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What Does a Goalkeeper Do in Soccer? | 5 Main Missions

What Does a Goalkeeper Do in Soccer? | 5 Main Missions

A goalkeeper is an exciting player to watch out for on a soccer field. He can touch the ball with his hands, wears a unique jersey, and is usually quite an acrobatic athlete.

You’ll often find the weakest player on a team to be the goalkeeper in amateur leagues and teams. But that quickly changes as you rise up on the soccer table.

Goalkeepers in pro teams are known for their athletic physique, acrobatic ability, and team-leading characteristic. They have different roles and responsibilities compared to other players.

And so, the rules that apply to a goalkeeper too are acutely different than the rest of the team.

But before we get carried away, let’s look at what a goalkeeper does or is expected to do in soccer!

What Does a Goalkeeper Do in Soccer?

A soccer goalkeeper is the last line of defense for a team. When all the defensive tactics and maneuvers fail, a goalkeeper can still make a difference and save the day.

And though saving shots directed at the goal is the prime role of a goalkeeper, that’s not all he contributes to the team.

A goalkeeper is often the defensive mastermind, ball distributor, and the team’s eyes and ears on the pitch. So, let’s get a closer look at these traits and see what they mean in a live game!

Goal Protection

Scoring goals win you matches, and conceding goals is how you lose them. And though defenders stop attacks before they reach the goal, it’s the goalkeeper who blocks the final shot.

Whether it is shots made in a playing game, a freekick from a dangerously close distance, or a penalty shot, the goalkeeper is a defending team’s last hope for stopping it.

goalkeeper catches the ball

And seeing how treacherous some shots at the goal can be (depending on the ball’s spinning or deflection), you need to be responsive and athletic to stop the ball from crossing the goal line.

That’s why most of the star soccer goalies you see are often the most acrobatic athletes.

Take an example of Iker Casillas or Petr Cech in their prime. Apart from their unreal reaction time, they impressively reached the corner of the goal in a single stride.

Defense Coordination

A goalkeeper is considered a prominent part of a team’s defense. Especially if it’s someone like Neuer who loves coming out of the box and has more midfield passes than many midfielders!

But from the game’s perspective, a goalkeeper is in an ideal place to coordinate the defense. He gets almost a complete picture of what’s happening in the game and the other team’s tactics.

And from his observations, he guides his defenders to look out for the threats that only a goalkeeper sees coming.

goalkeeper observes his team

He can ask the defenders to stay deep (near the goal) or go further up the pitch for an offside trap. Or even what player to cover for a specific defender.

Can’t think of a good situation to relate this to? Tune back into Manchester United’s squad for the 1999 treble led by Peter Schmeichel.

Schmeichel was one of the only seasoned and experienced players on the squad. And that is seen avidly through his aggressive emotions and defense coordination throughout the finals.

Ball “Distribution”

Ball distribution in soccer is who gets the ball after a goal kick. If you’ve watched a couple of soccer matches, you know how often the ball gets out of play on goal-side for a goal-kick.

The goalkeeper then decides what part of the field the game starts from again, whether it’s a short pass to the closest defender or a lob-pass to a running winger.

But a goalkeeper doesn’t always have to wait for a goal-kick to distribute the ball. He can save an attempt on the goal and quickly launch the ball to another side of the field.

goalkeeper pushes the ball away from the goal

Also, a goalkeeper can get a back-pass from one side of the field. After which he can distribute it to the other side of the pitch to quickly shift the momentum.

Follow up David De Gea in his match against Newcastle in the 2021 season.

Other than his remarkable saves in the match, he single-handedly launched a counter attack that was eventually converted by Bruno Fernandez into a goal. A perfect example of smart ball distribution!

Taking Freekicks

Taking freekicks is generally the domain of a striker or an attacking midfielder. But there are times when a goalkeeper can put up quite a show in these sniper-shots at the goal.

A glaring example here is Rogerio Ceni of Sao Paulo Brazil. He was a mean freekick taker for the team as 61 of his 135 goals came from free kicks.

goalkeeper takes free kick

And though you don’t usually see a goalkeeper coming a far way out for a freekick, there are a few reasons why a goalie is sometimes the best person for the shot.

Like when a team is a man short due to a booking or late injury and needs all the manpower in the opponent’s box to capitalize on a free kick.

Or, when the game is in its dying seconds and the team needs all the players close to the goal for a rebound.

Read more: Can You Change Goalies For A Shootout In Soccer?

Scoring Headers

A soccer goalkeeper is usually the tallest player on the team. And that makes him the perfect contender for scoring headers.

Although it doesn’t happen often in a professional match, it’s quite an aggressive move that may even work.

The idea is to get more players in the box for a higher chance of getting into contact with the ball. So work out your jumping and heading skills if you’re a keeper too!

goalkeeper as a scoring header

However, the reason this doesn’t happen often enough is because of the evident drawback of a rebound.

If your team loses possession even with an extra player in the area, the opposing side then has to try their luck at an open goal, which usually works.

Apart from that, it’s a necessary skill and an important role of a goalkeeper to be fluent in.


A goalkeeper is the most diversely skilled player on a soccer team. He knows how to handle the ball at his feet, can use his hands, jumps acrobatically to save shots farther away from him.

A good goalkeeper is often the indication of a stronger team. We commonly see teams with a strong goalkeeper win leagues and tournaments more than the teams that don’t.

And whether you are a player who wants to be a goalkeeper, are the parent of such a kid, or you only want to understand a goalkeeper’s role in a soccer match, I hope the above information helped you out!