Soccer Goalkeeper: Things to Know

The soccer goalkeeper position is unlike any other in this sport. If you are looking to learn about it, you have come to the right place. Below, this article will cover everything you need to know about the position. We will start with the most basic information and go all the way to address more advanced concepts.

Soccer Goalkeeper: The Basics

The soccer goalkeeper plays an unusual role from the rest of his teammates. The primary task of the goalkeeper is to defend his goal. Inside the penalty box, the goalkeeper can use his hands (and all other body parts) to accomplish this goal. The goalkeeper can leave the penalty box area, but cannot use his hands outside of it. Unlike outfield players, goalkeepers do not run much, dribble, cross, head the ball, or take corners/freekicks/etc. Generally, a goalkeeper’s movements are limited to protect their goal.

Illustration: goalkeepers are generally limited in their movements and stay inside the penalty box area.

Goalkeepers have other important qualities. They jump, dive, and have a very quick reaction speed. They cannot be afraid of physical contact and must have advanced communication skills. Modern goalkeepers are also increasingly better at distributing the ball with their feet and completing many short and long passes.

Soccer goalkeepers are generally tall. In 2010, in English Premier League, the average height of a goalkeeper was 6’3″/1.92m. However, this is not always the case. Iker Casillas, one of the best goalkeepers of all time and a Real Madrid legend, was 6’0″/1.82m. Here is also a list of 7 modern goalkeepers who measure under 6 feet tall.

Soccer Goalkeeper: Advanced Knowledge

There are several ways to excel as a goalkeeper.

Reflexes and Strength

Soccer goalkeepers are often required to react to a shot taken at a short distance or even deflected shots. The ability to react quickly and effectively is crucial. Being quick is not enough. The goalkeeper must also be strong enough to deflect such a shot. Below is a great example of a wonderful save. The shot is deflected while Buffon is already diving, but quick reflexes and arm strength allow him to still make a save.

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Diving/Jumping

The ability to dive quickly is crucial for a soccer goalkeeper. Seems fairly obvious, but there is more to it. It is not enough to just jump/dive. A good goalkeeper must master the art of diving with purpose. And the purpose is to keep the goal safe. In some circumstances, a goalkeeper will dive and push the ball away from his net. In other circumstances, diving and catching the ball might be more appropriate. Judging each situation properly is very important.

Knowing Your Angles

The soccer goalkeeper protects a goal that is over 7 meters long and higher than 2.4 meters. No goalkeeper in the world can save a good shot from one corner to another. Instead, good goalkeepers know how to position themselves in the goal based on how the attack is developing. If the forward is coming from a corner, the goalkeeper protects the goal from the near post. If the danger is coming from the middle, the goalkeeper can step up/closer to the forward to make the goal “smaller”. The ability to keep track of the goalposts and position properly in between them can make goalkeeping that much easier.

Communication

Soccer goalkeepers are in a very unique position. They are the only players on the field who get a view of the entire game unfolding in front of them. As such, they are also in the best position to dictate to their teammates. Goalkeepers must be in constant communication with their defenders (and other teammates in the defensive phase). They must be loud enough to make their voices heard over thousands of spectators cheering on.

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Defensive Knowledge & Reading the Game

Goalkeepers’ responsibility to communicate does not stop at her ability to be loud. The goalkeeper must also be well versed in the tactical aspect of the game. Understanding her team’s defensive positioning and responsibilities and the opposing teams attacking patterns and movements well enough to correctly dictate to her teammates is crucial. A goalkeeper with really good communication skills coupled with tactical know-how is able to make immense deference to the team.

Preventing shots or dangerous attacks in its treks is the ultimate way to keep the goal safe. Gianluigi Buffon is still performing at a pro-level, at the age of 44, and long after his quick reflexes slowed down because his ability to read the game is unparalleled.

Defending Crosses

Another important skill for a goalkeeper is knowing how to defend a cross. First, a goalkeeper must anticipate a cross and judge its trajectory well to intercept it. Making a mistake while looking to defend across can be very costly. We have seen this far too often where a goalkeeper attempts to intercept a cross; misses the ball and allows an attacker to tap the ball into an empty net. Second, a goalkeeper must judge the cross accurately and decide whether to punch the ball away or catch it. Third, a goalkeeper must be very aggressive (within rules) in his attempt to intercept a cross.

Ball Distribution

Lastly, a modern goalkeeper is increasingly asked to be able to play with his feet. Many coaches insist their goalkeepers play as extra defenders when in possession of the ball to help the team to maintain possession. Here are three things goalkeepers can add to their arsenal to become more complete: 1) the ability to receive the ball in motion and control it under small pressure, 2) the ability to play short and share passes, and 3) the ability to play medium to long balls accurately. Manuel Neuer, Alison, and Ederson are prime examples of modern ball-playing goalkeepers.

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Conclusion

Soccer goalkeepers have a unique role on a soccer team. Their responsibilities are vastly different from the responsibilities of their teammates. However, the goalkeeping position is just as important (and often a lot more important) as any other. It is unique and it can be beautiful. In this article, we have discussed the key characteristics of a goalkeeper. If you are interested in reading about other soccer player positions, you can do so here.

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