The top 30 goalkeepers in the history of the World Cup

Is Neuer the greatest World Cup goalkeeper of all time?
Is Neuer the greatest World Cup goalkeeper of all time? / Matthew Ashton / Contributor

Strikers will always claim the plaudits - that’s a fact of nature. But while putting the ball into the net is widely considered the most difficult thing to do on a football pitch, keeping it out is just as important. 

The foundation of any trophy-winning side starts with the odd man out, the man wearing a different strip and clunky gloves, the man standing between the sticks getting balls pelted at him for an hour and a half. 

Holders of one of the most vital positions on the pitch and pivotal to their respective nations’ successes, here's a look at the 30 best goalkeepers in World Cup history.

1. Enrique Ballestrero - Uruguay

Enrique Ballestrero
Ballestrero lets a goal in / Keystone/GettyImages

We start with the first-ever World Cup-winning goalkeeper. 

Enrique Ballestrero only played 19 times for Uruguay, earning his second cap with a clean sheet against Peru in the country’s first-ever World Cup game. The goalkeeper went on to play all four of their matches throughout the competition as the host nation won the inaugural World Cup.

2. Gianpiero Combi - Italy

Luis Monti, Gianpiero Combi, Luis Monti, Attilio Ferraris, Luigi Allemandi, Enrique Guaita, Giovanni Ferrari, Angelo Schiavio, Giuseppe Meazza, Eraldo Monzeglio, Luigi Bertolini, Raimundo Orsi
Combi with the Italy national team / Keystone/GettyImages

Four years later, Italian goalkeeper Gianpiero Combi lifted the Jules Rimet trophy having almost retired months before the 1934 World Cup kicked off. 

The then 31-year-old Italian great had been overtaken in I Azzurri’s pecking order by young Inter goalkeeper Carlo Ceresoli, who tragically broke his arm saving a shot prior to the tournament. In stepped Combi once again, to deliver a goalkeeping masterclass as he captained Italy to their first World Cup title.

3. Aldo Olivieri - Italy

Italy made fascist salutes throughout their successful 1938 tournament / STAFF/GettyImages

The Italians would go on to earn a second successive World Cup triumph in 1938, helped between the sticks by Aldo Olivieri.

The goalkeeper featured in every minute of his country’s triumphant campaign, as I Azzurri saw off Norway, France, Brazil and fellow finalists Hungary to achieve success.

4. Roque Maspoli - Uruguay

Hungarian forward Sandor Kocsis (L) cele
Maspoli is beaten by Hungary's Sandor Kocsis / STAFF/GettyImages

The Second World War resulted in the absence of the World Cup for a 12-year period. When it returned in 1950, it was once again the Uruguayans that ran out victors.

Roque Maspoli donned the gloves for three of his country’s four matches throughout the tournament - earning a clean sheet in an 8-0 thumping of Bolivia - and played his part during the 2-1 win over Brazil in the final, which remains the most attended football match in history.

5. Antonio Carbajal - Mexico

Antonio Carbajal
Carbajal gets warmed up / Douglas Miller/GettyImages

Antonio Carbajal is not a World Cup winner, but he’s certainly a World Cup legend. 

Alongside Lothar Matthaus and Rafael Marquez (not terrible company, is it?), the Mexican goalkeeper is the only player to have featured in a whopping five World Cup tournaments. Carbajal featured for his country in every edition of the competition from 1950 and 1966, captaining the side in 1958 and 1962.

6. Toni Turek - West Germany

Turek claims a ball against Yugoslavia in 1954
Turek claims a ball against Yugoslavia in 1954 / ullstein bild Dtl. / Contributor

A quarter of Toni Turek’s caps for West Germany came in his sole World Cup participation, in 1954.

He played in all but one of his country’s six fixtures throughout the tournament (the one he didn’t play in, they lost 8-3) and was pivotal in West Germany’s victorious run to the final, where they avenged that aforementioned hammering by beating Hungary to win the World Cup for the first time.

7. Harry Gregg - Northern Ireland

Harry Gregg
A terrific action shot of Gregg leaping through the air / Keystone/GettyImages

The late, great Harry Gregg’s international career might be overshadowed by that of Pat Jennings, but the former goalkeeping star hit heights that few Northern Irishmen have ever managed. 

