defending crosses + corners

For young players, defending balls from the wings can be very difficult. The player’s initial positioning, decision making, mindset, and technique are all called into action. Let’s think about the challenges presented when defending a corner kick. The keeper has these thoughts running through his/her head:

  • Where do I stand? Where is the best initial position?
  • Why is the other team’s striker standing in front of me/pushing me/standing on my foot/talking to me/elbowing me/pushing my defender into me…etc.?
  • Do I have my defenders marking correctly (e.g. goalside)? Is everyone marked up?
  • Ok…ball is in the air – can I get to it? Is it short or over my head? Will my defenders have a clean clearance or do I need to challenge an attacker?
  • I’m going for it – I need to challenge this ball. Gotta yell “KEEPER”. Catch or punch? I need to time this correctly…need to get my knee up…hands up…got it – ball cleared.
  • Now – gotta get my defenders to STEP UP.

Realize that this sequence takes about 45 seconds from the time the ball is placed to the time of (hopefully) a clearance or a save. Most of the breakdowns come in judging the flight of the ball and the ultimate decision being made. Many pro keepers will still be seen “flapping” at balls on corners because they mess up the timing, are a bit over ambitious when coming for balls, or simply misjudge the flight. Even more difficult can be the long cross from the wing during the run of play, because the marking is often not tight, and you will have attackers running at the goal at full speed. What do you do?

Pro keeper Scott Loach of GKIcon wrote a nice bit for FourFourTwo recently – he gives these excellent tips on defending corners:

BE LOUD: Make yourself as loud as possible. A lot of teams put a striker on the goalkeeper now, but if you’re shouting in his ear he won’t want to be anywhere near you, which will give you extra space.

TAKE UP THE RIGHT POSITION: If it’s an inswinger stand a bit tighter to your line near the centre of the goal, so you can go either way. If it’s an outswinger you should be two-three yards off your line – this will give you more of a chance when coming to claim the ball.

COMMAND THE TROOPS: Make sure you bring back all your defenders early and get them organised so everyone knows what their job is and there’s no one left unmarked. Be loud and aggressive – make sure they hear you.

MAKE YOURSELF BIG: Put your arms up in the air and challenge the kicker to put the ball in your area. You’re like a lion in your cage and you’re saying to him, “Go on put it in there, it’s going to be mine.”

GIVE AS GOOD AS YOU GET: If someone is pushing you round, trying to unsettle you, give it to them back. You’ve got to make sure you don’t get pinned in. Use your voice, your size and your presence to let the opposition know you’re there. Your aggression has to be controlled because you don’t want to go too far and give away a penalty.

MASTER THE DARK ARTS: Treading on the toes of the opposition is one of many tactics used by goalkeepers to put them off. This will make them give you an extra yard or two – giving you a clear path to collect the ball.

FOCUS ON THE BALL: You can only look at what’s around you for a certain amount of time, then you’ve got to concentrate on the ball. You can’t do the defender’s job for them. You can try and address it and be as loud as you can, but your main priority is the ball.

DON’T HESITATE: Ideally you’d like to catch it, to take the pressure off, but if you’re coming for the ball and you’re committed and you have to punch it, then that’s what you do. Don’t get caught in two minds because you’ll end up doing nothing. Make your mind up early and stick to it.”

The best way to improve your skills, however, are drills (and match experience). Here are some nice clips from GKIcon that illustrate the relevant techniques.

First, a punch drill:

Now for some high catch drills – this follows on the solo drills I talked about previously.  Note the keeper’s focus on coming forward on the ball:

A movement drill – this will help with lateral and backwards movement:

If you have a few extra minutes, here are some very long tutorials on taking crosses from the St. Louis Goalkeeping Academy. These are very good with respect to the details of the technique, but a little on the long side and perhaps dull for the younger kids.  Enjoy!

First the lecture:

Now the demonstrations:

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