We recently covered one of the “myths” – never being beaten at the near post. Another myth is “commanding the box” at set-pieces like corners. 

In this post we discuss the dilemma keepers face at corner kicks. Should you always come “and command the box”, or should you read the kick and stay close to the goal-line? 

Everyone in their place – organize

At corner kicks, hopefully you’ve positioned your defenders where you want them, and have everyone sharp and ready. You then need to get your own positioning right.

Each goalkeeper is different, and some like players on each post, others prefer everyone (man-)marking a striker. Some (coaches) like their defenders to mark “zonally” – where the defender is responsible for a small area of the “box” and anyone that enters it. Some like a defender to make a (one-man) wall 10 yards from the corner, others don’t.

Bossing your box means “be the boss”

There is no right or wrong – but the key is organization. Without it, you have chaos. With it, you have a good chance to prevent a goal.

It’s up to the goalkeeper to make sure this is carried out. Quickly and accurately.

You have to be the boss – make sure everyone hears your voice and carries out their responsibility. Boss your box.

Then it’s up to you.

If everyone is organized, it’s up to you, the goalkeeper, to manage the situation. You have the best view, the most scope to move, and of course, hands and arms.

You have the best options to adjust your position and capture or secure the ball as it’s crossed. Don’t rely on the defenders – they are busy thinking about their markers and how they are going to make contact with the ball. They don’t have hands and arms. They will need to use their heads, chest, legs and boot to get the ball clear.

Boss the box

So you must take control of the situation and act.

This may entail moving smartly forward and catching or punching the ball. Shout “mine, Keeper’s, or got it” to make sure they know you’re in charge.

Alternatively it may mean staying put, close to goal, and shouting “away” to your defenders to clear the ball for you.

You may have to jump to reach the ball, and in the process, make (fair) contact with the opponents and your defenders. Remember you have a big advantage – arms and fists mean an extra 2-3 feet. Use it whenever you can, and be brave and confident.

Once the ball is away from the goal and there is minimal risk of a lob into the corners of the goal, shout “step” to tell your defenders to push out, away from the goal, to compact the defense and catch attackers offside.

How not to do it

Let’s look at a recent example of how not to manage the box – the Spurs keeper in the Watford game.

Watch the video below. Note the organization in the box – and the one-man wall. No one on the posts, and the keeper 2/3rd of the way back (closer to the far post than near post) about a yard off the line. Defenders look like they have their man or zone sorted.

They look organized.

The attack is organized too and the two central strikers run in from the penalty spot to challenge for a centrally placed cross. They end up two-v-one right on the six yard line, and bundle the ball in.

Notice the keeper. Initially he has a good position. He has great line of sight to the ball, and is ready for anything – the ball over his head, the short ball towards the near post, the ball lofted into the six yard box. img_8826.jpg

As the ball drops the keeper comes out to his six yard line, the attackers are making their way in, but haven’t arrived yet. The ball is just out of reach if he’d jumped. We ringed the keeper in the picture below, and the ball is the white blob above and left of him, next to the post.


But he’s late, and he seems to hesitate. By the time the ball (now also ringed) is low enough to catch or punch, he’s way out of position – in “no man’s land” – useless to collect the ball or protect the goal.


A goal resulted. The commentator is lenient – this is bad goalkeeping and the errors are easy to see;

  • Slow to move towards the ball,
  • bad reading of the flight of the ball,
  • and then hesitation.
  • in addition, having players on the post would likely have stopped the goal.

Sometimes the kick is just too good.

In this second example, Man Utd’s De Gea, probably the World’s best keeper, makes a mess of this corner from French team PSG in the European Championships League.

The kick is almost perfect – high and hard, swinging in towards goal, it drops sharply towards the back of the six yard box. The keeper could have read it and come out to gather it, and the defensive midfielder (Matic) should have tracked the attacker as he made his move.

In our minds, the keeper De Gea is most at fault – the kicker used to play for Man Utd and he should have experienced kicks like these in training. But he either lost sight of the ball in the floodlights, or just hesitated. Either way this was a costly mistake.

But sometimes, even the best keeper in the World is beaten by the best of corner kicks.

Do’s and Dont’s

We hope this has helped – this is one of the biggest challenges for young keepers – come out or stay put.

The keys to success are;

  • Organize – make sure everyone is in the right place and knows their responsibilities
  • Boss the box  – be vocal and show confidence
  • Be aggressive and decisive – make your mind up and don’t hesitate.
  • Judge the flight of the ball before you begin to move.
  • Watch for swinging and swerving balls
  • Estimate where the ball will drop to hand-height (where you can catch or punch)
  • Decide to punch or catch – if in doubt, punch

Tips for Coaches – confidence-cohesion-technique.

Practice corners and oblique free kicks. make sure the defense and keeper are one – cohesion – and organized in seconds.

Regular practice will build confidence – in both the keeper and their defenders. Encourage them to take individual responsibility.

Help the keeper practice their techniques – organizing quickly, punching, and catching, in  crowded goalmouths. Similar rondos can be created as we discussed here. Put the keeper under more pressure than they are likely to encounter in a game.