As England know only too well, penalty shootouts play a crucial role in major tournaments these days – so goalkeepers could be pivotal in determining the outcome of this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
Having won six league titles and a European Cup with Liverpool, legendary keeper Bruce Grobbelaar is better placed than most to run the rule over today’s top shot stoppers. He reveals his current world top five to John Cross…
1. Gianluigi Buffon, Italy
Definitely the first name on my team sheet. He's been there for years, always at the top. To stay there for so long, you have to have quality. He's played in World Cups, Euros, the lot – and he’s so consistent and strong. He’s been brilliant in shootouts at tournaments. For me, the best penalty saves have to be on the big occasion – Jerzy Dudek in the 2005 Champions League final is my favourite, but Buffon is at that level too.
2. Tim Howard, USA
The US produces excellent keepers – Tim, Brad Friedel, and the guy at Aston Villa, Brad Guzan. They're all outstanding. With that competition for places at international level, they really spur each other on.
3. Manuel Neuer, Germany
Manuel Neuer is brilliant – absolutely superb. Strong, technically good, imposing and definitely one of the best. Purely in terms of penalty stoppers, Neuer would be in my top two in the world right now, alongside Pepe Reina. I'm not a fan of Iker Casillas and Reina would get my vote [for Spain] every time, not least because he's so good on penalties – but not quite as good as Neuer.
4. Joe Hart, England
I really like Joe Hart. The way he has come through a difficult season at Manchester City has been a great testament to him. He probably learned from going to the World Cup in 2010, and will be much better for it this summer. There’s also Ben Foster, but you have to go with the big character – that's so important. In 2010, I was with some English journalists at the World Cup in South Africa. When England dropped Rob Green, I said they must pick David James. The journalists all laughed and said: "Calamity James." But James is a very good keeper. Big, strong, and commanding. It makes all the difference. Hart can be that keeper again for England.
5. Thibaut Courtois, Belgium
I’d love to put Petr Cech in this list, but the Czech Republic won’t be at the World Cup, so I’ll go for Thibaut Courtois. I've been very impressed with him at Atlético Madrid, particularly when you look at the season they have had. They have been sound defensively, and that starts with the keeper. There's a big decision to be made about keepers at Chelsea this summer, when Courtois returns from his loan in Spain.
And finally, the wild card…
When it comes to Uruguay at the World Cup in Brazil, everyone will be watching striker Luis Suárez – but look out for their keeper, Fernando Muslera, too. He's an extrovert and, if we are talking about who is good at penalty saves, he's so confident – he says he saves every one! England will definitely have their work cut out with Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica in their group. If they get through, they will have done well – and, from then on in, anything can happen.
Bruce was speaking at the draw for a human table football competition. The event, in support of Prostate Cancer UK, is being organised by Bruce’s former Liverpool team-mate Nick Tanner. Find out how you can support and get involved with Nick's human table football event here.
Find out what Bruce thinks about this year's Premier League title race.