The former Manchester United shot-stopper was a crucial component in his country’s qualification to the 1958 World Cup and was subsequently voted the tournament’s best goalkeeper, proving pivotal in his country’s best-ever major tournament finish as the squad reached the quarter-final stage.

8. Gilmar - Brazil

French forward Just Fontaine tries to dr
Gilmar tries to deny France's Just Fontaine / STAFF/GettyImages

The great Gilmar earned 93 caps over his international career and featured at three World Cups. 

He came out victorious in two of those campaigns, playing every minute of Brazil’s matches in the 1958 and 1962 editions and keeping six clean sheets in the process as he picked up two winner’s medals.

9. Gordon Banks - England

Gordon Banks
Banks pulled out all the stops / STAFF/GettyImages

"What a save, Gordon Banks!"

One of the greatest goalkeepers to have ever lived, Banks will forever be remembered for what is widely regarded as the greatest save of all time to deny Pele another World Cup goal in 1970. 

The England icon, however, will have probably remembered the events of 1966 a little better as he was part of the only Three Lions squad to have ever earned the title of world champions, keeping four clean sheets as he played every minute of that triumphant tournament.

10. Lev Yashin - USSR

Lev Yashin
Yashin in action / Keystone/GettyImages

The only goalkeeper to have won a Ballon d’Or, Lev Yashin is undoubtedly one of the greatest footballers to have never lifted the World Cup. 

Playing his international football in a less-than-spectacular Soviet Union side, Yashin did make it to the quarter-final stages of the 1958 and 1962 World Cups before reaching the competition’s final four in 1966, but could never go all the way. 

Even so, his gravitas in the game and the respect he earned resulted in the World Cup’s Golden Glove award being named the Lev Yashin Award between the years of 1994 and 2006.

11. Felix - Brazil

Felix was the goalkeeper for one of the great Brazil teams
Felix was the goalkeeper for one of the great Brazil teams / Popperfoto / Contributor

Brazil won their third World Cup title in four editions of the competition in 1970, and goalkeeper Felix was present for every second of his country’s barnstorming campaign. 

The Brazilians maintained a 100% record right the way through, overcoming the likes of then-holders England and Uruguay before seeing off Italy in the final, as Felix became the second first-choice Brazilian goalkeeper to lift the Jules Rimet trophy.

12. Sepp Maier - West Germany

"Please don't use this photo, guys."
"Please don't use this photo, guys." / Universal / Contributor

Legendary Bayern Munich and West Germany goalkeeper Sepp Maier played an impressive 18 times in World Cup tournaments and became a world champion with his nation in 1974.

The one-time German Footballer of the Year recipient was crucial to his country’s triumphant campaign in 1974, keeping four clean sheets before helping the Germans overcome a Johan Cruyff-inspired Netherlands side in the final.

13. Ubaldo Fillol - Argentina

Fillol played club football for Atletico Madrid
Fillol played club football for Atletico Madrid / Icon Sport / Contributor

The Netherlands were once again heartbroken runners-up four years later, as Argentina won their maiden World Cup at the expense of the men in orange. 

Goalkeeper Ubaldo Fillol was pivotal in that success, crucially keeping three clean sheets in the tournament’s second group stage to push past Brazil and reach the final, where they got the better of Die Oranje.

14. Dino Zoff - Italy

Zoff later managed Italy
Zoff later managed Italy / Alessandro Sabattini / Contributor

Iconic number one Dino Zoff appears in most lists whose titles contain the words ‘top’ and ‘goalkeepers’ - this one is no different.

The brilliant Italian played 112 times for his country and featured at three World Cups, finally being able to call himself a world champion in 1982 after two disappointing campaigns in 1974 and 1978 respectively. 

He won football’s top prize in Spain as his country’s skipper, as well; in the process, he became the oldest player and captain in a World Cup final at the age of 40 years and 133 days.

15. Nery Pumpido - Argentina

Pumpido's prayers against England were repaid with a hand of god
Pumpido's prayers against England were repaid with a hand of god / Onze / Contributor

Having spent the entirety of the 1982 World Cup on the substitutes’ bench, Nery Pumpido arrived at Mexico ‘86 as Argentina’s first-choice goalkeeper. 

He demonstrated why, keeping three clean sheets for his country on the way to the showpiece final, where a Diego Maradona-led Argentina beat West Germany 3-2.

