Some things in life get us disproportionately excited. The lottery jackpot that reaches $100 million; any new vehicle from Tesla; our team winning a corner kick. Because when one earns this set piece there is a surprisingly small chance that we will score, but a surprisingly large opportunity of us conceding a goal from it.
Statistics are hard to come by but suggest that the rate of conversion of corners to goals is around 3% (with statistics ranging from 1.7% to 6%, depending on the league and level.) With many sides now netting up to a quarter of their goals on the counterattack, the risk of losing the ball at a corner is one not to be underrated.
So how can we maximize the chances of our teams scoring from a corner, while minimizing the risk of conceding on the break? Here are five corner routines to add variety to this important aspect of soccer.
Move One: The Near Post Flick On The Corner Kick
In this move, the flick on at the near post changes the height and angle of the ball, making it difficult for the goalkeeper to dominate the box. There is a high degree of chance involved in what happens after the flick on, but the close proximity of the ball to the goal means that there is a reasonable prospect of the ball ending up in the net.
Own goals often result from near post flick ons, but since a goal is a goal, however it is scored, we should accept the gift this brings, even if the soccer that produced it is not of the most flowing and aesthetically pleasing nature.
- In swinging corner, so right footer from left hand side, and vice versa;
- Ball delivered flat and with pace;
- Delivery high enough to miss out near post defender (or promote the inadvertent flick on from this player) but not high enough to go straight through to the keeper;
- Best header of the ball attacks the near post. This player will attract defenders, and therefore it is a reasonable possibility that one of these could end up providing the assist;
- Keeper pressured by other teammates;
- Teammates attack the middle and far post of the goal, timing their run to allow for the flick on;
- One or two players hover on the edge of the box for rebounds or half clearances;
- These players also have the responsibility of chasing back in the case of a breakout from the defending team.
Here, yellow = goalkeeper, blue is offense and red represents defense. The movement of the ball is shown by the red arrow, and movement of players by the blue.
Move Two: Who to Mark on the Corner Kick?
This corner will often be an out swinger. The best three or four headers of the ball line up one tight behind the other. The front player does not have to be as strong in the air, since their role will be foremost as a blocker. The close proximity of the attacking line of the players makes man marking extremely difficult. The players have a pre-determined area to attack when the ball is delivered.
- Out swinger, so left footer takes from the left, and right footer from the right;
- Blockers (marked ‘B’) stop man markers from getting close to the attacking line;
- Front blocker stops man markers from blocking the runs of attackers;
- Attackers break in pre-determined directions;
- Again, some players hold back to cover breaks, and hit rebounds.
Move Three: Basic Short Corner
The aim is to get a 2 v 1 at the corner. The ball is played short, and the taker immediately sprints behind the receiver. The receiver then has a choice: play the ball back to the original taker, who can cross from an improved angle, or beat the defender and cross from closer to the goal.
- Receiver moves late to avoid being picked up;
- (Even if a second defender does move out, this reduces the number of players in the box, which is more advantageous to the offence than defense.)
Move Four: The Pull Back Corner Kick
This is a precarious move, since if the player receiving the corner pass loses possession, his teammates will have advanced beyond him and the team will be vulnerable to the counter attack. However, the surprise element of it can lead to a goal scoring opportunity. It is important that this player gets in a shot on goal. At least if he misses, his teammates will have a chance to re-organize before their opponents regain possession.
- The pull back must be disguised, or there is a high risk that the defense will cut the pass out, and threaten on the break;
- It is important that the player is usually placed in the edge of the box position, so the defense do not suspect the pull back;
- The shooter must be technically strong, with a good first touch and calmness under pressure;
- The routine should be practised regularly;
- The shot should be driven low and hard, taking advantage of any potential deflections;
- A second shooter should be positioned parallel to the first, to allow a pass if the corner is not hit accurately;
- The taker rushes to add further support in case a shot is not possible;
- Teammates attack with the run up of the corner taker. That will force the defense onto the back foot, reducing their opportunity to close down the striker.
Move Five: Down to the Goalie
This highly risky move is generally only used when a team is chasing an equaliser in the latter stages of a match. It involves sending the goalkeeper up into the central area of the opposing penalty box. Although the risks that result from being caught on the break here are considerable, surprisingly few goals are conceded from this kind of move, since opponents are often focussed on retaining their lead, rather than extending it.
While the corner will be a standard one, with the offense simply attacking the ball, the very presence of the goalkeeper can cause confusion beyond their standing as a threat in themselves.
Advantages of the Move:
- The goalkeeper is often one of the biggest players in the team;
- Defensive players have their jobs from corners; the addition of a player not in their plans causes confusion;
- The goalkeeper attracts more defensive interest than his presence merits per se; this creates more space for other (possibly better headers of the ball) players;
- Defending teams are often tense, seeking to hold on to a narrow lead. The presence of an opponent, large and wearing a very bright shirt, can cause psychological, and therefore physical, chaos in the area.
Corners can never present the kind of regular goal scoring promise we hope they might. But with well thought out, and varied, strategies, their threat can be increased.
Whichever corner kick-type we choose, the following key factors should be borne in mind:
- The corner phase should end with an attempt on goal;
- The quality of delivery is key;
- Changing the angle of delivery increases the chances of scoring;
- And just to end on a high(!). Teams who score the majority of their goals from corner kicks are most likely to struggle in their leagues.
Now there’s some food for thought.
(For those interested in looking at some other corner kick routines, the video below offers some good tactical advice.)