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Stop Crosses Like Cortouis

By Danny Carvalho, 

This very important skill is often neglected on goalkeeping specific training which cannot be accepted by a head coach who wants to achieve great accomplishments in their season. So here goes a simple and basic practice on stopping crosses.

Warm Up
Goalkeepers working in pairs. The goal is just to get the body fired up for the session. Have them throw high balls and kicks to get working on the handling the ball high up and jumping to reach for the ball.

Activity 1
GK in position. Stop one shot first. Run backwards to goal line. Come out to stop a cross from the right side. Throw it back to the person who crossed it. Get back on the line and stop another shot. Run backwards again to goal line to then come out to stop a cross from the left side.

Activity 2
In this next activity use dummies if you have access to them. Otherwise, have the other GKs work as shadows in the box as shown in the diagram below. Each GK stops a cross coming from a corner kick from each side.

Activity 3
To end practice in great fashion, have players in the box actually trying to score as the goalkeeper tries to stop the crosses from reaching the headers.

By Danny Carvalho, DOC at Corinthians Campinas Youth Club,  Brasil

Come Off the Line Goalkeeper

By Danny Carvalho, 

This ability is a game changer. It separates the average GK from the outstanding GKs! Not only the ability but the decision making, the timing, the courage, the urgency and the acceleration.

Warm up
Have one GK in the six yard and another facing them at about 5 yards outside the box. Passing to each other back and forth until the player outside the box decides to dribble towards the goal. That’s the cue to the GK to come out and stop them. Because it’s a warm up, the player in the attacking role will let the GK win the play.

Progression: instead of dribble the ball, the attacker takes a big touch to a direction to have the GK run for a challenge.

Activity 1
In this next situation, the GK is going to perform the Sweeper Keeper role like Manuel Neuer did in the famous clash Germany x Algeria in the 2014 World Cup playoffs on the extra time.

Have three players positioned as wingers and a striker at about 30 to 40 yards from the goal. Coach on the ball, GK on the goal line. Coach is going to send a long ball on the space behind the defense towards one of the attackers. GK must be first to the ball.

Activity 2
GK on goal, two players coming one at a time from diagonal angles to work on 1v1s to come out the line. The GK starts facing the net. On the coach’s whistle, GK turns, and the attacker will already be running with the ball. This will make the GKs work on their speed of reaction.

Activity 3
To end with, we are going to work on the GK + last defender dynamic on a 2v1. On this one, the defender will be advised to cut the pass and force the attacker with the ball to challenge the GK. That’s when the GK is going to work on their coming out of the line ability.

By Danny Carvalho, DOC at Corinthians Campinas Youth Club,  Brasil

Goalkeeper Distribution Following Cruyffs Principle

By Danny Carvalho, 

The one and only Johann Cruyff once said a phrase that is forever immortalized in soccer for the ones who appreciate attacking and possession-based soccer. It was something like: “In my teams, the goalie is the first attacker, and the striker the first defender.”

As I’m a big fan of this philosophy, I like to often times on the GKs specific practice work on distribution and playing from the back.

This a session usable to every age group.

Warm Up
GKs are going to be working in pairs. Start five to ten steps apart depending on the level and age group.
1- Two hands chest throw (10 times)
2- One-handed side shoulder throw (10 times each arm)
3- One-handed over shoulder throw (10 times each arm)
4- Short passing back and forth (10 times each foot)
5- Long passing back and forth (6 times each foot)

Activity 1
GKs taking turns on goal, another two GKs open wide. One of the open wide GKs takes a shot on goal. The GKs on the spot must save it and then throw it to the opposite open wide GK. The principle here is to stop the shot first and then as soon as possible distribute on opposing side of the play, thinking about the game situation where when the play comes from one side, this is probably the most crowded place on the field in the moment. By throwing it to the other side, we are thinking about starting quickly a counterattack on the open side.

Activity 2
In this activity we are going to emphasize the building from the back moment. Now we will have two players on the side of the box, one on each side. The GK is now going to work on pass to one side, move to the bottom line to support the player, receive it back, turn and switch the play and so on for a set time. On the coaches’ whistle, sharp pass to one of the two mini goals positioned in a diagonal angle as the midfielders to progress up the field.

