Soccer Goalkeeper Position Explained

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Written by Daniel Pena, Bachelors in Kinesiology and footballer: Learn More

What is the soccer goalkeeper position? Playing as a goalkeeper is one of the most challenging positions in all sports, not just the beautiful game. The goalkeeper is positioned inside the penalty area of the field and their main job is to stop the opposing team from scoring goals.

Being a goalkeeper is not for every player and requires specific characteristics and attributes to be successful. The main difference between the goalkeeper and the rest of the outfield players is that they can legally use their hands if they are inside their own penalty area.

In this blog, I will be going over the art of goalkeeping and explain all the basic information you need to know about this important position.

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The Responsibilities of the Goalkeeper

The goalkeeper role has some very clear responsibilities, but they also have others that new players, fans, or coaches, may not be aware of. Also, the goalkeeper role has evolved over the years and modern goalies must master skills beyond traditional shot-stopping.

Protect the Goal

The most important thing for any goalkeeper is to prevent the opposing team from scoring goals and keep a “Clean sheet” by making great saves and stopping shots, since they are the last line of defense. This means they are able to anticipate plays, and are ready to sacrifice their body for the sake of the team.

Communication

On top of being great shot stoppers, the goalkeeper also has to be a good communicator to keep the team organized in the defense. This means being able to direct and motivate their center backs, full backs, and central defensive midfielders, as well as having a good tactical understanding of the game.

Play out of the Back

One of the main differences between goalkeepers in the modern era and goalkeepers from the past is that there is a huge emphasis on keepers being able to play comfortably with their feet and participate in open play.

Back in the day goalkeepers would rely solely on their goalkeeping skills, but as the game has advanced it has become more important for goalkeepers to have great ball skills. Having elite ball control skills as a goalkeeper allows them to act as an 11th outfield player and play out of the back safely when necessary to maintain possession of the ball.

Sweeping

In addition to all these responsibilities also comes ‘sweeping’, which involves intercepting long balls played over the top before reaching opposition strikers lurking around the goal line due mainly to high pressing tactics employed by many teams today.

The Key Traits of a Goalkeeper

Now that you are more familiar with the key responsibilities of a goalkeeper, let’s talk about the different skills needed to become a great one.

Shot stopping ability

Having great shot stopping abilities means being able to know when to catch, block, punch, parry, or kick the ball away from danger.

Catching the ball

Catching the ball is so important that it needs its own category. As a goalkeeper it is important to know when you have to deflect the ball in another direction or catch the ball to give your team an advantage.

Fast Reflexes

During open play shots at goal can be unpredictable and come at any moment which is why goalkeepers need to have fast reflexes to make the save. Also during set pieces, such as throw ins, corner kicks, and free kicks, having fast reflexes is important for the same reasons.

Height and Flexibility

A lot of positions in soccer do not have a specific height requirement and you can find players at all heights and sizes playing different positions at the highest levels of the game. Although the goalie position also does not have a height requirement, usually tall keepers will have an advantage over shorter keepers, but of course there are outliers.

Think about the legendary Mexican goalkeeper, Jorge Campos who was a 5 foot 6 inches goalkeeper who would occasionally get subbed as a striker. 

Ball Skills

As mentioned above, goalkeepers in the modern game need ball handling skills to help out the team in other ways other than just blocking goals. Some important skills include ball control, first touch and receiving the ball, passing, and distributing balls from the back.

Excellent positioning

As a goalkeeper, having excellent positioning is also key. The right positioning allows the goalkeeper to have a better chance of blocking shots and not getting caught off guard.

The Unique Rules and Equipment Goalkeepers

The goalkeeper position is one of the only positions that has specialized rules and equipment including the following:

  • The goalkeeper can use their hands inside their own penalty area, unlike the other outfield players
  • If a teammate passes the ball to the goalkeeper deliberately, the goalie cannot pick up the ball otherwise it will called a foul that leads to an indirect free kick inside the penalty area, instead of a penalty kick
  • The goalie must wear shin guards and long socks like the rest of the players
  • The goalie must wear gloves and a specific jersey color that distinguishes them from the rest of the team members and opponents
  • The goalie can wear optional pants, instead of shorts, which may be best for certain conditions as well as headbands. 

Best Goalkeepers to Learn From

The last thing that you need to do to become a better goalkeeper is to analyze and learn from the best goalkeepers in the world which include:

  • Thibaut Courtois- Real Madrid (La Liga)
  • Ederson Moraes- Manchester City (Premier League)
  • Mike Maignan- AC Milan (Serie A)
  • Aaron Ramsdale- Arsenal (Premier League)
  • Allison Becker- Liverpool FC (Premier League)
  • Jan Oblak- Atletico Madrid (La Liga)

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the best young goalkeeper in the world right now?

The best young goalkeeper in the world right now is arguably Gianluigi Donnaruma of the Italian national team.

Who is the best goalkeeper in World Cup history?

Arguably the best goalkeeper in World Cup history is Gianluigi Buffon of the Italian national team.

Who is the only goalkeeper to win the Ballon D’or?

The only goalkeeper to win a ballon d’or is Lev Ivanovic Yashin who was a Russian Goalkeeper known as “The Black Spider” of the 1900s.

What is a sweeper keeper?

A swepper keeper is a goalkeeper who can act more like a sweeper and push up the field to stop long balls and through balls. Manuel Neuer is the perfect example of a modern day sweeper keeper.

How to become a good goalkeeper?

The best way to get better as a goalkeeper is to

  • Train hard during training sessions
  • Practice with teammates and other players
  • Work with nature

What is the best soccer training program?

The best online soccer training program and soccer app is Football Entangled. There is no other program like Football Entangled on the market and this community, much more than just an app, will help you get closer to making your dreams a reality.

How can I learn more about the game?

To learn more about soccer the most important thing is to join a team and play the game as much as possible. If possible, analyze high level games as much as you can and your own games as well by recording them with a soccer camera. Also read soccer books, listen to podcasts and interviews watch soccer documentaries, as well as some movies, tv shows, and anime.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the goalkeeper position is one of the most important and hardest soccer positions to play. It requires specific attributes, key traits, equipment, and rules to follow. In this blog, I covered all the basic information that you need to know about the goalkeeper position.

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