World Cup penalty shootout goalkeepers: Who is the best left in Russia?
There are eight teams left with a shot of winning the 2018 World Cup, but in a penalty shootout which has the best goalkeeper? Here we ranked the top stoppers when it comes to a shootout.
1. Danijel Subasic -- Croatia
No one will play for penalties against Croatia after Subasic's performance in the round of 16. "Suba" was loud, intimidating and ended up putting off Nicolai Jorgensen and Lasse Schone. The Monaco keeper, a Ligue 1 winner and Champions League semi-finalist, is renowned for striking fear into penalty takers.
It's enough to look at the opposition conversion rate over the past six seasons in his regard. Subasic has conceded only 57.9 percent of the penalties he's faced, which is by far the best record at the World Cup. As was the case against Denmark, he dedicates his saves to his late friend and NK Zadar teammate Hrovje Custic, who died in a tragic on-field accident a decade ago.
2. Jordan Pickford -- England
"Air Jordan" probably thought he had done enough to help England knock Colombia out without extra-time after pulling off the save of the tournament from Mateus Uribe just moments before their stoppage time equaliser.
No stranger to delivering in penalty shootouts, Pickford brought back memories of his display at the Under-17 World Cup in 2011, when he broke Argentine hearts with two big saves.
Clawing away Carlos Bacca's effort to set up Eric Dier for the win, Pickford's homework paid off. "Only Falcao didn't go his way," the Everton keeper said afterwards. Winning a shootout feels like a game-changer for the Three Lions; a mental hurdle overcome. Seeing Pickford and the rest of the team approach them with confidence only encourages England fans to think this time it's different. Maybe it really is coming home.
3. Alisson Becker -- Brazil
Alisson has put himself in the conversation to be considered the best goalkeeper in the world over the past year and was arguably the Player of the Year in Serie A. But in Russia he's hardly had anything to do. Brazil have allowed just five shots on target in four games and feel the only goal they conceded should have been ruled out for a push.
Still, Alisson saved two of the five penalties he faced in goal for Roma this season. His goalkeeping coach and major backer Claudio Taffarel was Brazil's hero in the shootout at the end of the 1998 semifinal against Netherlands. That moment is what persuaded Alisson to pull on a pair of gloves and take up a role between the sticks so it's only natural he will be hard to beat if it comes to it.
4. Fernando Muslera -- Uruguay
It's often overlooked how experienced Muslera is at this level. The Uruguay goalkeeper celebrated his 100th cap as he didn't concede a single goal in the group stages.
Muslera had a hand in eliminating host nation Argentina in a penalty shootout to decide a Copa America quarterfinal in 2011, sending Carlos Tevez into despair. He was also the hero for his club in May when he thwarted Akhisarspor's Soner Aydogdu from the spot, ensuring Galatasaray claimed a huge win on the way to winning the league for the first time since 2015.
5. Igor Akinfeev -- Russia
After already reducing Spain's Koke to tears, Akinfeev pulled off arguably the most spectacular shootout save of the tournament so far, hooking Iago Aspas' effort away with an out-stretched leg in the style of a falling ballerina at the Bolshoi. At the time it looked improvised, but Russia's official Twitter account then released footage of Akinfeev making an almost identical penalty save from teammate Artem Dzyuba in training.
Akinfeev was poked fun at for years for going 43 matches without a clean sheet in the Champions League, a run that only ended in November when CSKA Moscow beat Benfica. But his performance against Spain shows why he has been Russia's No. 1 for 14 years.
6. Thibaut Courtois -- Belgium
Standing at 6-foot-6, Courtois is the tallest keeper at the World Cup but he is more famous for taking penalties than saving them. Evidently confident, the 26-year-old Chelsea No. 1 went second in the shootout to decide last season's Community Shield against Arsenal. But blazed over in what looked more like a goal kick than a penalty kick.
To be fair to Courtois, he did score the winner in another shootout, settling a friendly with PSG in the International Champions Cup back in 2105. Stopping them is another thing altogether though. The Chelsea keeper has saved two of the 11 he has faced in the past six seasons, a save rate of 18.2 percent. It might not seem like a lot but it's the third best record left in the competition.
7. Robin Olsen -- Sweden
Of all the Scandinavian keepers at the World Cup this summer, Denmark's Kasper Schmeichel impressed most. His penalty saves against Croatia in the round of 16, which included one in extra-time from Luka Modric and then another two in the shootout from Milan Badelj and Josip Pivaric, ultimately were not enough to keep his side in the competition. But Sweden's Robin Olsen will have been watching.
Olsen was raised in Malmo but his parents are Danish. His idol growing up was Kasper's dad Peter and, as the second tallest keeper left in the competition, he cuts a daunting figure from 12 yards. Olsen saved the last penalty he faced in December, denying Sheriff Tiraspol's Ziguy Badibanga, but missed most of the second half of the season with a nasty shoulder injury.
8. Hugo Lloris -- France
France's captain crushed Gonzalo Higuain's dreams of scoring a hat trick for Juventus against Spurs in the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 encounter in February. After failing to block an earlier spot-kick, Lloris got a strong fist to this one and stopped Juventus going in at half-time 3-1 up. On the whole though Lloris' record at saving penalties has been pretty poor over the past six years.
His save rate from 20 penalty kicks is just 10 percent, which makes you wonder if Didier Deschamps would have the courage to substitute him for Alphone Areola in the event of a shootout. The PSG keeper would give France a better chance as he has a height and wing-span advantage on Lloris and has stopped 35 percent of the penalties he has come up against in his career to date.