Activity 3
In this last activity we are going to play a possession game focused on the GK getting used to play with their feet and play under pressure in the box. The numbers of this confrontation will depend on the GKs age group and ability as well as the quantity of GKs available at practice. If they are beginners, maybe a 5 v 1 is the best option. As the coach, jump in to help if needed. If they are medium to advanced level, 4v1, 4v2 or 5v2.

Have each GK play from 1min to 2mins in their original goalie position and then rotate. Obviously, if the player(s) in the middle wins the ball, try to score and the GK tries to stop them from scoring.

By Danny Carvalho, DOC at Corinthians Campinas Youth Club,  Brasil

Goalkeeping Specific Agility and Reactivity

By Philip Cauchi

The follow three practices target the development or maintenance of agility and reactivity that are specific to the position and role of a goalkeeper. Through these practices we also develop quick footwork, quickly getting into position with reference to the position of the ball with the goal, establishing the correct body profile (stance), and when and how to dive correctly to make a save.

Practice 1: Two goal quick reaction save

Description: The goalkeeper side steps through the line of cones prior to get into position to either move towards his right or his left to save player A’s shot after the latter wall-passes with player B to finish on either the yellow or red goal. The goalkeeper must quickly recognise where player B lays off the ball to player A so to quickly move into position in the correct goal to save the shot. Player B should be positioned 12 to 15 yards in front and in between the two goals. To increase the difficulty of the practice, player A will be positioned closer to player B thus reducing the time for the goalkeeper to quickly move in the correct direction to make the save.

Practice 2: The central goal game

Description: The practice area measures 30 yards by 20 yards and which is divided into two zones with a central goal positioned on the mid-line. A goalkeeper guards the central goal. Each team has its own half from where they are allowed to score. A player for each team is positioned at each side in their own half. Two players from each team roam inside the area. Therefore in their own half, teams will have a numerical advantage of 5v2. The players on the perimeter are also allowed to score. If a goal is scored or won by the defensive team and played into the opposite side, the goalkeeper must quickly adjust his position to protect the goal from a different angle inside the other half of the practice area. When the goalkeeper makes a save, he serves the ball to any other player of the opposite team in the opposite zone.

Practice 3: Adjusting quickly to close down the shooting angle

Description: Two servers A and B are positioned at different angles outside the penalty area. The goalkeeper faces the opposite direction (towards his own goal). When the coach calls out the name, or letter, or number representing the server, the goalkeeper must quickly turn to save the shot from the respective server. To increase the level of difficulty and make the practice more complex, when the coach calls a server it will be the opposite server who takes the shot on goal. To make the practice even more challenging we can increase the number of servers and have them dribble their ball randomly, thus continuously changing their angle in respective to the goal.

The first step should always be simple for both the goalkeeper and the servers to understand. From here we can then progress the practice further and according to the developmental requirements of the goalkeeper.

By Philip Cauchi

Facing Penalty Kicks

By Philip Cauchi

Facing penalty kicks are very challenging situations for any goalkeeper. Goalkeepers haven’t got any defenders between them and the ball within a distance of twelve yards. The defenders must also be positioned at least ten yards away from the ball and outside the penalty area until the shot is taken. Furthermore, goalkeepers must remain with at least one foot touching the goal line until the ball is kicked. This makes it even more complicated for them while providing an extra advantage for the kicker.

However, certain key performance points exist in that they help goalkeepers increase their success rates at saving penalty kicks. We can start by carrying out an analysis of the penalty taker that the goalkeeper will possibly face in the upcoming match. In modern times this can be easily done with the use of highly accurate statistics and match analysis software, where both the goalkeepers and the goalkeepers’ coach can analyse together and into great detail what the favourite kicking foot of the possible penalty takers is, the angle they make with the ball before the run-up, and where they usually aim their shots. Right-sided dominant kickers usually aim their shots towards the right side of the goalkeeper, while left-sided kickers usually aim towards the left side of the goalkeeper. However, this shouldn’t be taken as a rule of thumb but as a probability.

