Well, well, well. Argentina did it. Lionel Messi and the World Cup trophy, an image savoured across the globe. But he couldn’t have done it without his goalkeeper, Aston Villa’s Emi Martinez, who made a spectacular save at the death to keep Argentina – and Messi’s – dream alive.
We know what happened afterwards. We don’t need to relive it here, but we do need to get down to brass tacks and decide on the best goalkeeping performances throughout the 2022 World Cup following Martinez’s showing, of which there have been quite a few.
Not everyone could make the final five, so honourable mentions for the likes of Shuichi Gonda and Guillermo Ochoa, but here is our final list of the best goalkeepers in the tournament.
Hugo Lloris’ World Cup ended in disappointment in the final but he can hold his head high after some fine performances for France during the knockout stages. Particularly against England in the quarters. Sigh.
The French captain did everything asked of him up to the final, but his woeful record at saving penalties – Lloris has stopped none of the nine penalties he has faced in shootouts for France – hurt his country when it mattered most.
It will largely be forgotten about now and it didn’t matter in the end but Wojciech Szczesny made an incredible save to deny Lionel Messi’s penalty during Argentina’s 2-0 win over Poland in their final Group C game.
In the match prior, against Saudi Arabia, he had also thwarted Salem al-Dawsari’s spot kick and pulled off a miracle reaction stop on the follow-up. Poland were poor overall and only Szczesny’s excellent goalkeeping saw them progress to the round of 16, where they were brushed aside by France.
The underdog story of the World Cup is undoubtedly Morocco. They became the first African team ever to reach the World Cup semi-finals and a huge reason for that was their goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, also known as Bono.
The Sevilla stopper was the hero during the penalty shootout win against Spain in the last 16, saving efforts from Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets. Against Portugal, too, he was superb as Morocco held on for a tight 1-0 win before the fairy-tale came to an abrupt end against France in the semis. The entire team – and Bono – can be immensely proud of all they achieved in Qatar.
Dominik Livakovic was arguably the best goalkeeper throughout the tournament but falls just short here due to someone else’s heroics. We’ll get to that shortly.
The Croatian number-one’s performances in Qatar will live long in the memory. Three penalty saves in the shootout against Japan were followed up with an unbelievable showing against Brazil, during which he made 11 in-game saves, conceding just once despite 3.2 xGOT (goals on target) faced and then denied Rodrygo in the shootout to help send Croatia through.
He didn’t win the Golden Glove but he was a huge part of Croatia’s third-place finish.
It’s hard to put into words just how important Martinez’s one-on-one stop on Randal Kolo Muani in the final moments of extra time was. After a Nicolas Otamendi slip on an attempted clearance, the Eintracht Frankfurt striker was clean through with the goal gaping.
But the Aston Villa goalkeeper was off his line in a flash and at full stretch to deny France a last-gasp winner – and even set Argentina away up the other end, although Lautaro Martinez couldn’t put his header on target.
It was the save of the tournament and given the circumstances, it may well go down as one of the best saves of all time.
The fact that he then followed it up with another masterful display of penalty stopping and amateur psychology, first by denying Kingsley Coman and then by disrupting Aurelien Tchouameni’s spot kick so much that the France midfielder missed the goal entirely, secured his Golden Glove award.
It may not be fair to Livakovic but the final matters more, it just does, and Martinez stepped up for his country on the biggest stage of all. Enjoy immortality, Emi.