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May 16, 2014

WC Position Power Ranks: Goalies

Belgium's Courtois, USA's Howard and Spain's Casillas are three of the world's best goalkeepers.

World Cup Power Ranks: Goalies | Forwards | Midfielders | Defenders

There are many moving parts that come into play when evaluating a goalkeeper, as success in the position relies heavily on the abilities of the 10 players sitting in front of him. A great goalkeeper more often than not is surrounded by a great team, which in turn protects him from having to deal with difficult situations. Meanwhile, a less reputable goalkeeper can be put in a situation in which he is forced to showcase all of his skills to help his team overachieve, in which case his ability to stop a higher volume of shots catches the eye of bigger clubs, thus advancing him to a team where his skills are not always completely on display.

The positional power ranks reflect this dichotomy, as the top goalkeepers in this summer's World Cup involve a mix of players who see various amounts of action for their club and their country. Therefore, the goalkeepers in these power rankings reflect not only the statistical volume of shots faced, but also the player's degree of difficulty in the saves that he makes, along with intangibles such as organizing a defensive shape that can help with the ultimate objective of conceding as few goals as possible.

Based on World Cup qualifying and club performance from the 2013-14 season, here are my top 10 goalkeepers heading into the 2014 World Cup.

1. Thibault Courtois, Belgium (Club: Atletico Madrid)

Courtois has the potential to add both a La Liga title and a UEFA Champions League crown to his résumé heading into the 2014 World Cup, and at 22 years old it appears that he will be one of the world's top goalkeepers for years to come. For Belgium, Courtois conceded just four goals in 10 games throughout World Cup qualifying. Further, he ranked second among goalkeepers with an 87.1 percent save percentage, and the 79 shots he faced in World Cup qualifying were also the most of any UEFA goalkeeper on a team that advanced to the World Cup.

Chart of Thibault Courtois' shots faced (blue dots) and goals conceded (soccer balls) during the 2013-14 Champions League season, left, and those from 2014 World Cup qualifying, right.

Courtois' work for Belgium is especially impressive considering that 72 percent of the shots he faced came from inside the penalty area. And even though the goalkeeper currently ranks second in the Champions League with just 0.4 goals conceded per 90 minutes in the tournament (five total goals conceded), this is somewhat skewed by the fact that Courtois' Atletico Madrid teammates are only conceding 57 percent of total shot attempts from inside the team's penalty area.

2. Tim Howard, United States (Everton)

Howard conceded 33 goals for Everton this season, third lowest among Premier League goalkeepers with more than 30 appearances, and that does not take into account the fact that he was also the victim of four own goals throughout the 2013-14 campaign, ...