From the fingertip save or the insane acrobatic deflection off the boot, the man between the sticks is indispensable to team success. Here are some of the best saves in World Cup history.
Emiliano Martinez, Argentina vs. France 2022
It might just be the best-ever World Cup save, certainly the most important. In the 2022 final, Argentina goalie Emiliano Martinez stretched out to kick-save a last-minute wide open goal attempt from Randal Kolo Muani.
In a game with countless twist and turns, this 123rd minute last gasp save was the icing on the cake. Argentina won their third World Cup 15 minutes later on penalty kicks, thereby granting the great Lionel Messi his only missing piece of silverware.
Emiliano Martínez with the save of the World Cup.
— Roy Nemer (@RoyNemer) December 20, 2022
Gianluigi Buffon, Italy vs. France 2006
In the 2006 World Cup final, Italian goalie Gianluigi Buffon made a fantastic right hand save on a zinger from a Zidane header. The goals would’ve sealed the victory for France; instead, it built up Zidane’s frustration and led to the subsequent headbutt. Italy won the World Cup trophy on penalty kicks.
Gordon Banks, England vs Brazil 1970
Considered one of the best saves of all-time, Gordon Banks tipped a bouncing Pele header up and over the bar just as it was about to enter the goal. Brazil won the match 1-0.
Iker Casillas, Spain v Netherlands 2010
In a save that haunts Arjen Robben’s chances at a World Cup trophy to this day, Iker Casillas made a kick save in a one on one chance against the Dutch striker. Spain won the World Cup with an Iniesta goal in extra time.
Oliver Kahn, Germany vs. USA 2002
From the man who brought terror on the pitch, Oliver Kahn made a bunch of spectacular saves in a 1-0 over the USA in the World Cup quarterfinals. But the most incredible block came off a well-placed Landon Donovan shot that deflected off the fingers of an overstretched Kahn.
Sergio Romero, Argentina v Holland 2014
With a match-winning save on Wesley Sneijder on penalty kicks, Sergio Romero advanced Argentina to the World Cup finals for the first time since 1990.
Noel Valladares, Honduras v Chile 2010
In a group stage game between Honduras and Chile in World Cup 2010, Noel Valladares made a diving save off a wide-open Waldo Ponce header just outside the goal line in the 65th minute. Unfortunately, it was not enough as Chile moved on 1-0.
Tim Howard, USA v Belgium 2014
In what was a world record for saves in a World Cup game, Tim Howard blocked 16 shots against a wave of Belgium attacks. One of the most remarkable saves came off Howard’s foot as he used his entire body to prevent a goal from Eden Hazard in the 75th minute to keep the score level at 0-0. He’d make another amazing save on Hazard in the 78th minute. Belgium won the match 2-1.
Dino Zoff, Italy v Brazil 1982
Known as the Italian Wall, goalkeeper Dino Zoff made one of the most spectacular saves off a rocket of a header in the 82nd minute in the 1982 World Cup. Italy held on to the 3-2 lead, advancing to the semifinals and eventually becoming World Cup champions.
Guillermo Ochoa, Mexico v Brazil 2014
In a group stage match between Mexico and Brazil in the 2014 World Cup, Guillermo Ochoa made an excellent diving save to deny a Neymar header. The game ended 0-0 with Mexico advancing to the Round of 16.
Gianluigi Buffon, Italy v Germany 2006
Gianluigi Buffon appears twice on this list for his breathtaking performance in the 2006 World Cup. In a semifinal match against Germany, he reacted quickly to deflect a Lukas Podolski rocket shot. Buffon finished the tournament allowing only two goals on the way to the World Cup trophy.
Claudio Bravo, Chile v Australia World Cup 2014
In a Group B match between Chile and Australia in the 2014 World Cup, Claudio Bravo employed his quick instincts to reject a powerful shot from Australia’s Mark Bresciano.