Grahame L. Jones’ All-Time
Top World Cup Goalkeepers
LEV YASHIN (SOVIET UNION, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1970)
It is a measure of Yashin’s ability that even without winning a World Cup he ranks No. 1. He wore nothing but black, earning the moniker “the Black Spider.” Brave, acrobatic and vocal, he invented the ‘keeper-sweeper role. The trophy that goes to the best World Cup goalkeeper is named in his honor.
GORDON BANKS (ENGLAND, 1966, 1970)
His acrobatic, almost impossible save against Pele in the 1970 World Cup ranks as the greatest ever, but Banks was about more than just that one superlative effort. He was a vital part of England’s success in 1966, when great reflexes and fine positional sense made him the world’s undisputed No. 1.
DINO ZOFF (ITALY, 1974, 1978, 1982)
The oldest player ever to win a World Cup, Zoff was 40 when, as captain, he led the Azzurri to victory in 1982. He still holds the record of 1,142 minutes without conceding a goal in international tournaments, set between 1972 and 1974. Solid, dependable and a perfectionist, he later became Italy’s coach.
GILMAR (BRAZIL, 1958, 1962, 1966)
An agile shot-stopper with excellent reflexes, the two-time World Cup winner represented Brazil 94 times between 1953 and 1969 and was on the losing side only once in 14 World Cup matches. Calm and unflustered, he transmitted that quality to the players in front of him, bringing confidence to his defenders.
SEPP MAIER (GERMANY, 1970, 1974, 1978)
Goalkeepers can be a serious bunch. Not Sepp Maier. Always the extrovert and showman, he once compared soccer to the theater. He was also exceptionally good at what he did, as evidenced by his allowing only three goals in seven games while winning the World Cup in 1974.
FRANTISEK PLANICKA (CZECHOSLOVAKIA, 1934, 1938)
“The Cat of Prague” is largely forgotten today outside of his homeland, but in the 1930s he was acknowledged as the best goalkeeper in the world, along with Italy’s Giampiero Combi. He broke his arm against Brazil in the 1938 World Cup but stayed in the game and preserved the tie.
PAT JENNINGS (NORTHERN IRELAND, 1982, 1986)
Jennings made his international debut in the same game as George Best in 1964 and, 22 years later, against Brazil at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, he played his then-world-record 119th and final international at the age of 41. As personable as he was talented, Jennings was known for his huge hands.
FABIEN BARTHEZ (FRANCE, 1998, 2002, 2006)
As eccentric as he was talented, Barthez was a fan favorite best remembered for having his shaved head kissed before games by teammate Laurent Blanc at the 1998 World Cup, which France won. He helped Les Bleus reach the 2006 final and in all allowed only eight goals in 17 World Cup games.
GIANLUIGI BUFFON (ITALY, 2002, 2006)
The world’s most expensive goalkeeper — Juventus paid Parma $47-million for him in 2001 — Buffon is also the world’s best at present, along with Spain’s Iker Casillas. He was beaten only twice while winning the 2006 World Cup — by an own goal and by a Zinedine Zidane penalty kick in the final.
ANTONIO CARBAJAL (MEXICO, 1950, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1966)
Any list such as this would be incomplete without the inclusion of “Cinco Copas.” His nickname, honoring his feat of becoming the first player to take part in five World Cups, provides the reason why. During a 17-year career for Mexico, the charismatic Carbajal appeared in 48 games, 11 in the World Cup.