16. Walter Zenga - Argentina

Zenga gets in the thick of the action / STAFF/GettyImages

Italia ‘90 will forever be prime World Cup territory - the equivalent of prime Barclays years - and, among all the sensational aesthetics and feverish passion around the tournament, there was some standout goalkeeping. 

Walter Zenga, in front of his home fans, was one of the glove-wearing masterclass-givers throughout the tournament, putting in a serious shift between the sticks. 

The Italian goalkeeper went 517 minutes without letting a goal into his net for the hosts, before Argentina’s semi-final equaliser brought an end to his spell of clean sheets - his record still stands in World Cup football.

17. Sergio Goycochea - Argentina

Goycochea back in 1990
Goycochea back in 1990 / Alessandro Sabattini / Contributor

Another glorious goalkeeping performance from the 1990 World Cup came from Argentina’s shot-stopper Sergio Goycochea.

Goycochea’s titanic tale is an unlikely one; the then 26-year-old was backup at both club and international levels to a previous inductee on this list, Pumpido. Argentina’s previous World Cup-winning goalkeeper, however, broke his leg in his country’s second group-stage match against the USSR, paving the way for Goycochea to come into the spotlight - and boy, did he.

The backup keeper was eventually voted Italia ‘90’s goalkeeper of the tournament and was named in the All-Star Team, for a run that included three clean sheets and penalty shootout heroics before a World Cup final defeat. 

18. Bodo Illgner - West Germany/Germany

Real Madrid v Barcelona Bodo Illgner of Real Madrid
Illgner playing for Real Madrid / Clive Mason/GettyImages

That loss was at the hands of West Germany, who would pick up their third World Cup title at Italia ‘90. 

Bodo Illgner was key to that triumph, proving an impenetrable adversary to most who came up against him. It was his antics that made him England’s public enemy number one in the Three Lions’ semi-final shootout heartbreak before he kept a clean sheet in the final as West Germany got their revenge on Argentina for their World Cup final defeat four years prior. 

19. Claudio Taffarel - Brazil

Brazil goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel
Taffarel played over 100 times for Brazil / Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

102-time capped Brazilian goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel experienced World Cup heartbreak in 1990, with a round of 16 dumping, and again in 1998, losing out to France in the final.

Between those tournaments, however, came his glory moment on the international stage, as he helped his country to their fourth World Cup title, keeping five clean sheets throughout the tournament in the USA and coming out on top in a penalty shootout final. 

20. Michel Preud’homme - Belgium

Michel Preud''homme of Belgium
Michel Preud''homme is a Belgium legend / Ben Radford/GettyImages

The 1994 World Cup goalkeeping accolades did not belong to Claudio Tafarel, however.

Voted into the tournament’s All-Star Team and receiving the Lev Yashin Award was, in fact, iconic Belgian shot-stopper Michel Preud’homme, for his stunning goalkeeping performances as he helped his country to the knockout stages of the tournament. 

21. Fabien Barthez - France

Fabien Barthez
Barthez making his feelings known / Simon M Bruty/GettyImages

With a kissable bald head and awe-inspiring athleticism and intelligence that rendered his diminutive goalkeeping stature irrelevant, Fabien Barthez is undeniably one of France’s greatest-ever goalkeepers.

In his first major tournament as his country’s first-choice goalkeeper, Barthez kept five clean sheets to help Les Bleus maintain a 100% record on home soil in 1998, culminating in a stunning 3-0 victory over Brazil in the final to earn France’s first World Cup title. 

22. Marcos - Brazil

Marcos uses mind control to force a ball away from goal / PHILIPPE HUGUEN/GettyImages

When you think of great 21st-century Brazilian goalkeepers, you’d predominantly picture Dida; but the fourth and most recent starring goalkeeper to win a World Cup with Brazil is Marcos, the country’s first-choice in South Korea and Japan 20 years ago.

Only capped 27 times by his country, Marcos played every minute of Brazil’s fifth triumphant World Cup campaign, keeping four clean sheets - including one in a 2-0 victory over Germany in the final. 

23. Oliver Kahn - Germany

Oliver Kahn
You wouldn't ever mess with big Ollie Kahn / Simon M Bruty/GettyImages

Once again, however, despite a brilliant performance, it wasn’t the victorious goalkeeper that walked away with the tournament’s award for best goalkeeper; in 2002, it went to runner-up Oliver Kahn - to be fair, you try telling him the bad news.

