It’s the defences which win you tournaments. The old saying remains as true as ever. But when the backline is breached, there’s only one man on whom you can rely. It’s in those moments, the one on ones, that split second where you think a shot is destined for the top corner, that goalkeepers prove their worth. And, doing so, win tournaments.
Since the first edition of the World Cup in 1930, goalkeepers have been recognised for their achievements. In 1994, the Golden Glove Award was introduced, but before that, there was the All-Star Team which, needless to say, included a goalkeeper.
Here, we will take a look at the men to have been named the World Cup’s best goalkeeper.
World Cup Golden Glove Winners List
Uruguay, 1930) Enrique Ballestrero – Uruguay
Uruguay’s early footballing history is overlooked when it comes to dynasties in international football. They won the first two editions of the Olympic football tournaments, which were then football’s designated world championships. They followed that up with victory on home soil at the very first World Cup. The man between the sticks? Enrique Ballestrero. He didn’t concede a single goal in the group stage and Uruguay went on to hammer Yugoslavia in the semi-finals before overcoming rivals Argentina in the final. Remarkably, Ballastero was only in the team after first-choice goalkeeper Andrés Mazali was suspended for breaching curfew to go on a date with a mystery blonde.
Italy, 1934) Ricardo Zamora – Spain
It took Spain a long time to establish themselves as a force in international football. They wouldn’t win their first major tournament until the European Championship in 1964. It was another 46 years on top of that until they first won the World Cup. But in Ricardo Zamora, they had their first global star. He is widely credited as the first goalkeeper to have worn gloves and helped Spain reach the quarter-finals in 1934 where they were defeated by eventual champions Italy after a replay.
France, 1938) František Plánička – Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia have a proud history on the international stage. In 1934, they finished as runners-up in the 1934 World Cup and were fancied to go all the way in the last pre-War edition of the tournament in 1938. Instead, they were knocked out in the quarter-finals by Brazil. But on the way to the last eight, František Plánička was superb. He kept a clean sheet in the Round of 16 match against the Netherlands before keeping the Czechs in the game in the first leg of the quarter-final. Sadly, he was unable to do the same in the replay as Brazil won 2-1.
Brazi, 1950) Roque Máspoli – Uruguay
The 1950 World Cup is one of the competition’s most famous editions. Hosts Brazil were tipped to win for the first time, and on home soil too. In the end, all they needed was a point in their final match against Uruguay – the World Cup was decided by a two-tier group stage that year. But Uruguay frustrated them in front of nearly 200,000 fans at the Maracanã. That was due in large part to the exploits of Roque Máspoli, the man in goal. He became a national hero in Uruguay as they won 2-1 and secured their second World Cup.
Switzerland, 1954) Gyula Grosics – Hungary
In retrospect, there is no doubt that Hungary were the greatest team in the World in the 1950s. They are almost certainly, with a little competition from 1982 Brazil, the best side not to have won the World Cup. They led 2-0 in the final but were pegged back by West Germany. The result was made all the more sensational considering that Hungary had actually beaten Germany 8-3 in the group stages. Hungary were so good in part because of their goalkeeper, Grosics. He was one of the first sweeper keepers and was as comfortable with the ball at his feet as most outfield players at the tournament.
Sweden, 1958) Harry Gregg – Northern Ireland
Harry Gregg was selected in the 1958 All-Star team despite conceding five goals in the Group Stage, one in the Group Stage Play-off and another four in the First Knockout Round. Few goalkeepers have conceded so many and yet come out of the tournament with an enhanced reputation. That Gregg managed to do so was a testament to his remarkable talent between the sticks. Previously playing for Doncaster Rovers in the old Second Division, Gregg moved to Manchester United around the time he was named the best goalkeeper of the tournament in 1958.
Chile, 1962) Viliam Schrojf – Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia played second fiddle to a stellar Brazil side in the 1962 World Cup Final in Chile. They concede three to Pele, with the man who eventually won the Golden Glove between the sticks, Viliam Schrofj. He won 39 caps for his country, an astonishing figure considering that he stood at 5 feet 9 inches. Even in an era when footballers were smaller, Schrojf was positively minuscule.
England, 1966) Gordon Banks – England
There was an outpouring of grief in the United Kingdom when their greatest ever goalkeeper passed away in February 2019. Gordon Banks played 73 times for England, with six of those matches coming in the victorious 1966 World Cup. His most famous and iconic moment came four years later when he made an unbelievable save against Pele in the 1970 World Cup. But it was for his performances in 1966 that he won the greatest individual honour of his career, the Golden Glove.
Mexico, 1970) Ladislao Mazurkiewicz – Uruguay
A Uruguayan icon with a distinctly un-Uruguayan sounding name, Ladislao Mazurkiewicz won the Golden Glove in 1970 as his country reached the semi-finals. They were stopped only by rivals Brazil, who put three goals past Ladislao who had conceded only once up until that point.
West Germany, 1974) Sepp Maier – West Germany
West Germany were a magnificent force in the early 1970s. They forged a reputation as ruthless operators whose defensive solidity was the bedrock of their approach. Holding up the foundations for the German palace was Sepp Maier, the Bayern Munich goalkeeper who won just shy of a century of caps for his country. In 1974, he helped West Germany win the World Cup, beating Johan Cruyff’s Holland.