Taking a quick glance at the penalty takers’ eye movement prior to taking their shot might help the goalkeeper in identifying to which part of the goal the kicker aims his shot. One mistake that goalkeepers should not do is to initiate the dive just a few moments before the kick is taken. This is a very typical mistake of goalkeepers who focus solemnly on the swing of the kicking leg. Should this be the case the kicker will probably change the trajectory of the shot at the last minute. This is a trick that some penalty takers use and which goalkeepers should be aware of. The below are the key points that goalkeepers should focus on when facing a penalty kick.

The goalkeeper should be positioned at the centre of the goal in line with the ball. His eyes focused on the ball, feet shoulder-width apart, arms in front of the body and with a low-centre of gravity body stance. A run started from the kicker’s left side typically indicates that the shot will be aimed towards the goalkeeper’s right.

The goalkeeper should not commit himself before the penalty taker kicks the ball. He should however take a note of the taker’s trajectory to the ball and the direction that the support foot is planted.

The direction the support foot is planted together with other important information such as that the taker is right footed, that he usually aims his penalties to the right side of the goalkeeper, the direction the hips are facing, and his last glance to where he is aiming the shoot, all provide the goalkeeper with relevant information to make the required decision.

The goalkeeper steps towards the trajectory of the ball by first stepping diagonally forward and pushing off the outside leg. His eyes should follow the ball and arms extended towards the ball to increase his reaching ability.

By Philip Cauchi

Coaching Basic Catching Skills

By Philip Cauchi

The below are games that develop the basic skill of catching which is a pre-requirement for the development of goalkeepers. These games target the foundation phase between eight and twelve years of age. However, they could also be used with younger ages if the children demonstrate to have the ability to take on these challenges.

Game 1: Throw and catch.

Description: The goalkeepers throw the ball over the net for the other goalkeeper to catch. The ball must not touch the ground. If the ball makes contact with the ground the goalkeeper who threw the ball earns a point.

Variation: The ball may be allowed to bounce once before it is caught.

Key outcomes:
1. Ready stance.
2. Positioning – centrally where the goalkeeper can quickly move to catch the ball.
3. W shape of the hands to catch the ball.

Game 2: Throw the ball to score.

Description: In this game the goalkeepers are positioned approximately ten to fifteen yards apart, depending on their physical maturation. Both of them must defend a goal and aim to score in the opposite. They score by throwing the ball from inside their assigned area (in the above image it is behind the white continuous lines).

Variation: The goalkeepers may kick the ball instead of throwing it.

Key outcomes:
1. Ready stance.
2. Positioning in goal.
3. Quick footwork to get to the ball and make the save.
4. Shape of the hands to catch the ball.

Game 3: 1v1 goalkeeper battle on four small goals.

Description: Each goalkeeper defends two mini goals positioned on the same goal line and attacks the opposite two. Both goalkeepers aim to score by kicking and putting the ball in any of the two mini goals. Between the two goalkeepers there is a ‘no shooting zone’. No shooting may take place from inside this zone.

1. The goalkeepers may throw the ball instead of kicking it.
2. Each goalkeeper defends and attacks three small goals.
3. Increase or decrease the area of practice according to the ability of the children.

Key outcomes:
1. Ready stance.
2. Arms ready in front and to the side of the body.
3. Quick lateral footwork.

Game 4: The wall game.

Description: The two goalkeepers aim to score against each other by kicking the ball against the wall and from the rebound it passes between the two cones set as a goalpost. They play continuously by taking shots and making saves.

Variation: More than one goalkeeper takes part. Prior to shooting the goalkeeper taking the shot shouts the name of the goalkeeper who has to make the save. If the latter fails to save the ball and a goal is scored he will be eliminated for that round. Continue playing until only one goalkeeper remains in the game. The maximum number of goalkeepers should not be more than five. This is to ensure that eliminated goalkeepers do not spend too much time waiting. If as an example we have six goalkeepers, we set two simultaneous games with three players in each game rather than six players in one game. This method also makes the game less complex.

Key outcomes:
1. Ready stance.
2. Quick footwork for quick movement to get to the ball.
3. W shape of the hands to catch the ball.

