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Coaches / Analysis / Details

Quantitative analysis (3)


Trends in the goalkeeper effectiveness

{fe4191ea-ecea-4e94-8006-9ead341af0bc,Figure 11} gives an overview of the goalkeeper saves per match and team (average of the eight best teams).

Whereas an average of 15.1 shots were saved at the 2011 World Championship, an average of 12 saves per match were counted at the last two World Championships. This is a decrease of almost 20 percent.

The same trend could be observed in the goalkeeping efficiency, i.e. the total number of shots/saves (see {fea1d2f7-0e42-44fa-afe8-a9d103165eca,figure 12}). At the 2011 World Championship, the goalkeepers successfully saved an average of 37.3% of all shots on goal, whereas only 32.1% of all shots were saved at France 2017 (-13.9%). The 2019 World Championship saw a slight improvement in the goalkeeping efficiency (32.8%). It seems that the goalkeeping efficiency is at least not getting worse.

Despite the negative trend, goalkeeping remains a key factor for success in top-level handball.

{db553b1c-9ffb-4a92-aedb-bf2b969c9f4c,Figure 3} shows the individual results of the eight best teams. The goalkeepers of world champions Denmark achieved by far the best save rate (36.3%). Sweden’s goalkeepers achieve a similar result (36.2%).


Percentage of goalkeeper saves differentiated by 6m shots, wing shots, and 9m shots

{b9f5e44f-a3f7-4a52-8d5b-64acba4e0ccd,Figure 13} shows a clear trend in the goalkeepers’ efficiency when saving shots from different positions in positional attack:

  • At the last World Championships, the save efficiency for shots from long range (9m shots) did not change much. In the matches at GER/DEN 2019, however, it clearly decreased by 4.2 percent. This is due to the back-court players’ improved shot effectiveness; quick, sudden straight and jump shots (and often with a defender blocking the goalkeeper’s line of sight) proved especially effective.
  • The save efficiency for shots from wing positions has increased, whereas the save efficiency for shots from close range (6m shots) has decreased slightly.


Percentage of goalkeeper saves differentiated by 7m shots, fast breaks, and breakthroughs ({91a6d79b-5b9e-46f5-bb4d-53285574144c,figure 14})

The unmarked throwing actions (that is, the thrower is able to shoot on goal almost without contact with or influence of the opponent) provide an even clearer picture:

  • In the last ten years, the save rate for shots from first and second phase counter-attacks has decreased by more than 50%.
  • At GER/DEN 2019, this negative trend stopped. However, today’s goalkeepers do not have a real chance (save efficiency of 13%) in these unmarked throwing situations (that is, against a player jumping into the goal area).
  • Since 2011, the save rate for 7m shots has been decreasing; at 16.7%, the 2019 World Championship saw the lowest save rate in the past 12 years.

However, the save rate for shots from breakthrough situations (that is, breakthrough actions from long range that frequently result in an almost unmarked throwing situation from the goal-area line) provides no clear picture. The reasons may be based on the different ways of observing such situations.


Although it seems that the negative trend in the goalkeeping efficiency has stopped in the last years, it becomes more and more difficult for goalkeepers to act successfully.

Today, back-court players also use a wide range of shot variations. They are able to vary the timing of their straight and jump shots (for example, quick or delayed shots based on the opponent’s behaviour). With the final throwing impulse from the forearm or wrist, the shot direction can still be changed which makes it even more difficult for the goalkeepers to see or anticipate shots.

However, the goalkeeper’s role in modern top-level handball should not be underestimated. Often it is just a single successful save in very specific, critical game phases that can be decisive for the success of a team. And, of course, top goalkeepers can still be successful throughout the entire match, for example, Denmark’s goalkeeper in the 2019 final against Norway: Landin’s (DEN) successful saves throughout the entire game were an important factor for Denmark’s success at the 2019 World Championship.