Can You Actually STEAL The Ball From A Goalkeeper? (Explained)

Last updated on December 1st, 2022

A striker stealing the ball from the goalkeeper and scoring a goal is something that can be seen from time to time. However, there are some rules that are limiting the ways a striker can do this in a match.

So, if you are a footballer or a football fan and want to know more about these rules, you are right where you want to be. 

This article will focus on this manner, more precisely on Law 12.2 of the Laws of the Game. 

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Can you steal the ball from the goalkeeper?

It is possible to steal the ball from the goalkeeper under certain circumstances, especially when the goalkeeper is not in control of the ball. However, if the goalkeeper is deemed to be in control of the ball, stealing the ball will result in a foul.

These rules are valid only in the penalty area and are protecting the goalkeeper from some actions of other players that are illegal or can cause an injury. Law 12.2 of the Laws of the Game are very clear about this and states that:

An indirect kick is awarded if a player prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from the hands or kicks or attempts to kick the ball when the goalkeeper is in the process of releasing it.

After the goalkeeper releases the ball, all of the players are free to play with it. This would mean that a player can’t get the ball earlier when the goalkeeper still has control over it.

If he does so, the goalkeeper’s team will be awarded an indirect free kick.

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When does the goalkeeper have control of the ball?

As a footballer on the offence, it’s important to know when is it legal to steal the ball from the goalkeeper.  

The same goes for the goalkeepers. It’s best to know when you have full control of the ball in order to be able to guard it and know if a player is illegally trying to steal it from you. 

According to Law 12.2 of the Laws of the Game, there are 3 scenarios that determine when a goalkeeper has control of the ball:

  1. The ball is between the hands or between the hand and any surface (e.g. ground, own body) or by touching it with any part of the hands or arms, except if the ball rebounds from the goalkeeper or the goalkeeper has made a save.
  1. Holding the ball in the outstretched open hand.
  1. Bouncing it on the ground or throwing it in the air.

As a striker, you can’t take the ball from the goalkeeper while he is doing one of these three things. The law is clear about this too and says that a goalkeeper cannot be challenged by an opponent when in control of the ball with the hand(s).

Imagine a match without this law. If it weren’t for these rules, the goalkeepers would be put at a risk, and there would be many more goals scored in an unsportsmanlike way.!

That would make the game less interesting and much more unnecessarily aggressive. 

An indirect kick is awarded if a player prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from the hands or kicks or attempts to kick the ball when the goalkeeper is in the process of releasing it.

This is the first rule mentioned in this article. To make it more understandable, here’s an explanation and an example of a real match where it happened.

So, let’s say that you are a striker that wants to take the ball from the goalkeeper. You can’t do it while he is either passing it with his hands or throwing it in order to kick it. 

However, if he throws the ball to the ground, that means that the ball is in play. Here, you can freely take the ball and score

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Here are some examples from both the illegal and legal scenarios mentioned. 

#1 Barcelona vs Real Sociedad (2014/15) 

Here, Neymar steals the ball while the goalkeeper is trying to kick it. Real Sociedad was awarded an indirect kick, while the referee booked Neymar and gave him a yellow card. 

Based on the Laws of the Game, you cannot steal the ball from the goalkeeper as he is punting the ball. This will result in an indirect free kick to the goalkeeper’s team.

#2 Tottenham vs Birmingham (2002/03)

Birmingham’s goalkeeper failed to check if there are any opposite players around, so he casually threw the ball to the ground in order to kick it. Robbie Keane was behind him and took this chance to score a perfectly legal goal. 

Since the goalkeeper is deemed not to be in control of the ball, Keane did not commit a foul.

The goalkeeper is in control of the ball

There are quite a few definitions of how the goalkeeper is in control of the ball.

When the goalkeeper has control of the ball, he can bounce it, throw it in the air and catch it again, or walk freely with it. 

However, if he or she throws the ball in order to pass it or kick it, all of the players are free to play with it

There is a scenario when the goalkeeper can hold the ball using any part of his body or even the surface. This is also legal where he has full control of the ball

Here are some examples of a player taking the ball from the goalkeeper and scoring a goal.

#1 Liverpool vs Anzhi Makhachkala (2012/13)

Anzhi’s goalkeeper was holding the ball. Liverpool’s Daniel Agger snuck in, kicked the ball out of the goalkeeper’s hands, and scored a goal. Since this was against the law, it would be considered as a foul.

In a similar fashion, heading the ball out of the goalkeeper’s hands would be deemed an illegal act because the goalkeeper would be determined to be in control of the ball. As such, it will be considered a foul and the ball will be awarded back to the goalkeeper.

#2 Ronaldinho

In a similar scenario, Ronaldinho stole the ball from this goalkeeper while he was in the process of performing a drop kick.

The referee correctly called for a foul as the goalkeeper was in control of the ball.

The goalkeeper is not in control of the ball

This is the opposite scenario of the one explained before. Simply said, if the goalkeeper released the ball from his possession and he no longer controls it, everyone can play with it.

So, for example, if the goalkeeper chooses to drop the ball and start dribbling, the striker can steal it and score a goal. 

To see what it looks like in a real match, here’s an example from an intense match in the Champions League.

Real Madrid vs Paris Saint-Germain (2021/22)

In this match, PSG’s goalkeeper, Gianluigi Donnarumma was put under pressure by Karim Benzema. This led to Donnarumma passing the ball to Real Madrid’s Vinicius Jr. who then assisted Benzema in scoring a goal.

Diogo Costa vs Ghana (World Cup 2022)

In this World Cup group stage match between Portgual and Ghana, goalkeeper Diogo Costa almost lost the ball after the Ghana attacker tried to steal the ball from him.

Since the ball was rather far away from him, it was deemed that Diogo Costa is not in control of the ball, and the Ghana attacker had every right to attempt to steal it from him.

Conclusion

Before a player can steal the ball from the goalkeeper, the player needs to make sure that the goalkeeper is defined as not having control of the ball.

Otherwise, it will be called a foul!

Another tricky rule would be offside, and you can find out why it is needed here.

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