Real keepers don't have to make spectacular saves very often
because if they are doing their job correctly, they are
preventing the shot rather than saving the shot.
-- Lawrence Fine, FineSoccer.com
Here are some key points for several important tactics a soccer goalkeeper must
If the opponent is given a free kick within 10-20 yards of the penalty
area (or an indirect kick inside the penalty area), the standard defense
is to make a "wall" of two or more players the minimum 10 yards from the
spot of the kick. This wall serves to block part of the goal from the
shooter so that the goalkeeper only has to worry about guarding a small
portion of the goal mouth. However, if the wall is not properly
positioned, it my actually do more harm than good!
|Fig. 1: Setting a Wall|
The wall must be set up quickly, following these basic guidelines:
Once the wall is set, the goalkeeper moves to cover the space between the
inside of the wall and the far post.
- One defender must identify themselves as the outside "anchor" of the
wall. Make sure everyone knows who this is; they should raise their
hand and make eye contact with the keeper. Some teams may wish to
identify this player ahead of time, even in practice sessions.
- The goalkeeper must choose how many players will be in the wall.
The more extreme the angle, the fewer players. Two players is
sufficient for a ball close to the end line; the keeper might want as
many as five or even six in the wall for a straight on shot. The exact
number will depend on the situation and how much goal the keeper feels
- The goalkeeper sets the "anchor" just outside a line between the
soccer ball and the near post (Fig. 1). This covers the near part of the goal
with a little overlap to prevent balls from bending around the wall.
The keeper will usually dash over to the near post to sight from the
post to the ball to make sure things are positioned properly. While
doing this the keeper is way out of position, so speed is essential!
Some teams prefer to free the keeper of this duty by using a forward,
who lines up the wall by sighting from behind the ball back
towards the goalpost.
- The other players line up against the "anchor" player to the inside
of the goal. Players need to be right against one another so no ball
can slip through the wall.
On rare occasions, the attacking team will win an indirect free kick in
the penalty area that is less than 10 yards from the goal. (More on
this in the Laws page.) What to do then?
Defenders are allowed to be closer than ten yards to the ball,
they are on the goal line and between the goalposts. The wall, then,
will actually be set in the goal. The tallest players available
should be on the goal line, to prevent a chip shot under the crossbar.
Since this can only happen on an indirect kick, one defender should be
designated as the "bullet man" to rush the ball as soon as it is touched
and disrupt a subsequent shot.
Most teams almost never practice this situation; I have seen it occur
only a handful of times in thousands of games I've seen. But a good
goalkeeper is prepared for any situation, and if they're aware of this
provision of the laws, they can organize things quickly if it should
Key points for handling corner kicks:
|Fig. 2: Corner Kick Setup|
The goalkeeper must sometimes make themselves available as an outlet for
a defender under pressure. However, if done incorrectly, a backpass to
the goalkeeper can result in tragedy - an uncontested givaway in front
of the net or even an own goal. Here are key points for back passes to
- Anything within the 6-yard box in the air should belong to the
keeper! Older players should be able to extend their range even beyond
this. Train your keepers in traffic so they will have the confidence to
collect corners and crosses in their goal box.
- Start position will vary, but I prefer a spot about 2/3 to 3/4 of
the way to the far post (Fig. 2). This is because it is easier to move
forward quickly than backwards. The area the keeper should easily be
able to cover is shaded in gray.
- Always position a defender on the near post, shoulder right up
against it and facing the corner. This player is there to clear away
hard driven shots to the near post that the keeper can't get to.
- For balls hit over the head past the far post,
track the ball, leave it late and either punch it wide or
be ready for a shot or
deflection from the far side (the yellow shaded area in Figure 2). Some goalkeepers or coaches like to station
a player at the far post to handle these, similar in duties to the
near-post defender. I prefer to have this defender marking rather than
standing at the far post.
- The goalkeeper must ask for the ball. Don't ever back pass to keeper
who isn't expecting it!
- The keeper who is making themselves available must move away
from the goal and outside the near post. This puts them in the
least vulnerable position should the pass go awry.
- The passer must pass with good pace and outside the near
post. Many own goals have been scored by defenders who passed
inside the post and missed connecting with their keeper.
- Once the ball is received, the keeper must clear it quickly,
preferrably with one or two touches. Switching fields is often a good
option to get the ball away from pressure. This is a skill that must be