World Cup 2018: Five safe pairs of hands in Russia

The difference between congratulations and commiseration, every World Cup winners needs a solid goalkeeper.

Sergio Goycochea in 1990. Rustu Recber in 2002.  Rob Green in 2010. 

A great goalkeeper can be the difference between congratulations and commiseration, particularly at the World Cup.

You can read RealSport’s best number twos feature HERE.

Just ask Barbosa, the infamous Brazil goalkeeper who had the misfortune of letting in the goal that denied his country the World Cup in 1950. His nation and his sport never forgave him.  

The following five stoppers will be hoping to avoid such rotten fortune. Each of them have a crucial role to play in their country’s hopes, but all will have stringent questions to answer throughout the next month.

  1. 1 Igor Akinfeev [Russia]

    REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

    One of the shining lights in a desolate Russian squad, Igor Akinfeev is captain and leader for both club and country. 

    A onetime target for Manchester United, he turned down a move to Western Europe out of fear of homesickness. 

    For much of his career, he has hovered slightly below ‘elite’ level, but he is nimble and agile enough to deflect even the most lethal of strikers, though he did infamously go without a clean sheet in the Champions League for the best part of six years.

    The 32-year-old will barely get a chance to breathe at the tournament, with Sergei Ignashevich exhumed from international retirement to provide cover for a team that’s bled dry of quality.

  2. 2 David de Gea [Spain]

    REUTERS/Juan Medina

    David de Gea has been the best goalkeeper, arguably, in the world for some time now, especially as Manuel Neuer missed practically of the season through injury.

    The Manchester United number one is regarded as having the best reflexes and close range shot-stopping abilities in football, as well as speed of his line and a good sense of positioning.

    Now a pinnacle of consistency, de Gea will likely have little to do in the group stages against Morocco, Iran and, perhaps, Portugal, but a sign of a world class 'keeper is one able to remain focussed and act when called upon.

    The 27-year-old will be vital come the latter stages of the World Cup.

  3. 3 Jordan Pickford [England]

    REUTERS/John Sibley

    Jordan Pickford has a bright reputation, but there is still room for improvement after an inconsistent year with Everton. 

    The former Sunderland man had scarcely any protection, particularly in the first half of the campaign, but he has shown mettle to overcome those early setbacks to earn a place in England’s starting XI on merit. 

    His kicking ability is well-known. What remains enigmatic, however, is his ability to handle the suffocating atmosphere that a World Cup brings.

    Will he rise where Joe Hart and Rob Green fell?

  4. 4 Hugo Lloris [France]

    REUTERS/Francois Mori

    French commentators remain ruffled by the collapsing form of Hugo Lloris.  

    Captain under Didier Deschamps, the Spurs man had enjoyed almost a decade of consistency before erring regularly in the campaign that’s just finished.

    He has shown flashes of brilliance – a jaw-dropping save from Karim Benzema against Real Madrid in the Santiago Bernabéu a case in point – but also lapses in concentration, such as getting beaten at his near post in the friendly against the USA.

    France will collectively hold its breath for the opening game against Australia in Kazan.

  5. 5 Alisson Becker [Brazil]

    REUTERS/Hannah Mckay

    There's a lot of intrigue surrounding Roma's goalkeeper Alisson after a brilliant breakthrough season -with both Liverpool and Chelsea circling- and he's likely to get the nod of Manchester City's Ederson.

    Given the way Brazil play, dominating possession and playing actively, Alisson will be important not only for his shot-stopping, but also his feet and ability to rush out off his line, something he did so well in the Serie A.

    Hoping to earn a big-money move this summer, Alisson not only is vital to Brazil's fate, but his own, too.

Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss Group E in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.

  1. POLL: Which goalkeeper will have the safest hands?

    1. Jordan Pickford
    2. Hugo Lloris
    3. Igor Akinfeev
    4. David de Gea
    5. Alisson Becker
    7 votes
    Share Your Result

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Chris Weir


Chris is a Senior Writer for These Football Times and has appeared on The Guardian and TalkSPORT.