Who’s Going To Start At Goalkeeper For Germany At The World Cup?

Who’s Going To Start At Goalkeeper For Germany At The World Cup?

This is a position battle that has been in the public eye for a while. It seemed like there was really nothing Marc Andre Ter Stegen could do to overtake Manuel Neuer. Things came to a head during the lead up to the Russia 2018 World Cup when Neuer was coming off an injury, and Ter Stegen was potentially in the best shape of his career. Still Neuer got the start. The team was a disaster, though, and a lot of people questioned the decision. Skip to 4 years later, and we’re seemingly still having the same discussion. Both Neuer, and Ter Stegen have started games for the national team as of late. With Ter Stegen not having the best results. 

In this position battle that Neuer, and Ter Stegen are in, there’s a clear difference between their play styles. Although I have an article about the Germany school of goalkeeping, and how many of their goalkeepers are similar that doesn’t mean that they are exactly the same. In this situation we have Neuer who is arguably the best sweeper keeper to ever walk the earth. The problem is that he’s a bit past his prime at this point. On the other end there’s Ter Stegen who is one of the best goalkeepers between the sticks that we have in world football today. Who would you pick? Here are a couple of things that I think will determine who starts in goal for Germany. 

Marc Andre Ter Stegen for Barcelona

What Should The Decision Come Down To?

You’ve got two great goalkeepers here who can each hold down the fort for the team. The thing with having a sweeper keeper like Neuer who is overly effective, and usually doesn’t make mistakes is that it adds a whole new dimension to your game. This allows you to have your defensive move up the field and press if you want to. Knowing that you’ve got a guy back there that will be able to step in front of any offensive player even outside of the box. Are you running a bigger risk by doing something like this? There are no arguments there, of course you are. I recently did an in depth analysis on Neuer though and the amazing thing about him is that he rarely makes that typical mistake that sweeper keepers make of passing it to the other team, and giving up clear scoring chances.  

Ter Stegen is not bad on his feet at all! There’s an argument to be made that out of all of the goalkeepers in the top leagues he’s one of the best on his feet. The main difference is that he doesn’t play as far off his line as Neuer does. This forces you to play with a defensive line that holds back a bit more. Who’s a better goalkeeper at this stage? That’s a tough question to answer because if we’re trying to decipher that there are a lot of aspects that could come into play. What I feel though allows Neuer to just get the nod over Marc Andre Ter Stegen is that play style. Of course, the fact that he’s a bigger leader in the locker room also helps!    

Manuel Neuer making a diving save to the top corner
@manuelneuer / Instagram

Does Age Factor In Negatively For Manuel Neuer? 

Neuer is getting up there in age, and there’s an argument to be made that he’s a little past his prime. A lot of those narratives, though, that Neuer is a bit washed away from a bad Russia World Cup that he had when coming off an injury. That was 4 years ago though, he’s gotten over that. Also, with the Bayern Munich managers after Guardiola he isn’t being asked to play that sweeper keeper role as prominently. So in many ways that ends up sort of hampering his game a bit. If you choose Neuer as your goalkeeper whether you’re Germany or you’re Bayern or whoever you have to let him play his game.

There are coaches out there that don’t love the sweeper keeper style. What does this all have to do with age? What I’m saying is that the criticism has to do with the fact that he’s maybe not as dominant today as he once was. To me though, the dip in his play has a little more to do with the fact that he isn’t as encouraged to play off his line as much as he was under Guardiola. When you limit that part of his game then it does certainly open the door for someone like Ter Stegen. I contend that the sweeper keeper style gives you a ton of benefits, but I also understand it gives some coaches heart attacks. We’ll have to wait and see where Hansi Flick is. He’s from the Joachim Löw coaching tree so we bet he likes Neuer.    

If He Doesn’t Start In This World Cup When Will Ter Stegen Get His Chance?

Ter Stegen making an amazing save

We’ll have to wait and see for the next tournament. Neuer would be in his 40s by the time the World Cup in the USA, Canada, and Mexico rolls around. We don’t want to completely rule him out at that point, but you have to believe he won’t necessarily be in the best shape of his career at that point. Ter Stegen would be 34, and potentially still in his prime. Although we do have to admit that his recent years at Barcelona have been kind of dull. That’s not necessarily all his fault the team has crumbled around him with him being the only bright spot in many instances. 

His biggest rival for a starring role in the 2026 World Cup may very well be a goalkeeper that we don’t even know yet. The German school of goalkeeping has been known for producing an absurd amount of goalkeepers. Actually having two top keepers within the same generation is nothing new for Germany. Jens Lehman always lived in the shadow of Oliver Khan in the national team. Going into the 2006 tournament in Germany none to less it was looking like he was going to ride the bench once again, but he got the surprise start, and was key for the team throughout the tournament. We can’t rule out a surprise this year, although Neuer is back in full form it seems!  

Are There Any Other Goalkeepers With A Shot To Start?  

Kevin Trapp is probably going to be the third goalkeeper that Germany is going to be taking to the World Cup. The Eintracht Frankfurt goalkeeper is certainly a very capable player. There’s no doubt that he’s been part of the recent success that the team has had. Last season they bounced Barcelona out of the Europa League. Realistically though, it would be really hard to see him get the start over the two guys who have been clearly number 1 and number 2 for years. If Bernd Leno would’ve been able to keep a starting position at Arsenal, and be part of the team that’s doing well now maybe we are having a different conversation. In his current form it’s unlikely that he’d get a look.    

Manuel Neuer for the German national team

Are Neuer and Ter Stegen The Best Goalkeeper Duo Of The World Cup? 

I had to take a quick peek to make sure that I didn’t already say that the Brazil duo are the best. In my view these two guys are clearly the best goalkeeper duo that’s going to be heading to the World Cup. Even if you think that Thibaut Courtois is currently the best goalkeeper in the world, something that you could certainly make a case for, his back-up is not at the level that he’s at. The Brazil guys are really evenly matched between themselves, but I still see the German duo as the best of the bunch.  

You could make an argument that both of these guys are in the list of the top 5 goalkeepers in the world. If you think that’s a stretch it’s hard to argue that any of them is out of the top 10. When it comes to Neuer at the peak of his power we basically haven’t seen something like that arguably ever. Now, it may be fair to question whether or not Neuer is at the peak of his power. If he has lost a step then it could be a good idea to look in Ter Stegen’s direction. I still think Neuer will get the start. Also, they are the best goalkeeper combination in the tournament.