When a goalkeeper spectacularly prevents the ball from crossing the goal line, the football commentators often say: »Oh, what a great save that was!« At first sight it looks that goalkeeper just dived and pushed the ball away. But it is not that simple. Goalkeepers must do a lot more to hope that the ball will not end at their back. And that is even before the shot is being taken.
To be at the right place at the right time is crucial in all aspects of human lives. It is no different in goalkeeping. Goalkeepers should be positioned properly in order to hope to make a save. But positioning will be the subject in one of the upcoming posts. In this one, the focus is on goalkeeper’s preparation before the shot is fired at goal.
When a player is about to hit the ball, goalkeepers make a slight movement towards the ball. That helps them to concentrate, lean the body forward and it prepares them to react in any direction the ball will go. That slight movement forward is most often a jump. Not a very high or long one, but noticeable, if you just focus on a goalkeeper. The jump can also be made just at the spot, so that goalkeeper doesn’t even move forward. In both cases the jump is made in a way that both feet touch the ground simultaneously. Those are basics that every young goalkeeper is, or at least should be, thaught at the beginning. Nevertheless, this is a detail which hugely separates good from the best.
So, just before the player is about to hit the ball a goalkeeper moves forward. But that is far from being all. The most important thing is that both feet are already on the ground just before the ball leaves the player’s boot. That means that the slight jump or slight movement forward is already finished just before the ball leaves the player’s boot. By doing that, goalkeepers enable themselves to instantly react in any different direction the ball will go. If both feet are not on the ground when the shot is fired, goalkeeper’s reaction is slower, because they have to land first and then react with the ball already flying towards them. It is most often not a problem when dealing with long-range shots, where goalkeepers have more time to react, but when a shot is fired from close range, the problem escalates with every late second.
Everything sounds easy, but trust us, it is not. Even the goalkeepers at the highest level have problems with this, especially with all the best players who can fake a shot or suddenly decide to shoot, even from the most impossible angles. So next time, when you watch a football match on television, keep an eye on goalkeepers. You will find out that most of them don’t prepare for the shot as ideally as you might think.
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