The Qatar World Cup had everything — late drama, nerve-wracking penalties, individual heroics and controversies.
But what stood out was the immense role the goalkeepers played to keep the dream alive for their teams.
Laxmi Negi/Rediff.com lists three shot-stoppers who turned into showstoppers at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Emiliano ‘Dibu’ Martínez (Argentina)
IMAGE: Emiliano Martínez with the Golden Glove trophy. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Lionel Messi’s dream of winning the World Cup couldn’t have materialised without Martínez.
Martínez, who keeps goal for Aston Villa in the English Premier League, became the first Argentinian to win the Golden Glove after playing a crucial role in the Albiceleste’s third World Cup triumph.
Martínez, 30, denied Kingsley Coman with a diving save and then stared down Aurelien Tchouameni until the French midfielder sent his attempt wide in the shootout to help Argentina to a 4-2 win after the thrilling final ended 3-3 in extra-time.
Earlier, he had produced a game-saving, 124th-minute stop to prevent Randal Kolo Muani from scoring an extra-time winner for France. 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.
His significance was accentuated during the shootout in the quarterfinal against The Netherlands, when he denied Virgil van Djik from the spot first up, to put Argentina in the driver’s seat.
In the round of 16 too, Martínez made a crucial intervention, deep in injury time, to preserve Argentina’s 2-1 lead against Australia.
Messi called Martínez a ‘phenomenon’ and Coach Lionel Scaloni spoke of ‘the security he is transmitting’.
Argentina’s man under the bar has been a key figure in its revival in recent years.
Yassine ‘Bono’ Bounou (Morocco)
IMAGE: Yassine Bounou, seen here with his son, will forever be a hero for Morocco. Photograph: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
Morocco’s miraculous run into the semi-final at Qatar 2022 was aided by some spectacular performance by their smiling guardian Yassine Bounou.
Bounou was in tremendous form throughout the tournament. The Atlas Lions ‘keeper continued on his hot streak in the quarterfinal against Portugal, as he kept out a menacing attack with some stunning saves.
Against Spain in the round of 16, the Sevilla stopper helped his side keep a clean sheet, before saving efforts from Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets in the penalty shootout.
Before the semi-final against France, where the 31 year old let in two goals, the only goal Bounou had conceded was an own goal, in the group stage fixture against Canada.
Dominik Livaković (Croatia)
IMAGE: Dominik Livaković wrote his name into World Cup history with three penalty saves to end Japan’s giant-killing run at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Croatia have established themselves as the kings of penalty shootouts in World Cups.
A key part of Croatia’s glorious run to the final in 2018 was its then goalkeeper Danijel Subasic, who saved four penalties in the shootouts.
Dominik Livaković more than filled in for his predecessor. Three penalty saves in the shootout against Japan in the round of 16 were followed up with an unbelievable showing against Brazil in the quarter-final.
Just like Subasic, the 26-year-old ‘keeper made four saves in the penalty shootout wins for his side.
Even though Croatia’s mighty run fell at the semi-final stage, Livaković was arguably one of the best goalkeepers throughout the tournament.
He didn’t win the Golden Glove, but he was a huge part of Croatia’s third place finish.