Posts Tagged ‘Bend-It-Like-Beckham’

2010 Soccer MVP: Inside-of-the-Foot … Shooting

February 26, 2010

Author’s Note: This post is one in a series of posts that breaks down the 2010 Soccer MVP Tournament competition. Be sure to look at the final results to review how ‘Inside’ was crowned champion. What do you call this part of the foot? Please vote.

There sure is a lot of emphasis placed on shooting and scoring goals. And rightfully so. After all, if you don’t shoot, you don’t score, and if you don’t score, you don’t win games. Goals in soccer are equivalent to home runs in baseball, touchdowns in football, and slam dunks or buzzer-beating shots in basketball. It’s what puts bodies in the stands and highlights on Fox Sports Report, Gol TV, and ESPN SportsCenter. The lack of goals is usually the #1 complaint voiced among sports fan when asked what’s wrong with soccer. So players, please shoot, shoot often, and score!

The shooting discipline was divided into 3 categories: power, accuracy, and breadth. In what many will consider an upset, ‘Inside’ won this discipline as well.

Power

Without a doubt, ‘Laces’ generated the most powerful shots. Besides being able to transfer the momentum of a pass or a cross to produce powerful shots, strong shots were also generated when shots were taken with the ball in a stationary position. ‘Laces’ was able to score some fantastic goals from 25-, 30-, or 35-yards out. Talk about a ‘golazo’.

‘Inside’ came in a respectable second. On crosses, ‘Inside’ generated as much power as ‘Laces’ had. But it was not able to generate as much power from stationary or set-play shots. However, ‘Inside’ was able to score some amazing goals off of free kicks. Walls and great goalies were no match for a beautifully executed and well-positioned ‘banana kick’.

On several occasions, ‘Outside’ was able to generate the same velocity as ‘Inside’ had but only rarely. ‘Bottom’ was a non-factor.

Accuracy

‘Inside’ excelled at accuracy. The same billiard table analogy I used for receiving the ball can again be applied. The flatter the surface, the more accurate the shot. On many crosses, ‘Inside’ simply had to stick out the foot and accurately redirect the ball into the net.

Accuracy is why penalty kicks and free kicks are taken with the inside-of-the-foot. A good penalty taker has to be able to hit any target inside the goal. With the inside-of-the-foot, the lower-left corner can be hit just as easily as the upper-right corner. The same holds true for direct free kicks. When David ‘Bend-It-Like’ Beckham shoots his free kicks, he always uses the inside-of-the-foot.

‘Outside’ came in second because it was more able to consistently hit its targets than ‘Laces’. When ‘Laces’ made solid contact with the ball, it would usually go straight. However, when the ball did not make solid contact with the sweet spot on top-of-the foot, a spin or curve was introduced and the direction of the shot became more unpredictable. ‘Bottom’ was once again a non-factor.

Breadth

Goalies are so good these days that it often takes incredibly precise shots to beat them. To be effective goal scorers, players need a foot surface that can give them many shooting options. The inside-of-the-foot does this and easily won this shooting subcategory. Several ‘breadth’ tests were used in determine the winner: penalty kicks and long-distance shots with defenders in the way.

Penalty Kicks

Penalty takers try to disguise the direction of the penalty kick so the goalie is forced to guess where the ball will be kicked. Good goalies know that the position of the plant and the kicker’s approach usually telegraph the placement of the kick. That is not the case with the inside-of-the-foot. Good penalty takers are able to place the plant foot in several positions and still hit all targets inside the goal (see image below).

The same is not true when using the top- or outside-of-the-foot. As illustrated below, these surfaces limit the part of the goal that can be targeted because the plant foot needs to be positioned just so in order to execute a good kick. Therefore, good goalies can usually predict where the ball will be kicked by concentrating on the position of the plant foot.

Long Distance Shots with Obstructions

Bending the ball around defenders is an extremely important skill for forwards and free-kicker takers to have. Once again, David Beckham is able to bend or curve a shot around or over walls that are set up to defend against the free kick. This skill also comes in handy on non-set plays. When a forward needs to avoid a defender from blocking a shot, a curved shot using the inside-of-the-foot will do the trick. Even when no defenders are present, forwards will curve a shot around a goalie’s outstretched hands.

Shots with the top-of-the-foot generally go straight. If a defender is standing between the shooter and the goal, whether in a wall or in the run of play, there is a high percentage that the shot will be blocked. Shots with the outside-of-the-foot did give the kicker the ability to curve the ball around a defender, but unlike the inside, these shots had less spin.

Conclusions

In a surprise, ‘Inside’ won the shooting discipline. In terms of shooting ‘accuracy’ and ‘breadth of shots’, the inside-of-the-foot was the overwhelming winner. ‘Inside’ also did quite well in the ‘power’ category.

The other disciplines evaluated in this competition were: structure, receiving, dribbling, passing, popularity among professionals, and ease of learning.

