse,” he said in praise of the goalies.