By Philip Cauchi

Two Goalkeeper Sessions

By Philip Cauchi

In this article we will go through the key points learned by observing Sevilla FC’s goalkeeper Yassine Bounou against FC Barcelona in first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final played on Wednesday 10th of February 2021. Following this brief analysis are two practices that target the development of goalkeeping soccer-related actions timed and performed according to the necessity of the situation.

Griezmann is outside the penalty area with the ball and has space to lob it behind the back line and towards the second post for Messi to finish on goal. As we can see from the above image the goalkeeper’s position is on the imaginary line (dotted line) between the ball and the middle of the goal. The goalkeeper’s stance is low, on the balls of feet, with the arms in front and on the side of the body while the body is slightly inclined forward.

Griezmann lobs the ball to Messi to finish on goal. The goalkeeper moves to cover the angle using quick lateral footwork. His is still on the imaginary line between the ball and the middle of the goal.

As Messi is going to shoot, the goalkeeper makes a few steps forward, making himself big so to narrow the angle for Messi.

The goalkeeper remained on his feet until the last moment. The arms and legs were also used to stretch the goalkeeper’s ability to cover more area of the goal .

The goalkeeper making himself big to reduce the shooting angle.

Practice 1: Close down the angle

Setup: Three starting points are marked with one being central and at the edge of the penalty area, while another starting point is marked at each side of the penalty area. Therefore having three different angles. A gate measuring approximately three yards is positioned a few yards in front of the goal (as shown in the above image) and on the imaginary line between the respective starting point and the middle of the goal. The starting point should be a few yards in front of the respective gate.

Procedure: The coach calls one of the three players positioned at their respective starting point to dribble forward. The goalkeeper must protect the respective gate from the player’s shoot. If the goalkeeper covers the gate well it means that the ball cannot end up in the back of the net.

Key outcomes:
1. The goalkeeper comes out of the goal as the player is dribbling towards the goal.
2. The goalkeeper makes a forward explosive movement to cut off the angle at the moment the player drops his head to shoot at goal.

1. The player with the ball can shoot from various distances.
2. The player with the ball can change his dribbling trajectory to move to a different angle.
3. The player with the ball can opt to go on one-one-one with the goalkeeper.

Practice 2: 3v2+GK play the ball behind the back line.

Setup: An area measuring 10 by 18 yards is marked at the edge of the penalty area. The sides of this area are extended till the goal line. At the end of the area two mini goals are positioned. Three attackers and two defenders start in this area while a goalkeeper is positioned in goal.

Procedure: The attackers start against the defenders in a 3v2. The attackers must pass the ball into the penalty area to finish on goal. The attacker receiving the pass must finish with a first time shot.

Key outcomes:
1. The goalkeeper comes out to take the ball or block shots for passes that are played deep.
2. The goalkeeper remains in his position but moves to reduce the shooting angle for the attacker in cases where he cannot get to the ball.
3. The goalkeeper must always be on the imaginary line between the ball and the middle of the goal.

Progression: The attacker receiving the ball can decide not to shoot first time and to also try to go around the goalkeeper.

In the above image, the defender is applying pressure on the ball-carrier. The goalkeeper therefore remains on his feet and move accordingly to close down the shooting angle.

By Philip Cauchi

Goalkeeper Communication On Crosses

By Philip Cauchi

Introduction: Dealing with crosses is often a major headache for goalkeepers. This holds true when playing against opponents whose strengths lie in this aspect of the game.

Dealing with crosses is a cohesive team effort. First we aim to eliminate or reduce as much as we can the opponents’ strength of getting the opportunities to play crosses. Secondly if the cross is played we should have our centre backs marking their target players and dealing with the cross effectively. The goalkeeper should be the one who continuously communicates with his back line all the time during this period, making sure that the target players are properly marked to reduce their ability to deal with the cross effectively. Communication should be developed throughout the season and refined during the week according to the opposition we are going to face.

Goalkeeping technique cues:

Figure 1 – The goalkeeper should all the time keep his eyes on the ball and be confident of getting to it first.

1. Before the cross is played the goalkeeper should be turned towards the position from where the cross is played.
2. The goalkeeper should attack the ball explosively.
3. Take-off should be done by pushing off the ball of the inside foot while the outside leg is used to protect the goalkeeper when airborne.
4. The shape of the goalkeeper’s hands should be W while the arms are stretched to meet the ball. The goalkeeper is the only player from all the twenty two who is allowed to use his hands inside his team’s penalty area.
5. If the ball seems to be difficult to catch, the goalkeeper should punch it towards the side lines where the chances of the opponents winning second balls in dangerous zones is reduced.

