Penalty shootouts are one of the most exciting events in a football match. Both the teams count on their goalkeepers and penalty-takers to win it for them as even the finest of margins can either make it or break it for the sides involved.

These tie-breakers help decide a match in the knockout stages of a football competition. 

There are many tournaments which have seen penalty shootouts decide the fate of a contest, but nothing can match the intensity and excitement when a FIFA World Cup clash goes into penalty shootouts at the end of 120 minutes of action.

Four goalkeepers, Harald Schumacher (West Germany, 1982 and 1986), Sergio Goycochea (Argentina, 1990), Danijel Subasic (Croatia, 2018) and Dominik Livakovic (Croatia, 2022) were the heroes for their nation in penalty shootouts, having made four stops each to record the most penalty shootout saves in FIFA World Cup history.

Most penalty shootout saves in FIFA World Cup

Player Team Penalty Shootout Saves Year
Harald Schumacher West Germany 4 1982, 1986
Sergio Goycochea Argentina 4 1990
Danijel Subasic Croatia 4 2018
Dominik Livakovic Croatia 4 2022
Ricardo Portugal 3 2006
Emiliano Martinez Argentina 3 2022

Harald Schumacher - 4 (1982, 1986)

The penalty shootout rule was introduced in World Cups in 1978. However, none of the matches went to penalties that year.

In 1982, West Germany’s Harald Schumacher was the saviour for his team when he made two penalty shootout saves against France in the semi-final after the match ended 3-3 even post the extra time. Unfortunately, West Germany lost to Italy 3-1 in the final.

Schumacher continued his heroics in 1986 as well, when he made two more saves against Mexico in the quarter-final, after a goalless 120 minutes. However, Die Mannschaft again faltered at the final hurdle, losing to Diego Maradona’s Argentina by 3-2.

Sergio Goycochea - 4 (1990)

Argentina’s second-choice goalie Sergio Goycochea became the first player to make four penalty shootout saves in a single edition when he did so in 1990.

With no goals scored at the end of 120 minutes, the Argentina vs Yugoslavia quarter-final fixture went to penalties, where La Albiceleste won by 3-2 as their opponents missed three penalties.

Goycochea saved two of them after Dragan Stojkovic saw his opening shot cannon off the crossbar. The Argentine shot-stopper continued his fine form in the semi-final as well, denying England a place in the final with two more saves.

Interestingly, West Germany avenged their defeat in the previous edition by winning the final against Argentina by 1-0.

Danijel Subasic - 4 (2018)

Croatia’s Danijel Subasic was instrumental in his team's stunning run in the 2018 World Cup, where they finished runners-up to France.

Having kept two clean sheets in as many group phase matches he featured in, Subasic made three penalty shootout saves against Denmark in the Round of 16 and followed it with one more against hosts Russia in the quarter-final to win the knockout matches for his country.

Following another hard-fought win against England in the semis, the Luka Modric-led side faced France in the final, where Les Bleus registered a dominant 4-2 win to bag their second FIFA World Cup trophy.

Dominik Livakovic - 4 (2022)

Another Croatian on the list of the most penalty shootout saves in the football World Cup is Dominik Livakovic.

In the Round of 16 clash against Japan, he made three saves to help his team qualify for the quarter-final, where they faced favourites Brazil. 

After a 1-1 scoreline at the end of extra time, Livakovic saved Rodrygo’s opening penalty as Croatia netted all their four chances to make it to the semis.

Most penalties saved in one FIFA World Cup match

Portugal’s Ricardo, alongside Croatians Subasic and Livakovic, jointly hold the record for saving the most penalties in a shootout in a single World Cup match.

Ricardo made three saves against England in the 2006 quarter-final, denying Frank Lampard, Owen Hargreaves and Jamie Carragher from the spot.


Photo credit: Alamy