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April 6, 2010

First XI: World Cup goalkeepers

By Robin Hackett

While attacking players often take the glory, it's worth remembering that a number of World Cup goalkeepers have contributed more than those in front of them.

This week's First XI looks at the greatest World Cup 'keepers. Some are selected as much for their overall quality as their World Cup performances, others purely for their impact at a particular tournament.

Ricardo Zamora
GettyImagesIn 1929, Ricardo Zamora - playing with a broken sternum - was part of the first team outside the British Isles to beat England

Ricardo Zamora (Spain) A legendary figure at both Barcelona and Real Madrid, Zamora had a limited World Cup career but still managed to make his mark. When Spain entered the World Cup for the first time in 1934, he helped them to the quarter-finals and put in a spectacular performance as Spain held on for a 1-1 draw against Italy, the hosts and eventual winners. Unfortunately, he was so badly battered by the Italians that he was unable to play in the replay, which Italy won 1-0. Off and sometimes on the pitch, Zamora was a controversial figure: as well as punching an opponent at the 1920s Olympics, he was involved in tax fraud and cigar smuggling.

Lev Yashin (Soviet Union) The only goalkeeper to make Soccernet's First XI World Cup legends list, this Ballon d'Or winner changed the game in the 60s with his then-revolutionary approach to organising the defence from the goal-line. He is said to have made over 150 penalty saves during his career and Eusebio described him as "the peerless goalkeeper of the century". His stature within the game was so great that, when he conceded a goal to Chile in the 1962 World Cup, he received a hug from the goal-scorer, Eladio Rojas, who was overwhelmed to have beaten such a legendary figure.

Gordon Banks, Pele
GettyImagesGordon Banks makes his legendary save from Pele in 1970

Gordon Banks (England) He was a vital part of England's World Cup-winning side in 1966 and widely ranked as one of the greatest of all time, but even Banks admits he will always be known for a split-second save against Brazil in 1970. "They won't remember me for winning the World Cup," he told FourFourTwo in 2005. "It'll be for that save. That's how a big a thing it is. People just want to talk about that save." Almost unanimously viewed as the greatest save in World Cup history and perhaps football as a whole, Banks denied Pele as he thundered into the area to power a header low to the goalkeeper's right. "I heard Pele shout 'goal' as he headed it, which was followed by a massive, almost deafening, roar," he told the Observer. "Even though I'd got a hand to it, I thought he must have scored. Then I realised the crowd were cheering for me."

Dino Zoff (Italy) The oldest man to win a World Cup, the 1982 Golden Boot winner, Paolo Rossi, hailed 40-year-old Zoff as the "most important player" of the Italy side that won that year's trophy. In the 70s, Zoff set an international record, going 1,142 minutes without conceding a goal for Italy, and only Paolo Maldini has played more matches in Serie A. Besides the World Cup, he also won the 1968 European Championship, the 1977 UEFA Cup and six Serie A titles.

Sepp Maier (West Germany) Nicknamed 'Die Katze' for his feline agility, Maier was named in four World Cup squads and was a key part of the side that defeated Netherlands to take the title in 1974. He was considered something of an eccentric and was prone to the odd bout of clowning, but he was generally a serious and focused professional on the pitch. He spent his entire career with Bayern Munich, winning the league four times and the European Cup thrice, and at international level he was already a European Championship winner when West Germany clinched the '74 tournament on home soil.

Ubaldo Fillol (Argentina) Fillol, known by his nickname 'El Pato', played a huge role in Argentina's 1978 World Cup victory and was at his very best during the final against Netherlands. "Fillol pulled off three or four great stops and we could easily have gone one or two goals down," Golden Boot winner Mario Kempes later told FIFA. Another team-mate, Ossie Ardiles, described Fillol as "a fantastic shot stopper who played a key role in our victory". Fillol was also part of the 1974 squad, starting the country's final game of the tournament, and then had a rather disappointing tournament in 1982.

Jean-Marie Pfaff (Belgium) Having made his international debut in 1976, Pfaff was a key part of the team that reached the final of the 1980 European Championship. At Mexico '86, he was the No. 1 in the side that reached the semi-finals, halted only by the brilliance of Diego Maradona. He was always something of a character and remains a popular figure in his homeland today: his reality TV show, De Pfaffs, is now into its tenth season.

Rinat Dasayev (Soviet Union) Nicknamed 'The Iron Curtain', Dasayev was a man considered a legitimate successor to Yashin. He was a key part of the 1982 Soviet Union side that reached the second group stage and the highlight of his campaign that year was a spectacular save against Scotland, clawing the ball away at full stretch from Joe Jordan's header. He went on to play three games at the 1986 World Cup as Soviet Union exited in the second round to Belgium, while his brief showing at Italia '90 is probably better left unmentioned.

Roberto Donadoni, Sergio Goycochea
GettyImagesSergio Goycochea celebrates after saving Roberto Donadoni's penalty for Italy

Sergio Goycochea (Argentina) While Diego Maradona is widely credited with dragging an under-par Argentina side through to the final of Italia '90, it's worth remembering the role of their back-up goalkeeper. Nery Pumpido started the tournament and was culpable for a horrendous mistake to send Argentina down to defeat in the opener against Cameroon but, while he kept his place, he suffered a horrendous leg break early in the second match against Soviet Union. El Goyco, his replacement, conceded just three goals in his six games and earned a reputation as a penalty-saving hero after Argentina won shoot-outs in the quarter-finals and semi-finals against Yugoslavia and Italy respectively. More interesting, perhaps, is the superstition he developed ahead of the quarter-final: urinating on the side of the pitch. "There was another shoot-out in the semi-final against Italy so I went again and we won," he said. "It was my lucky charm and I went before every shoot-out. I was very subtle. Nobody complained."

Oliver Kahn (Germany) Awarded the Golden Ball ahead of the 2002 World Cup final, it was unfortunate that his error in the final itself allowed Brazil to break the deadlock and go on to win the match. Prior to that, the Bayern Munich star had kept five clean sheets as Germany made their route through the knockout rounds with a succession of 1-0 wins. 'King Kahn' was perhaps more eccentric than most other great goalkeepers, but eight Bundesliga titles, a Champions League and a European Championship - as well as the fact that he remains the only goalkeeper to have won the Golden Ball - demonstrate that he was a true titan of the game.

Gianluigi Buffon
GettyImagesGianluigi Buffon has been named Serie A goalkeeper of the year on nine occasions

Gianluigi Buffon (Italy) Iker Casillas recently said that it is "impossible to pick out a weakness" in Buffon and, at the age of 32, the Juventus No. 1 remains perhaps the most sought-after goalkeeper in world football. At club level, he has won four Serie A titles and the UEFA Cup, but his crowning glory was the 2006 World Cup. Having been part of the side that reached the second round in 2002, he went 453 minutes without conceding four years later, conceding only two goals - including a Zinedine Zidane penalty - during the entire tournament. He made no saves as Italy saw off France 5-3 in the penalty shoot-out, but Buffon's Juventus team-mate David Trezeguet hit the crossbar and Italy clinched their fourth title.