The World Cup has always been a perfect launching path for careers of players who may come into the tournament as relative unknowns. When it comes to goalkeepers that rule also applies. It’s not a coincidence that people are currently jokingly tweeting about how Memo Ochoa turns into a mixture of Manuel Neuer, and Gigi Buffon at the tournament. Oddly enough he’s one of those players that wasn’t able to capitalize on a good World Cup to really move forward in his career. His stint at Malaga where he arrived after the Brazil tournament was not great. In that same tournament though, Levante goalkeeper Keylor Navas was swept up by Real Madrid after an impressive summer with Costa Rica. He made the most of his opportunity for sure.
In other tournaments we saw a goalkeeper like Turkey’s Rüştü Reçber play his way to signing with Barcelona after an out of this world outing with Turkey at the 2002 World Cup. Fabien Barthez actually played himself to a Man United contract with great outings in the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Championship. Are there any goalkeepers that we should be keeping an eye on in 2022? There are certainly guys out there, what’s probably discouraging a bit is that most of the goalkeepers that could have a great impact on their teams are a bit on the older side. So we may not see them sign big deals after the World Cup. Although you never know we could see something similar to the Edwin Van de Sarr-Man United signing. Where a goalkeeper who we thought was done got another crack at the big leagues!
Matt Turner – USA
If you’ve read my article on Zack Steffen you may think that my inclusion of Matt Turner here is hypocritical. Since, I basically mentioned that Steffen was a more well rounded goalkeeper than Turner. I completely stand by what I said in that article. If I were Gregg Berhalter I would not have picked Matt Turner to be the starting goalkeeper for the USMNT in Qatar. Why did I put him on this list then? It’s pretty simple. I think the USMNT as a whole is overrated. It’s not necessarily that individual players are overrated, but the ability of those players to overcome lackluster tactical decisions on the managerial side is overrated.
What does this all have to do with Turner? Well, simply put he’s going to have to put on the superman cape for the US on a consistent basis. I would go as far as to say that the team is going to go as far as Turner can take them. Yes, this is a bit of goalkeeper bias talking. Ultimately though I do expect him to keep busy in Qatar just like he has been in the games leading up to the tournament. He’s very much a talent between the sticks, and he could be one of those guys that replicates that Ochoa effect. Good World Cup performances turn heads, and suddenly Arsenal are getting calls about their second choice goalkeeper!
Dibu Martinez – Argentina
Emiliano “Dibu” Martinez isn’t exactly a new face in world football. He’s been around the block putting in some less than stellar seasons at Arsenal before making the move to Aston Villa where he has become a regular fixture for the club. Why is he on the underrated list? Most fans and scouts probably think of Martinez as exactly what he’s proven he can be a decent keeper for a middle of the pack team in the Premier League. Sometimes Villa slips past the middle of the pack towards the back end of the table. As he showed in the Copa América though, he’s one of those players that can turn on an extra gear in international football.
What can happen is that fans and certain teams are going to start looking at him a little differently. Maybe he’ll be able to ride a good World Cup to another crack at starting for a top team. I don’t think that his chance would come in the Premier League, but a decent World Cup and there’s no reason why he won’t be getting calls from Italian or Spanish teams that may want to rethink their goalkeeper situation. This is the last big tournament that Lionel Messi will likely play in his international career. For Lio to do well he’s going to need Dibu to come up with big stops. If Martinez can deliver he’s bound to get those calls that I’m talking about!
Mathew Ryan – Australia
Again another name that’s not necessarily an unknown and also like Martinez there’s an argument to be made that he’s accurately rated. He just hasn’t done enough in his career particularly as of late to find consistency, and that has led him to bounce around a couple of clubs in the last few years. The Australia team that he’ll be standing between the sticks for is going to need him, and need him a lot. This is a situation that’s similar to Matt Turner’s, in that a potential lack of team success could benefit you as a goalkeeper. By the way, I don’t want to throw away the chance to talk about that teaching point. A lot of times a lack of team success gives you plenty of chances to showcase yourself as a goalkeeper so don’t get too down on yourself.
France, Denmark, and even Tunisia who are the teams that share a group with Mathew Ryan’s Australia team seem to be better squads than them. So I’m anticipating plenty of work for Mathew Ryan, and therefore plenty of chances to make a mark on this World Cup. The thing with Ryan throughout his career is that there just isn’t a ton of special. He’s very much cut from the same cloth as plenty of Premier League goalkeepers. Which is why it’s never made sense that he’s tried to make a career in Spain multiple times. Maybe standing right at 6ft he feels a little bit short for a Premier League goalkeeper. In any case he’s going to get his chance for sure!
