Some of Tim Howard's "16 saves" weren't saves

It was claimed in last year’s World Cup that Tim Howard set a record with 16 saves in one game against Belgium… but some of those shot attempts weren’t going to go in anyway:

Does a goalkeeper get credited for deflecting or catching any shot attempt; even one not aimed accurately at the goal?

Be fair, most of those were on target and his performance is not praised on the athleticism of the individual saves but more on his positioning and anticipation.
He got himself in the right place and made the strikers job much harder. He had a very good game.

For clarification, I’m not knocking Howard’s performance. I’m just asking whether, statistically speaking, goalkeepers get credited with ‘saves’ if the ball wasn’t going to go in anyway.

I don’t know if FIFA has official definitions for statistics. I found one for U.S. college soccer, and there a save is only credited if a shot would have gone in. In practice, my guess is that if it wasn’t clear whether a ball would have gone in, the keeper would get the benefit of the doubt and it would be called a save.

I went through the Howard video quickly: one was a cross he punched away, so not a save by US college definition. One more might have been clearly wide when he stopped it, but it was hard to tell from the angle. All the rest were either clearly going in or close.

And, checking Wikipedia, it appears that he was initially credited with 16 saves, but FIFA updated that to be 15. So yeah, the cross in the video is not an official ‘save’. All the others are either clearly going in or close enough.

I can’t remember Howard being anything more than decent in 2014. He was really good in the 2009 Confed Cup.

The problem with number of saves a keeper makes is that it is more of a function of the team that is playing front of them than the performance of the keeper. A good keeper behind a good defence has fewer saves to make than a mediocre one behind an awful defence. For example last season in the Premiership Guzan and Pantilimon who were both dropped by their bottom feeding clubs at some point in the season, had more saves than De Gea, who was widely acknowledged as the best keeper in the Prem last season.

After watching that video I cam away thinking it was an amazing performance.