Top 10 World Cup Goalkeeping Blunders

With the World Cup playoffs and draw just around the corner, Carlo Garganese looks at the Top 10 World Cup goalkeeping blunders of all time…
10) Felix: Brazil 4-1 Italy – 1970 Final

Although arguably the greatest World Cup team of all time would go on to thrash a tired-looking Italy 4-1, until midway through the second half the final was very much in the balance. After Pele headed Brazil ahead on 18 minutes, Italy equalised before half time following a shocking error by Felix. The Selecao shot-stopper charged out of his box like a madman, gifting an open goal to Roberto Boninsegna. Fortunately for Felix, goals from Gerson, Jairzinho and Carlos Alberto more than saved his blushes.

9) Harald Scumacher: West Germany 2-3 Argentina - 1986 Final

The controversial Schumacher is best remembered for an infamous incident during the 1982 World Cup semi final against France when he viciously assaulted defender Patrick Battiston. But, the FC Köln man was also one of the world’s best goalkeepers in the early-to-mid 1980s, performing brilliantly in West Germany’s run to the 1986 World Cup final. In the final itself, though, ‘Toni’ had an off-day. Argentina took the lead when Schumacher missed a free kick from the right, which allowed Jose Luis Brown to head home. After the Germans had recovered to make it 2-2, Schumacher was also slow off his line as Jorge Burruchaga slotted home the winner from Diego Maradona’s pass.

Italy's Paolo Rossi scoring past 'Toni' in '82 final

8) Pat Bonner: Republic of Ireland 0-2 Netherlands - 1994 Second Round

Ireland had scraped through from the ‘Group of Death’ mainly thanks to their famous opening victory over Arrigo Sacchi’s eventual runners-up Italy. In the second round Jack Charlton’s men faced Holland in Orlando, but two big defensive errors would cost them the match as the Dutch won 2-0. For the second of these, goalkeeper Pat Bonner allowed a 30-yard strike from Wim Jonk to go through his hands and into the net.

7) Valdir Peres: Brazil 2-1 USSR – 1982 Group Stages

Brazil have had some dodgy goalkeepers over the years and 1982 No.1 Valdir Peres was certainly one of them, spoiling the joint-best team never to win the World Cup. In their opening group clash, Tele Santana’s men faced a USSR team on a 20-plus match unbeaten run. Valdir Peres gifted the Soviets the lead in the first half by hilariously fumbling an Andriy Bal long shot into his own net. Socrates and Eder both scored wonder goals in the final 15 minutes, though, as Brazil won 2-1.

6) Nery Pumpido: Argentina 0-1 Cameroon – 1990 Group Stages

The 1990 World Cup can only be described as a nightmare for Argentina No.1 Nery Pumpido. In the tournament opener against outsiders Cameroon, the World Cup holders fell to a shock 1-0 defeat in Milan. Francois Omam-Biyik towered above his man to head towards goal, but would not have expected his weak and central effort to go in. Pumpido somehow let the ball squirm through and under him as the Africans triumphed. To make matters worse, in the next game against USSR, Pumpido broke his leg. His replacement Sergio Goycochea would go on to become a national hero after his miracles in the penalty shootout wins over Yugoslavia and hosts Italy.

Pumpido today

5) Viliam Schrojf: Czechoslovakia 1-3 Brazil - 1962 Final

Slovan Bratislava goalkeeper Schrojf had been having a flawless tournament up until the final against Brazil, but two big mistakes in the Santiago showpiece cost the Czechs the cup. Leading 1-0 Schrojf left his near post open, thus allowing Amarildo to equalise. Then, with Brazil 2-1 ahead, Schrojf completely misjudged a high ball into the box and Vava couldn’t miss from a few yards out.

4) Oliver Kahn: Germany 0-2 Brazil – 2002 Final

In 2002 there could be little doubt that Oliver Kahn was the best goalkeeper in the world. He had starred in Bayern Munich’s Champions League victory the previous year, and was almost unbeatable as Germany somehow scraped through to the 2002 World Cup Final. There they met Brazil, and for 67 minutes Kahn was perfect. Then, the giant 33-year-old fumbled a Rivaldo daisycutter and Ronaldo nipped in to put the South Americans ahead. El Fenomeno would soon add a second as Brazil lifted the trophy.

Kahn cost Germany the 2002 final

3) David Seaman : England 1-2 Brazil – 2002 Quarter Final

We may never know whether Ronaldinho meant it, but what is certain is that David Seaman should have saved it. The most iconic moment of the 2002 World Cup, along with referee Byron Moreno’s sending off of Francesco Totti, was Ronaldinho’s incredible 40-yard free kick lobbed winner in Brazil’s 2-1 quarter final win over England in Fukuroi. Seaman was only three yards off his line when Ronnie struck the ball, so the fact he was unable to react in time can only go down as a massive blunder. The former Arsenal shot-stopper had an excellent career, but he will unfortunately be remembered for a number of expensive mistakes including Nayim’s last-gasp halfway line lob for Real Zaragoza against the Gunners in the 1995 European Cup Winners’ Cup Final.

Seaman during happier times in 1997/98

2) Rene Higuita: Colombia 1-2 Cameroon – 1990 Second Round

As eccentric goalkeepers go, Rene Higuita surely goes down as the most eccentric World Cup goalkeeper of all time. The Colombian became (in)famous during Italia ’90 for coming off his line and taking risks. Higuita would sweep up miles outside his area, dribble past attackers, and regularly attempt nutmegs and flicks. During the second round clash with Cameroon, this would prove to be his and Colombia’s downfall. Deep into extra time, with the score still goalless, Higuita attempted to turn past the legendary Roger Milla close to the halfway line. The 38-year-old tackled him, though, and then dispatched the ball into an open net. Cameroon progressed to the next round, and Higuita was the villain.

Higuita's famous 'Scorpion Kick' in 1995

1) Barbosa: Brazil 1-2 Uruguay - 1950 Final

“Everywhere has its irremediable national catastrophe, something like a Hiroshima. Our catastrophe, our Hiroshima, was the defeat by Uruguay in 1950,” wrote renowned Brazilian author Nelson Rodrigues.

Playing in their own country, Brazil only required a draw in the final match of the final group stage of the 1950 World Cup. Entertaining Uruguay, who needed a win to steal the trophy from their rivals, the whole of Brazil, already in celebratory mood, expected nothing less than a comfortable home victory at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.

The press even declared on the day of the final that Brazil were already winners, with O Mundo printing a picture of the squad with the words: ‘These are the world champions’. All seemed to be going well when Friaca put Brazil ahead on 46 minutes. But midway through the second half future Milan legend Juan Schiaffino equalised.

Brazil were still set to be world champions for the first time until disaster struck on 79 minutes – Uruguay scored again. Alcides Ghiggia dribbled past Bigode before catching Barbosa out at his near post, the goalkeeper having anticipated a cross into the middle. Uruguay were World Cup winners, and the whole country of Brazil went into mourning over what became known as the Maracanazo (‘the Maracana blow’). Some fans committed suicide, while many of the Brazil team were abused by the public.

Goalkeeper Barbosa became the main scapegoat, and lived the rest of his life in misery before dying penniless in 2000. “Under Brazilian law the maximum sentence is thirty years. But my imprisonment has been for fifty,” he said before he passed away. Seven years earlier Barbosa had attempted to visit the Brazilian squad in training, only to be turned away for fear that he was a ‘jinx’.

What do you believe to be the worst World Cup goalkeeping blunder of all time? Any not on the list that you can think of? wants to know what YOU think...

Carlo Garganese,