Milan Borjan – Canada
This is a goalkeeper that anyone who watched the CONCACAF qualifying games will remember. I always got the feeling that he was a goalkeeper that did nothing that would wow the casual fan. When you look at him though it’s hard to find any holes in the 35-year-old’s game. I saw him play games in freezing cold weather up in Canada, and he found a way to catch balls cleanly and limit second chance opportunities. This was something that opposing goalkeepers had a lot of trouble with. Memo Ochoa went over to Canada, and he gave up even worse second chance opportunities than what he usually does. That really told me all I needed to know about the ball security that Milan Borjan brings.
Canada is one of those teams that is a massive question mark for a lot of people heading into the World Cup. Obviously most fans are familiar with Alphonso Davies, but this is a team that can play good defense, has a solid midfield and a goalkeeper that usually doesn’t put a foot wrong. When you have that down, and you sprinkle some talent up front on top of that base you’re a team that could surprise some people. Kind of like how Costa Rica was able to upset some of the world’s top teams at the Brazil World Cup. Canada is going to need Milan Borjan to keep them in games and I think that he can deliver.
Yann Sommer -Switzerland
Sommer is one of my personal favorite goalkeepers at the World Cup. On the world stage he’s not necessarily as well known, but he’s not a completely obscure figure either. Since he’s not one of the tallest goalkeepers out there he has to rely a lot on his athleticism to be able to make saves. That makes for some of the best saves that you’re ever going to see. He’s a goalkeeper that’s really tough to beat 1v1 just because he’s going to be able to keep his feet under him and therefore in the play for a longer stretch of time. That usually makes things a lot harder on shooters.
Unfortunately due to the fact that I was busy on other projects I wasn’t able to finish this article before the tournament began. That’s why some of my picks are going to sound off at this point. Particularly Dibu Martinez, and Matthew Ryan who were both virtually embarrassed in their first games at the World Cup. Sommer has to learn from Martinez’s mistakes! Since he’s not a tall enough goalkeeper he can’t afford to not take several steps before he dives for a ball. Martinez was just a step away from potentially making great saves in both goals that saw Argentina lose their opener. I’m really hoping Sommer does not let me down. Particularly because I just mentioned that a big part of his game is having that patience to keep his feet under him or take enough steps before he dives to make a play on the ball.
Lawrence Ati-Zigi – Ghana
The last inclusion on the list is Lawrence Ati-Zigi. This is probably a name that not a lot of people know. He plays in the Swiss league, and he’s one of those guys that’s young enough to be able to make a move to a better European club after the tournament. The one thing that I would have to admit I don’t love about him is that he’s a little bit too much of a between the sticks keeper. If he played just a few steps forward he would be able to make on virtually every single ball. He was signed by Red Bull Salzburg in 2017 however, he wasn’t able to make an impact with the first team, never really spending time with them. I don’t want to hold that against him too much though.
He was a very young goalkeeper at the time around 20 years old, and he potentially wasn’t ready for the bright lights. A good World Cup though, and this guy has a chance to put his career on an upward path. Ironically enough I’m not sure that he’s even going to play. Ghana, have given plenty of goalkeepers a stab at the position. He’s going to be wearing number 1 in the World Cup though so that could be a good sign. I like the fact that he’s not afraid to make unorthodox deflections. Very much like Keylor Navas or Ter Stegen would do. He looks to be very athletic which makes it even more frustrating to see that he plays too far back. Certainly someone one to look out for though!
Underrated Goalkeepers That Can Make A Splash At The World Cup – Conclusion
Some of these guys need to step up in the second game to be able to bail me out here. In the case of Dibu Martinez I said the team was going to need him more than we probably realized. That was 100% true, but sadly he wasn’t up to the task. For Matt Turner, the World Cup debut was good. He prevented the US loss potentially with a good save from a diving header virtually right in front of his face.
The three guys that have yet to see action are picks I’m comfortable with. Really crossing my fingers with Lawrence Ati-Zigi I hope he plays because he can be a fresh face at the World Cup. As for Sommer, and Borjan these are two guys whose teams are going to go as far as they are able to take them. That was the case with Ryan’s Australia today, but his squad was just overpowered. I expect both Canada and Switzerland to be way more competitive. That should help my guys showcase their skills. Also, worth noting a lot of these goalkeepers have completely different skill sets. So it’s a good exercise to watch each of them and see what you can pick up from them and add to your game.