Argentina, 1978) Ubaldo Fillol – Argentina
Argentina’s 1978 World Cup campaign is remembered primarily for the exploits of the magnificent Mario Kempes. But in order for their attacking talents to flourish, La Albiceleste needed a solid base, and that meant a goalkeeper they could trust. They found that in Ubaldo Fillol. Argentina has a rich tradition of goalkeepers, from Amadeo Carrizo to Hugo Gatti. But it was Fillol who had the greatest impact in terms of silverware and individual honours.
Spain, 1982) Dino Zoff – Italy
Dino Zoff is one of the most iconic players in the history of Italian football – and they’ve had a few. He turned out 112 times for his country in an astonishing 25-year international career. The first of those appearances came in 1968, the same year Italy won the European Championship. 14 years later, Zoff was in his pomp and was typically brilliant as Italy triumphed in the World Cup in Spain.
Mexico, 1986) Jean-Marie Pfaff – Belgium
Standing at under six feet tall, on first impression you wouldn’t look at Jean-Mari Pfaff and think that he was a World Cup Golden Glove-winning goalkeeper. But his diminutive stature proved no barrier to his success. He helped Belgium reach the Semi-finals in Mexico 86 where they lost out only to Maradona’s Argentina. Pfaff was the hero in the penalty shootout in the previous round against Spain, saving from Eloy to effectively win the tie for Belgium.
Italy, 1990) Luis Gabelo Conejo – Costa Rica & Sergio Goyochea – Argentina
The 1990 World Cup was unique in a number of ways, not all of them good. The most distinctive of features was perhaps the scarcity of goals. It is, then, fitting that it is the only World Cup to have named two goalkeepers as the best of the tournament. There was no choosing between Argentina’s Sergio Goychohea and Luis Gabelo Conejo of Costa Rica. It was a proud day for Latin American goalkeeping.
United States, 1994) Michel Preud’ homme – Belgium
In recent years, Belgium have become a real force on the international stage. And while they have always been a solid team on the international stage, their moments of glory have been relatively few and far between, with the chief among them being their performance in the 1980 European Championship.
But in 1994, one of their players won an impressive individual honour in the form of the World Cup Golden Glove. Michel Preud’ homme spent most of his career in Belgium and was respected in the Belgian League. But prior to the 1994 World Cup, his biggest moment on the global stage was finishing as runner-up in 1981-82 Cup Winners’ Cup. But his stunning performances earned him the Golden Glove and wrote his name into World Cup folklore.
France, 1998) Fabien Barthez – France
In Fabien Barthez’s case, the old adage remains true: goalkeepers are all just a little bit mad. As a footballer and a character, the Frenchman was larger than life. In 1998, it seemed like he was larger than the goal too. He stopped nearly every shot that was fired at him as France conceded just two goals on route to the World Cup.
Japan & South Korea, 2002) Oliver Kahn – Germany
Oliver Kahn not only won the Golden Glove in 2002 but the Golden Ball too. Clearly, he wasn’t content with being named the best goalkeeper but wanted to be recognised as the overall best player too. And despite Germany’s failure in the Final, Kahn was deserving of his award. He conceded just three goals over the course of the tournament, less than anyone else. Two of those three were in the Final itself.
Germany, 2006) Gianluigi Buffon – Italy
He may never have won the Champions League but Gianluigi Buffon reached the zenith of the international game in 2006 with Italy. Italy beat Zidane’s France on penalties in the Final in Berlin. Buffon didn’t save one in the shootout but did enough to put David Trezeguet off as the Frenchman became the only player to miss his spot-kick. Prior to the Final, Buffon conceded just once throughout the entire tournament.
South Africa, 2010) Iker Casillas – Spain
One of the most evocative images of the World Cup in 2010 came after Andreas Iniesta had put Spain 1-0 with minutes remaining in the Final. The camera cut to their goalkeeper, Iker Casillas, who sobbed into his gloves. Casillas was one of the greatest of his generation, winning all there was to win with Real Madrid. But the World Cup was the ultimate prize. He was superb in Spain’s path to victory.
Brazil, 2014) Manuel Neuer, Germany
Some believe Manuel Neuer to be the most complete goalkeeper of all-time. Based on the evidence of the 2014 World Cup, it’s hard to argue against that assessment. Germany were magnificent as the stormed to victory in Brazil, but there were times when they found themselves on the ropes. But Neuer was always there to bail them out, sweeping off his line in characteristic fashion. His display in the Round of 16 match against Algeria is one of the finest of any World Cup.
Russia, 2018) Thibaut Courtois – Belgium
Belgium had a ludicrously talented squad in the run-up to the World Cup in 2018. Some bookmakers had them as favourites, in fact. The talent went from front to back. Thibaut Courtois was named the Golden Glove winner after helping Belgium reach the semi-finals where they were narrowly defeated by eventual champions France. On the way, the Belgium keeper made a string of superlative stops. His goliath presence between the stick was a large part of their tournament challenge.