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Corners and throw-ins goal-scoring opportunities

By Joseph A. Luxbacher

By Gene Klein, Quaker Valley High School

Statistics indicate that restarts, or dead-ball situations, provide some of the best opportunities in soccer to create goal-scoring chances. Depending on the level of play, some studies show that 30 to 40 percent of all goals are scored from a restart, with a significant portion of those from throw-ins or corner kicks.

The reasons for this are really twofold: first, many players have the athleticism and skill to throw the ball great distances and serve corner kicks with accuracy and velocity; second, corners and throw-ins are special situations in soccer in which a coach can repeatedly rehearse specific plays. Functional practices can ultimately enhance individual and team proficiency in these areas. Because corners and throw-ins initiate dangerous goal-scoring opportunities, it is important for you to develop training activities that replicate game situations. Specific practices for corner kicks and throw-ins are important not only for technical and tactical concerns but also for spectator appeal. The excitement of the crowd builds every time a team is about to take a corner kick. If a team has a player with a strong, accurate throw into the penalty box, everyone from spectator to opponent is focused on that moment. Players need to realize that games can be won or lost in these situations.

You need to consider taking and possessing throw-ins from the defending third, the middle third, and the attacking third of the field. Several points are important in each area. Maintaining team shape is crucial to any throw-in taken from the defensive third. Should your team be dispossessed after a throw-in, they must immediately be able to defend with numbers. Another consideration is the choice between playing safe, short, simple passes to maintain possession or making long throws to get the ball upfield into the opponent’s territory with a higher risk of losing possession.

In the middle third of the field you should train your team to respond quickly to the ball out of bounds and execute a quick throw or exploit a defensive weakness with a long throw into the attacking third of the field. Often the long throw at midfield can take advantage of a defensive lapse because either the opponent’s defenders are disorganized or space is available behind them to create an effective attack on goal.

It is in the attacking third where the best chances emerge. For throw-ins, essentially you can consider two strategies—a quick throw or a long throw. The element of surprise is a key. An alert player and team can execute a quick throw that can take advantage of a team still in transition from offense to defense or disorganized over their marking responsibilities. A quick, short throw that emphasizes possession may result in an early cross or perhaps an effective combination play that can lead to an early strike on goal. A quick throw to a talented 1 vs. 1 player can allow him or her to improvise and penetrate a defense with the dribble, which is usually a dangerous and exciting attacking play.

The effectiveness of the long throw in the attacking third depends on several factors, the most important being whether you have a player who can throw the ball for distance, accuracy, and velocity. Other considerations may apply. If your team does not have players who can consistently win the throw-in or a second or third ball in the air, it is probably better to maintain possession. If the opponent has a dominant goalkeeper or several prevailing defenders, a long throw might be futile because loss of possession would be likely. Long throw-ins are not as frequent at higher levels because those teams usually have goalkeepers and defenders who can consistently win those balls. Weather might also be a consideration. If you believe that the long throw can be an effective attacking weapon, there is no substitute for well-timed, well-choreographed runs. Players should throw balls to specific target areas, with precisely timed runs. Players should also be in position to attack the second and third balls that come off a defender from a head or clearance.

Corner kicks are similar to long throw-ins because much depends on the quality of the service and the abilities of the defending team. Consider inswinging or outswinging balls as well as short or long corners. Deploy players in the areas where the defending team is vulnerable or where your attacking players are strong. Still, you must consider team shape and balance. Discussion can center on serving balls to specific areas and timing runs into those spaces. In general, attackers should make runs to the near post, far post, and the central part of the goal. The location of the service, the velocity and swerve on the ball, and the timing of runs into those areas are crucial to any success for attacking corners.

Because corners and throw-ins create scoring chances, there is no question that it is helpful to rehearse runs and serves into specific areas. Quality of service remains an obvious key. If your team does not have a player who can consistently serve accurate balls into the danger areas, then you should emphasize possession passes. If you have a player who can serve wickedly accurate corners or throws and have the supporting players to attack balls in the air, then you should rehearse the more direct plays. Whether playing short or long, the team must maintain shape and balance to prevent counterattacks. At the same time you should be aware that too much regimentation can make attacks predictable and defensible. Therefore, when organizing practice situations for corners and throws, you should strike a balance between organization and creativity, for that is the key to all soccer tactics.

When practicing throw-in drills, keep in mind the following key points.

  • Organize players where they will be the most dangerous, regardless of position.
  • Flank players should generally take throws because they are most likely to be closest to the ball. Quick throws, however, are beneficial; do not suspend play just to get a flank player in position.
  • Whenever possible use players with ability to throw long.
  • Runs from key players should be similar most of the time, so the entire team knows everyone’s role.
  • Emphasize that although just one to three players might be directly involved, everyone needs to be alert and moving off the ball so that all options are available for an effective attack.
  • Encourage improvisation.

For corner kick drills, consider these key points:

  • Organize players where they will be the most dangerous, regardless of position.
  • Runs should be to the key areas—near post, far post, and central part of the goal—although the key players should alter their runs and adjust angles to avoid being too predictable.
  • Players should take positions to cover each third of the penalty area—the first third (end line to the goal area), the second third (the goal area to the penalty spot, or 12-yard spot), and the final third (the 12-yard spot to the edge of the penalty area).
  • Emphasize that although just three or four players might be making runs to the goal, everyone needs to be alert for the second and third balls that have deflected off an attacking player or that a defending player has not fully cleared.
  • Emphasize constant adjustment of runs to react to the serve and the positioning of the defenders. Runs need not be from long distances. Sometimes short, precise, explosive movements are better.
  • Encourage improvisation.

When practicing throw-in drills, follow this pattern of player and pressure variations:

  1. 11 vs. 0—unpressured throw-ins with timing of runs and execution of various options
  2. 11 vs. 3—three defenders added around the ball to force players to use certain options
  3. 11 vs. 6—pressure added in the specific area of the throw-in to force the team to play out of that pressure using different options
  4. 11 vs. 11—using passive pressure
  5. 11 vs. 11—using full pressure in a controlled scrimmage

For corner kick drills, use this pattern:

  1. 11 vs. 0—unpressured corner kicks with timing of runs and execution of various options
  2. 11 vs. 3—three defenders added to cover the near post, far post, and central part of the goal
  3. 11 vs. 6—pressure added in the penalty area, forcing the team to adjust their runs and serves
  4. 11 vs. 11—using passive pressure but forcing the team to adjust their runs and serves
  5. 11 vs. 11—using full pressure in a controlled scrimmage

This is an excerpt from Attacking Soccer.

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