Guillermo Ochoa produced yet another fine FIFA World Cup performance in Qatar, at the age of 37, he still comes alive on the biggest international stage of all.
Mexico looked to be in trouble when Video Assistant Referee (VAR) awarded a penalty to Poland and the ever-reliable Robert Lewandowski stepped up. But Ochoa managed to prevent the FC Barcelona star from opening the scoring, diving to his left and getting a strong hand to the effort to force it away from the goal.
The game ended goallessly and once again the Mexicans had their keeper to thank for yet another iconic performance between the sticks that had earned them another point at a World Cup. Ochoa initially made a name for himself after strong showings in the 2014 edition in which his heroics led Mexico to the knockout stages of the tournament. Ochoa earned himself a move to Malaga as a result of his form in Brazil.
This time around, an aging Mexico squad is again heavily reliant on their keeper to keep them in tight games, and their chances of making the knockouts largely rest on his ability to keep the opposition at bay. In the World Cup odds, Brazil is the top favorite to become World Cup champions at +400 and will be backed by their own stunning goalkeeper Alisson Becker who will surely be in with a strong chance of winning the golden glove.
The Brazilian goalkeeper is sure to add many iconic performances of his own in Qatar, but what other keepers in the past have put in exceptional performances for their countries at World Cups?
Keylor Navas (Costa Rica)
Keylor Navas currently plays for Paris Saint-Germain and he was also a UEFA Champions League winner at Real Madrid, but before he was widely regarded as one of the world’s best goalkeepers, he was lining out for his home nation Costa Rica at a World Cup that would shape the rest of his career.
Costa Rica is not a huge name in the international football scene, and they were not expected to go far in the Brazil World Cup of 2014 is placed in a group with Uruguay, Italy, and England yet they upset the odds greatly in finishing first. Navas was one of the star players and he was imperious between the sticks, keeping clean sheets against Italy and England.
But at the knockout stage came his most incredible performance, Costa Rica led but around the hour mark went down to ten men, which meant all momentum was seized to Greece who eventually found an equalizer, but Navas kept his side level for the remainder of the 90 minutes and the entirety of extra time with an array of stunning acrobatic saves. The tie culminated in a penalty shootout win in which Navas saved two spot kicks which firmly cemented the performance as one of the greatest ever from a goalkeeper at a World Cup.
Oliver Kahn (Germany)
Oliver Kahn is seen as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, and his performances at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea were perhaps less surprising than the other keepers mentioned, but they were certainly not any less impressive.
Kahn conceded just one goal in the size games leading up to Germany’s final appearance against Brazil where they, unfortunately, fell to a 2-0 defeat, but that took nothing away from Kahn’s unbelievable performances at the tournament. He become the first goalkeeper ever to be awarded the Golden Ball at a World Cup and that is likely a feat no keeper will ever match, and is very possibly the greatest goalkeeping campaign we will ever see on soccer’s biggest stage.