#FIFA Insight

Episode 5: Goalkeeper starting positions, 1v1s and connection with the defensive line

FIFA, 13 Dec 2022


With the knockout stages in full flow, Chris Loxston sits down with Pascal Zuberbühler and Faryd Mondragón to resume their analysis of the goalkeeping trends from the tournament.

So far, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ has produced a significant number of clean sheets, but what are the goalkeeping trends influencing the outcomes of matches and contributing to these resolute defensive displays? Together with Loxston, goalkeeping experts Mondragón and Zuberbühler delve into goalkeepers' starting positions, how they defend 1v1s and the goalkeeper's connection with the defensive line - three factors that are having a major impact in the competition.

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Starting positions
When out of possession, it can be tempting for goalkeepers to stay in or around their goalmouth. However, by stepping up - even when the attacking team is in possession in the goalkeeper's defensive third - the goalkeeper takes up a favourable position from which to pressure strikers, and can make them uncomfortable when taking a shot. At this World Cup, goalkeepers are taking starting positions slightly higher than the ones we saw at Russia 2018, especially when the ball is in the goalkeeper's own defensive third. This is significant, since taking one step forward can advance the whole team up the pitch.

Explosiveness has been highlighted as a key attribute of the top goalkeepers in Qatar. When a goalkeeper springs onto an oncoming striker, they reduce the size of the goal, making it difficult for the attacker to finish.  Being "explosive" requires a combination of traits: you need to be in good physical condition to charge the attacker, an intelligent reader of the game to spot the right moment to charge out, and brave enough to come out of goal at match-defining moments. The last of these elements is particularly important. In certain circumstances, making an explosive move is a logical thing for a goalkeeper to do. But does the goalkeeper have the strength of nerve to come out of their goal in the 90th minute? 

Positioning in 1v1s
A goalkeeper's positioning during 1v1 situations becomes ingrained at an early age. The positional habits a keeper acquires as they develop are reflected in the instinctive movements they make in their senior career. One fundamental principle taught to young goalkeepers is that they should position themselves on an imaginary line that runs from the centre of the goalmouth to wherever the ball is on the pitch; this narrows the angles at the near post and far post, making it as difficult as possible for the attacker to score. 

A goalkeeper's connection with the defensive line
In episode three of FIFA Insight, the goalkeeping experts discussed the increasing importance of bringing goalkeepers closer to their out-field team-mates. Nowhere is this harmony more important than in the connection between a goalkeeper and their defensive line. Strikers pray on hesitation. When out of possession and in their own defensive third, both the goalkeeper and the defence need to be certain as to who is responsible for engaging attackers at critical moments, and this understanding needs to be trained over time. Decisive, short instructions from a goalkeeper, such as "stay", "go" and "come" can reduce the risk of any misunderstandings.

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