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Shots On Goal

September 4, 2009
Ever wonder why it seems that so many shots on goal are shot directly at the goalie? Sure it could be that the goalie is in a good position. But I am of a different opinion. I believe the main reason is due to which part of the foot is used to strike the ball.

Oftentimes, the instep (also known as the top-of-the-foot or laces) is used to shoot on goal. The main reason to use the instep is to produce a more powerful shot. A strong shot is great but if it is shot directly at the goalie, what is the point? Players will often get frustrated at themselves when kick after kick goes directly to the goalkeeper; yet this keeps happening. What is going on?

Different Technique
I consider myself an expert when it comes to using and understanding the importance of the inside-of-the-foot. I invented a soccer training device called Loopball which teaches players to use the inside-of-the-foot. You will see many more posts in this blog about Loopball and the importance of the inside-of-the-foot. For the purposes of this post, I believe the problem lies in the fact that shots with the instep require much less thought than shots with the inside-of-the-foot. Instep shots require brute strength. Inside-of-the-foot shots require forethought and placement.

The direction a ball travels can normally be traced back to the position of the plant-foot toe. For shots on goal, this toe is usually pointed at the middle of the goal. When an instep kick is well struck, it will travel in the direction that this toe is pointing which is where the goalkeeper is likely to be standing. It is usually the poorly-struck instep kicks that stand a better chance of going in. The same logic can be applied to shots with the inside-of-the-foot, but because more forethought is given with this type of shot, the kicks don’t always head for the middle of the goal. Using the inside-of-the-foot requires the player to think which side of the goal to aim for and whether or not to curve the shot around the defenders or goalkeeper.

From long distance, I definitely recommend using an instep kick. But when the ball is closer to the goal, have your players use the inside-of-the-foot and have them think about the kick. You’ll also be surprised how much force this type of kick can generate when struck well. The top players in the world usually use the inside-of-the-foot to score goals, especially with free kicks. David ‘Bend-It-Like’ Beckham certainly does and he is quite successful.

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Corner Kicks

August 19, 2009

Some of the most beautiful goals are scored from corner kicks. Who doesn’t enjoy a beautiful header or one-time volley into the back of the end? However, rarely will you see such a goal at the youth level. Most players are afraid to head the ball and many don’t have the eye-foot coordination to take a ball directly out of the air. Also at this age, very few goalies are assertive enough or have the hand-eye coordination to catch a ball in a congested area.

The trick to scoring more goals from corner kicks is to have all corner kicks be in-swingers … bend-it-like-Beckham kicks. Looking at the opponents goal from the field, an in-swinger is created when a right-foot kicker takes the kick from the left-corner spot or a left-foot kicker takes the kick from the right-corner spot. The kick is taken with the inside-of-the-foot with the toe pointed in an ‘up’ position. When done properly, a kick can bend or curve significantly. A ball that appears to be heading for the 6-yard line can quickly bend toward the goal. This kick will typically hit a few players and land on the ground in front of the goal just waiting for an opportunistic forward to kick the ball into the goal.

To implement this strategy:

  • Choose a right- and left-footed player capable of putting some bend of the ball and who can reach the far post on a corner kick.
  • When taking the kick ask the kicker to to put as much bend on the ball as possible and have her aim for the far post. In fact, challenge them to score.
  • Place one forward on the goal between the goalie and the near post. The mere presence of this player will make the entire defense nervous.
  • From the top of the penalty box, have several players crash the goal. The run should begin as soon the the kicker approaches the ball … but not sooner. By starting at the top of the penalty area, a player is running on to the ball. Also, if the corner is poor and heading for the penalty spot and not the goal, the players can stop their run on goal and still receive the ball in front of them.
  • Keep at least 1 offensive player at the top of the penalty box. Many times, a ball will only be cleared to the top of the box, just waiting for someone to score on the rebound.
  • The more chaotic the the penalty area is on a corner and the closer the ball lands near the goal, the more goals will be scored.

The laws state that there is no offside on a corner kick and that a goal can be scored directly from a corner kick without having to touch another player–either offensive or defensive.

Defensive Strategy

Corners are very difficult to defend. If given a choice between given up a throw-in or a corner, always choose a throw-in. However, corners are avoidable. These tricks should help reduce the number of goals you give up per game:

  • Keep your goalie on the line at all times.
  • Place a defender on the near post facing the kicker. Make sure the defender is holding onto the post so they know where they are and the ball won’t slip between the player and the post. When the ball passes over this player, he/she slip into the goal while still holding onto the post. A player on the far post is optional but recommended if the other team has strong kicker.
  • Place 2 additional defenders on the goal line. These players should not be afraid of heading the ball. If it means bringing your forwards back, do so.
  • Place a defender half-way between the corner flag and the near post. They will be able to pick off a poor corner and be in position to quickly attack a short corner.
  • Keep a defender at the top of the penalty area for any lose balls. If there is an offensive player there as well, the defender needs to be between the offensive player and the goal.
  • When clearing a ball from the goal mouth, always kick the ball to the touch lines, never up the middle.
  • The more defenders in the penalty area, the better.