Deflections are a goalkeeper’s worst nightmare.
They think they have a bead on the ball, only to have it re-direct off an attacker or their own defender, changing trajectory in an instant and leaving only milliseconds to react. It’s often an incredibly difficult play, and one that’s usually chalked up to simply “bad luck” for the keeper. But these strokes of “bad luck” happen way too frequently for a goalie to simply resign themselves to the idea they’re powerless against them. Deflections played a massive role in the outcome of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, as many quality teams fell victim to the record-setting 12 own goals scored throughout the course of the tournament.
But how do you train against a play that’s, by its very nature, freakish and abnormal? Serie A club Bologna F.C. has some awesome ideas:
Hat tip to Deadspin’s Tom Ley for bringing these innovative drills to our attention. This training is a great example of how keepers can prepare for the unexpected. Rather than chalking up deflections to “bad luck,” goalies should see them as the ultimate test of reaction time, hand-eye coordination, body control and explosive agility. Like any skill, saving deflections can be trained—it just takes a little creativity.