Figure 2 – The goalkeeper should be focused and all the time communicating with his teammates. The word “keeper” should be used by the goalkeeper to let his teammates know that it is his ball.

Training tips:
1. Always make training realistic to what happens during the game. Isolated training to refine technique, coordination and power are good but they serve to nothing if the goalkeeper doesn’t learn how to anticipate situations and communicate with teammates.
2. Whenever possible always have some kind of active opposition with defensive collaboration. The last strengthens the communication between the goalkeeper and the centre backs who are the players who will be put under pressure the most in these situations.
3. Vary the resistance. It can be that the goalkeeper has to face only one forward, two forwards or three forwards.
4. Vary the angle from where crosses are played.
5. Vary the distribution. The goalkeeper should learn to deal with both in-swinging and out-swinging crosses and crosses played onto the first, mid, and second posts
6. Have unpredictability in training! Create situations where the opponents can play both crosses, dribble inside with the ball or play cut back passes.

Goalkeeper positioning during crosses:
Before the opponents are able to play a cross, the goalkeeper should be positioned where he can have a very good vision of both the ball and the crosser as well as his teammates and opponents. The ideal position when the cross is played from deep as in the below picture is for the goalkeeper to be centrally in line with the midline of the goal and a few feet in front of the goal line. This position gives him enough space and time to get to the ball. It is imperative also to mention that the defense will not be too deep as this will restrict the space that the goalkeeper has to attack the ball.

Figure 3 – The goalkeeper’s position should enable him to have a good view of the ball, teammates and opponents.

The stance that the goalkeeper takes might prove to be the decisive factor in such situations. As seen in the image below, the goalkeeper’s position will enable him to get to the ball quickly and cover both the first post, mid post and second post areas. The goalkeeper should have a low centre of gravity with the weight of the body on the balls of feet.

Figure 4 – The first post (A), mid post (B) and second post areas (C) are well covered by the goalkeeper.

Timing the interception of the cross.

We have two servers on both flanks. One of them is positioned at a deeper position than the other. The one closest to the goal line plays out-swinging crosses while the other plays in-swinging crosses. Upon catching the ball the goalkeeper makes a few steps with it prior to serving it to one of the two servers on the opposite flank. We can progress the practice by placing mannequins where the goalkeeper is overloaded in taking the correct approach to attack the ball.

Dealing with in-swinging crosses played from deep positions.

In this practice we have a server on both sides who are positioned wide and higher than the edge of the penalty area. In the centre in front of the penalty area we have two centre backs lined up against two forwards and a goalkeeper. One of the servers plays an in-swinging cross for the goalkeeper to come out and deal with together with the help of the centre backs. Two mini goals can also be positioned for the defending team to attack should they win the ball. However in this practice if the defending team wins the ball they aim to play it quickly to the opposite server as if to launch a quick counter attack from the opponents’ weaker side. To overload this practice we can have the server playing crosses from various positions or by dribbling towards the goal line and playing cut back passes. We can also overload by adding another forward which further conditions us to be more precise on intercepting the ball. This will indeed require very good communication between the goalkeeper and the centre backs.

Dealing with in-swinging crosses played from deep positions.

We move on to more complex but more realistic contexts where communication between the goalkeeper and his teammates and the decision-making abilities of the players are to be further developed. In the situation above the full back (3) passes to the winger (11) and overlaps him to receive the return pass to play the cross. The practice is then repeated on the opposite flank. After a few repetitions we should build towards a higher level context which is closer to the realism and requirements of the game and especially of what is expected from our next opponent. Now we can have the winger either returning the ball to the full back to play the cross or himself cutting inside with the ball to take the shot or combine play with teammates inside the penalty area. The full back can also advance towards the goal line and play a cut back pass. The more we practice in situations where the goalkeeper and the defenders are faced with various situations the more we develop communication and this will lead to better decision-making and interceptions of the ball in the game.

By Philip Cauchi

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