One of the most nerve-jangling things for a keeper is to face a striker all alone – the dreaded “one versus one”.

By one v one we mean any situation where the keeper has to face a lone striker. That includes penalty kicks, as well as “break aways”.

So forget everything you think about 1v1’s, and face the reality.

The striker should score MOST of the time. We tell our keepers to expect to be successful, one in three occasions. Thats to say, about 33% of the time.

So in a Penalty shootout, best of five, we expect them to save 1 out of the five, and perhaps two (ie 1/3 or 2/6). If they get two, we should win the shootout. No pressure!

Same for breakaways. One in three. Thats all we expect. So, actually, NO PRESSURE. The pressure should all be on the striker. They are expected to score. The keeper just has to do their best.

The drill

In this drill we try to arm the keeper with the ideas to best cope with each situation. Because every situation will be very different.

We have one keeper in goal, on their natural resting place, say just on the edge of their penalty box, while the coach is ready to pass a ball from around the halfway line.

Another keeper plays striker, and they run in when the coach shouts go. The ball is played through by the coach from ideally 30-40yrds (depending how much space you have) from different parts of the field – central, wide, etc.

The keeper has to choose whether to come for it, and pick it up inside the area, or kick it if outside. If the striker gets the ball early and is dribbling, the keeper has to decide how far to come out “and narrow the angle” and what what angle to take to best cover the goal.

This time the keeper is able to smother ball inside area.

To give them confidence, the first ball is kicked hard enough to easily make the area before the striker gets to it.

The following through balls are more difficult, dropping just short of the box and forcing the keeper to make a decision – kick, dribble, but NOT pick up the ball.

Add the odd ball straight to the striker who then dribbles – a proper 1v1.

This is where the challenge really comes, and the keeper has to judge where to come out to. Normally we prefer the keeper to stay inside the penalty box as much as possible, to retain “their arms”, and make themselves “big”.

In this sequence of images we show how the keeper can make themselves big, making it hard for the striker to choose – shoot, chip, or dribble “around” the keeper. We show how getting close to the striker narrows the angle – limiting the amount of goal the striker can see clearly – compared to staying on, or retreating to the line, which allows the striker to see almost all the goal. Its almost always counter-productive to retreat back towards goal.

Once the striker has the ball cleanly they will dribble towards the goal. the faster the keeper comes to meet them the more the striker will be unsettled. Staying in the penalty box means you can continue to use your arms to make the block. Once outside the area the arms must be kept out of the way, otherwise risk not just a direct free kick for handball but a possible yellow or red card for deliberate handball. Referees take a dim view of keepers using their hands outside the box, even if it was accidental.

Once the keeper has met the striker and has a good angle/position, which maximizes the amount of the goal they prevent the striker from seeing, they can follow the striker as they dribble towards them. Most strikers will panic and try to get a shot off quickly, and standing up and making oneself “big” is the best strategy.

A good striker will try to improve their angle by rounding the keeper, and that’s when following the striker and pouncing on the ball is the best strategy for the keeper.

Here we can see the keeper is close to the striker, and they will “fill” the goal when the striker looks up. Following the attempt to round the keeper and then diving on the ball is best.

However a striker will probably panic and try to get a shot off – simply stay “big” and try to get in the way of the shot.

Always be prepared to go back for the rebound off the post or cross bar. Diving on the ground when the shot is taken means the striker will most likely be first to any rebound. So try to stay on your feet if you can.

Playing the odds.

As we discussed above – the striker should score on average 66% of the time. There really is little pressure on the keeper. The secret is to play these odds, make sure you’re in the best position – close, fast and upright – “big” – and watch carefully the actions of the striker.

It’s always a compromise – by getting to the striker quickly you make yourself exposed to the ‘chip” over your head. There is nothing you can do about this – a good striker will opt for this shot as soon as you come off your line, if they’re smart. Some will try to round you, depending upon how much control they have of the ball.

Similarly, once outside the penalty area you lose your arms, and become a normal defender, but without. lot of the tackling skills of a good defender. You run the risk of a clumsy tackle or even handball. Referees take a dim view. Be careful!.

Above all. try to be calm and make good decisions. and remember, someone else is always to blame for these situations – not the keeper. Someone left the door open – but it’s you that will feel the draught!

Tips for coaches – Confidence Cohesion Technique

Any coach can utilize these drills with their keeper. The objectives are the same – enhance footwork, follow the ball better with the eyes, and judge the flight of the ball.

A coach can use any one of the drills independently, and involve multiple players, especially attackers, to sharpen their skills too.

Employ 1v1 in your regular practice sessions – this will help your strikers as much as your keeper, and keep it “real” for the keeper.

Try to encourage the keeper to use these skills – their footwork, their eyes and reflexes, and be brave to make the judgement calls and decisions that will come up regularly in games.