The legendarily terrifying guardian was, in all seriousness, terrific during the 2002 World Cup, showcasing the best of his world-class abilities as he skippered Germany to the final with five clean sheets.

24. Gianluigi Buffon - Italy

Gianluigi Buffon
Buffon led Italy to glory in 2006 / Alessandro Sabattini/GettyImages

This list just wouldn’t be correct without Gianluigi Buffon in it. One of the most admired goalkeepers of all time, the giant Italian has enjoyed a glorious career both at club and international levels. 

Having racked up an incomprehensible 176 caps for Italy, Buffon has featured at four of the five World Cups he has been selected for, skippering the side in Brazil in 2014.

But the highlight of his international success, of course, came in 2006 when he starred for Italy’s fourth World Cup-winning side. The goalkeeper played all of his country’s games during that campaign, keeping five clean sheets and holding his nerve as he helped Italy overcome France in a penalty shootout in the final. 

25. Iker Casillas - Spain

Iker Casillas, Arjen Robben
Casillas produces a massive save to deny Arjen Robben in the 2010 final / Jasper Juinen/GettyImages

Easily up there as one of the all-time best shot-stoppers football has ever seen, Spanish legend Iker Casillas captained Spain through its golden era.

In between the country’s two European Championship triumphs came its 2010 World Cup success. Despite a 1-0 defeat to Switzerland in the opening fixture, the Spaniards went on to claim their first World Cup title as Casillas kept five clean sheets in the remaining six games.

26. Tim Howard - United States

Tim Howard
Howard produced an all-time goalkeeping performance in 2014 against Belgium / Robert Cianflone/GettyImages

Tim Howard may not necessarily be one of the best goalkeepers to have ever featured on football’s greatest stage, but you could argue that he’s produced the best goalkeeping performance that that stage has ever seen.

There have been many splendid saves over the icon-filled history of the World Cup, but Howard delivered a memorable display in which he made a competition-record 15 saves against Belgium in 2014.

The Red Devils eventually inflicted a round of 16 dumping on the USA courtesy of a 2-1 extra-time win, but Howard’s history-making, 15-save performance in that match etched his name down in World Cup folklore - and ensured Belgium didn’t reach double figures, of course.

27. Manuel Neuer - Germany

Manuel Neuer
There aren't many goalies better than Neuer / Matthias Hangst/GettyImages

A jaw-droppingly innovative and thrilling goalkeeper to watch, few have come close to Manuel Neuer over the past decade. He is hugely decorated at club level with Bayern Munich and can boast a World Cup winner’s medal to boot. 

The German has been a pivotal figure for Die Mannschaft since his debut in 2009, but his crowning moment came in the summer of 2014 when he played every second of his country’s World Cup-winning campaign, keeping four clean sheets in the process.

28. Guillermo Ochoa - Mexico

Guillermo Ochoa, Klaas Jan Huntelaar
Studs up, no fear; that's Ochoa / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

While Guillermo Ochoa has never come close to achieving glory at the World Cup, he can safely claim to have captured the imagination.

A brilliant goalkeeper, his luscious locks, cat-like speed and agility, and hyperactive style of goalkeeping have made him a cult figure on the world stage. With memorable displays throughout the 2014 World Cup in particular, Ochoa will be fondly remembered in the years to come.

29. Thibaut Courtois - Belgium

Thibaut Courtois
Courtois has enjoyed a wonder 2022 / BSR Agency/GettyImages

One of the leaders of Belgium’s golden generation, Thibaut Courtois has been one of the world’s best goalkeepers for what feels like an eternity.

While he hasn’t enjoyed any collective success on the international stage, he can look back at his individual performance at the 2018 World Cup with pride. Although Belgium were knocked out at the semi-final stage at the hands of eventual champions France, Courtois was handed the Golden Glove Award for his phenomenal campaign and was named in the All-Star Team. 

30. Hugo Lloris - France

Lloris captained France to the title in 2018 / LIONEL BONAVENTURE/GettyImages

We conclude with the most recent World Cup-winning goalkeeper - one of the stars of France’s second triumph, Hugo Lloris. 

Contrary to how many perceive him, the quick-footed and agile Lloris has been an ever-dependable and sturdy presence for Les Bleus throughout his international career. He has captained the national side more times than any other player in France’s history and did so at Russia 2018, where he kept three clean sheets on the way to World Cup glory.