After Lionel Messi and Neymar, does anyone at the World Cup have more pressure than Manuel Neuer?

Manuel Neuer, the German goalkeeper, had a pretty strong 2010 World Cup — really one of his only blemishes was that Puyol goal above, which ultimately sent Spain into the finals (where they won). Germany finished third. They’re coming back loaded with talent — albeit also with some guys coming off injuries — and with the World Cup about 10 days away, they’ve moved up to second-best odds to win it, behind the host country. If I was a betting man (read: if I had money), I’d put it down on Germany for this WC. Neuer, the 2013 World Goalkeeper of the Year, could be the key though.

Consider: they’re in the group of death. They should win it outright, but they still have to face Portugal (one of the best goal-scorers in the world is on that team) and then Ghana (always dangerous) and the US (who could be fighting for spot No. 2, theoretically). If Germany wins Group G outright, they’ll probably draw Belgium or Russia as the Group H runner-up. Belgium might be the sleeper of this entire WC, and Russia — while cautious — has some stars too.

Of course, the entire Germany side has to deal with these teams, but goalkeeper is an especially perilous sort in the World Cup. Iker Casillas was really good for Spain as they won it all four years ago:

And of course, Brazilians still aren’t over Barbosa’s missed save opportunity in 1950’s World Cup:

It’s nearly impossible to win a WC without a goalie who’s at least being highly above-average. You can easily argue that Lionel Messi has the most pressure this World Cup — trying to cement his international legacy in a country that probably roundly hates him — and you can argue that Neymar, as the new face of Brazilian soccer, is 1A (if they don’t win it all on home soil, that’s not a good thing). Manuel Neuer might be 2-3. If he has a spectacular World Cup, he could carry Germany to their first championship since 1990 — and they were West Germany then. Could we see a rematch of the 2002 Finals somewhere along the line?

Ted Bauer