6 Keylor Navas (Costa Rica)
It has still been a major surprise to see Costa Rica advance to the quarter-finals while conceding only two goals in five matches – Uruguay, Italy, England, Greece and Holland. Behind a solid unit, Navas was a secure presence. As the pressure increased, his performances rose accordingly, with his exhibitions of shot-stopping against Greece and Holland among the highlights of the tournament.
5 Vincent Enyeama (Nigeria)
Another goalkeeper who arrived after a record-breaking season at club level. Enyeama carried on the form that made him nigh-on unbeatable for Lille, pulling off a series of extraordinary saves, starting in the first match against Iran, when Nigeria dominated but would have lost if the goalkeeper had not kept enough concentration to tip away a header from Reza Ghoochannejhad. He then kept Bosnia-Herzegovina at bay before thwarting Lionel Messi and Argentina for long periods despite conceding three. When a goalkeeper falls below perfection, however, he can be punished severely and Enyeama’s mishandling of a cross against France enabled Paul Pogba to score the winning goal and ruined another otherwise immaculate performance.
4 Tim Howard (USA)
Having made a tournament-record number of saves against Belgium, Howard’s influence seemed immense as his leadership helped coax valiant resistance from defenders who might otherwise have been torn apart. He inspired his team-mates with words and deeds.
3 Júlio César (Brazil)
The 34-year-old has so far justified the manager’s decision to keep faith with him, making sharp saves against Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic to prevent Brazil from suffering a shock defeat in the opening game and made an outstanding save in normal time against Chile to keep out a shot from Charles Aránguiz. Before the shootout he told his team-mates to “hit them with confidence and I’ll stop three” and then turned away efforts from Mauricio Pinilla and Alexis Sánchez before Gonzalo Jara tried too hard to put the ball out of the goalkeeper’s reach and hit a post.
2 Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico)
The 28-year-old’s agility, reflexes and robust wrists enabled him to make an array of improbable saves. Brazil players wondered whether there had been divine intervention when he helped Mexico to draw against them, while it took some devilry from Arjen Robben to beat Ochoa in the end.
1 Manuel Neuer (Germany)
Cristiano Ronaldo got an early clue that this was not going to be his tournament when Neuer produced a superb save from a stoppage-time free-kick to prevent Portugal from salvaging even a sliver of consolation from their crushing defeat by Germany. But it is not his shot-stopping that has distinguished Neuer, it is the way he has practically redefined the role of goalkeeper, taking the sweeper-keeper function to an extreme never before showcased with such success. His charges out of his box prevented Algeria, in particular, from reveling in the space behind Germany’s high defensive line, compensating for Per Mertesacker’s lack of pace. In addition to the obvious effectiveness, the sight of the hulking keeper hurtling towards confrontation must have a potent mindgame value – Asamoah Gyan, for instance, fled ridiculously wide when presented with the chance to take on Neuer one-on-one. What is more, Neuer’s superb distribution makes him the first line of attack.