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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
Setting a Wall
Handling Corners
Handling Back Passes
Advanced Tactics

Here are some key points for several important tactics a soccer goalkeeper must know.

Setting a Wall

Wall Diagram
Fig. 1: Setting a Wall
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!

The wall must be set up quickly, following these basic guidelines:

  • 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 confident covering.
  • 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.
Once the wall is set, the goalkeeper moves to cover the space between the inside of the wall and the far post.

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, Coching Pointprovided 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 ever occur.

Handling Corners

Corner Diagram
Fig. 2: Corner Kick Setup
Key points for handling corner kicks:
  • 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.

Handling Back Passes

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 the keeper.
  • 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 practiced!

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