Goalkeeper Soccer Position

The Goalkeeper


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The goalkeeper or goalie is the last player in the defensive backline and his/her main role is simply to prevent opposing players from getting the ball over the goal-line. This is done by either catching, clearing or re-directing threatening shots, thus ensuring the ball does not cross the goal-line.

The goalie is mainly positioned between the goal posts and is only allowed to handle the ball within the penalty area.

Goalkeeper’s Area of Influence

Each team has only one goalkeeper on the pitch in the field of play which makes it one of the most technically distinct soccer positions.

Goalies often assigned the number 1 jersey and are supposed to wear distinct colors that differ from other team members.

Although goalkeepers are theoretically supposed to protect the goal-line at all times, they are not prevented from moving away from the goal-mouth.

Sometimes they perform defensive duties that require them to move away from the goal and encounter rival team members, either within the penalty area or beyond.

The position has actually evolved over time, with goalies having more range and some even adopting a rushing, unorthodox style that makes them more like outfield players.

However, for the most part, goalkeepers restrict their activities to the goal-mouth and penalty area.

What Skills do Goalkeepers Have?

Hand Eye Co-Ordination

Since the position requires plenty of ball handling, you need to have good hand-eye coordination.

This means you should be able to quickly and efficiently react with your hands to perceived threats from the opposing team.

For instance, a goalie should be able to instinctively estimate the range of an incoming corner kick and react accordingly by intercepting it in time. As a goalie you should also have the ability to discern how to collect or dispose of incoming balls.

For instance, high balls usually require soft hands when collecting the ball while strong shots may require you to punch the ball away.

Quick Reflexes

Quick reflexes are vital for any good goalkeeper.

While in this position you need to be able to think quickly and react to situations in the shortest time possible. Your ability to react fast to goal threats from the opposition could make a big difference and possibly save your team from defeat.

A good goalie should also be agile because the position often requires you to be active and nimble, especially when facing off with opposing players.

In situations such as corners the goalkeeper often has to jump high and reach for the ball or punch it out which requires plenty of physical exertion. 

One way to sharpen your reflexes is using a goalkeeper’s soccer rebounder

Decision Making

Quick decision making is a must when playing in the goalkeeper position since it is the last line of defense for any team.

Split second decisions are required in many situations and as a goalie you should be able to think quickly and act in the shortest time possible.

In addition to this, the last person in defense should always have game awareness.

Basically this means that you should be able to read the game and make prudent decisions during games. This skill can be mastered by regularly combining perception with decisions and actions.

This can be simplified in this way; SEE – THINK – DO. All actions on the pitch are triggered by a visual stimulus.

For a goalie this is usually in form of a counter attack. Once an impending threat is detected, an effective goalkeeper should be able to process this and come up with a plan to halt the attack.

The ability to build game awareness can be enhanced by actively practicing, playing actual games and learning from more experienced players. 

Drills for Goalkeepers

Just like any other activity, the key to improving your goalkeeping abilities is to keep practicing.

Dealing with high pressure situations requires a number of drills that will help in the field of play.

The three basic drills highlighted below can significantly improve your performance:

Seated Save

This exercise is meant to help improve your reach and agility. Here’s a breakdown of the steps involved:

  • Sit on the ground with you legs straight out
  • Get a partner who’ll stand between five and ten yards away and try and shoot the ball at any angle.
  • Try and catch each shot by reaching out and grabbing the ball, then toss it back for another shot.
  • Try and do this drill in sets of 60 seconds each while varying the intensity of the kicks and shot placement.

Meet and Retreat

This drill is focused on ball handling and acceleration. Here’s a brief rundown of the exercise.

  • One player will be shooting crosses from the edge of the penalty area while another player shoots from the 18 yard box.
  • As the goalkeeper you’ll advance quickly and try to punch or catch each shot. After each attempt you need to run back to your original position and wait for the next shot to be taken.
  • You can do about 10 repetitions from every side 

Blind Shot 

This is a basic drill that helps enhance reflexes and anticipation by using the element of surprise. Here are the basic steps.

  • Get a partner to stand between 10 and 20 yards from the goal
  • Stand on the goal-line with your back facing the kicker.
  • The kicker should then shoot towards the goal and yell out just before striking the ball
  • Immediately you hear the yell, turn around and attempt to catch or punch the ball
  • This drill can be performed in sets of 10 or 20 reps. 

In order to ensure that there is some kind of skill progression you will need to maintain a steady training schedule and keep making the exercises more challenging.

You can increase the sets or reps gradually and also switch up the exercises to avoid any stagnation of endurance and skill advancement.

The Importance of the Goalkeeper in a Soccer Team  

The value of a goalkeeper in a soccer team cannot be overstated. Goalies have a range of tactical responsibilities that are required for any decent soccer squad.

The most crucial of course is the role of physically blocking any attempted shots or headers from crossing the goal-line.

In addition to this there are a number of auxiliary roles that are highlighted below:

Organizing Defense

The goalie is meant to play a role in arranging the defensive structure especially when the opposing team has a free kick close to the goal area. Some goalkeeper are even required to pick markers especially when defending set pieces. 

Playmaking

Goalies are positioned at a vantage point where they can see the position of players on the field. This means that as a goalkeeper you are able to help initiate offensive advances. If you have long, accurate throwing or kicking range, you can easily pin point players who are in good attacking positions and provide them with the ball so that they can create goal-scoring chances. Good ball distribution by goalies is one of the key ingredients in any efficient offensive strategy.

Sweeper

Just as mentioned earlier the role of the goalkeeper includes rushing off the goal-line to anticipate the actions of opposing forwards. This means that sometimes the goalie has to think and play like a defender whenever the situation requires.

Goal Scoring

Believe it or not, there are some goalkeepers who have better scoring averages than outfield players! Although this is not a ‘conventional’ goalkeeping responsibility, there are a number who have a knack for scoring.

This may either be from free kicks, corners or well executed set pieces.

Many goalies rush forward during the dying minutes of a game to try and score, and some actually do.

Renowned goalies from the past like Rogerio Ceni, Jose Luis Chilavert, Jorge Campos and Rene Higuita had a reputation for their exemplary goal scoring abilities.   

Famous Goalkeepers Past and Present

There’s a long list of goalkeepers, both past and present, who have displayed great skill and dedication to the sport of soccer.

It would be difficult to name them all but here are a few names that have performed exceptionally in this position.

Current  

The position of Goalkeeper has now developer into a central role in starting moves and playing out from the back of defense and in this role you can’t get much better than Liverpool’s current #1 Alisson Becker.

Of course the likes of Gianlugi Buffon, Iker Casillas and Manuel Neuer are still strong contenders as well as Thibaut Courtois and Hugo Lloris.

Past

There have been numerous top quality number 1’s in the World, but I don’t think you can get much better than the Titan that is Oliver Kahn:

Walter Zenga, Dida, Edwin Van de Sar and Jose Luis Chilavert are other start performers but for me next in line has to be the sensational Peter Schmeichel who for years was the rock of Manchester United’s defense:

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