The 2014 World Cup produced more fantastic GK performances than any World Cup before it. Guillermo Ochoa, Tim Howard, Rais M’bolhi & Manuel Neuer all wowed fans with their acrobatics, and despite the amount of goals scored, it was a tournament where GKs also starred.
There was one goalkeeper that captured the hearts of viewers across the competition though. A hero that very few gave much thought to leading up to the tournament. By the end of the World Cup, there was a singular name on everyone’s lips. That name was Keylor Navas.
Keylor Navas was relatively unknown going into the tournament. To the average viewer, he didn’t have too great of a club career. His biggest achievement was the 2005 CONCACAF Champions Cup, & the biggest club he had played for was his then-current one, Levante.
That’s not to say he was a bad GK. During the 13/14 La Liga season, he put up some incredible numbers considering the team he played for, and both Cules & Madridistas can attest to how frustrating it got playing against him, But he wasn’t given much thought going into the WC.
Add to the fact that he represented a Costa Rica who were ranked 28th in the world at the time, as well as the fact that they were placed in a “Group of Death” alongside Italy, Uruguay & England (all former World Cup winners), and few gave Navas & the Ticos a prayer.
Costa Rica shocked the world though. In one of the World Cup’s greatest underdog stories, the Ticos topped the “Group of Death” with two wins & a draw. They followed that up with a Rof16 win over Greece before taking 2010 finalists Holland to penalties in the quarterfinals.
Keylor Navas was phenomenal across the five games. The then-27-year old conceded just two goals across the five starts, one of which came off of a penalty. He kept clean sheets against Italy, England & Holland, and made some world-class saves at key moments in the tournament.
Keylor Navas was one of the masterminds behind Costa Rica’s quarterfinal finish and he was nominated for the tournament’s Golden Glove award for his heroics. His play also caught the eyes of several European clubs, most notably Real Madrid, who signed the Costa Rican soon after.