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Set Pieces – How Effective are they?

Set plays have been a major part of football and certain teams rely on these to help score goals that could see them promoted or relegated. In the 2018 World Cup in Russia, 42 percent of goals in the World Cup had came from set plays or penalties, beating the previous record of 36 percent from the 1998 World Cup and smashing the portion of goals from these situations in 2014 (27 percent), 2010 (24 percent), 2002 (29 percent) and 1994 (33 percent).

Corners have become a more popular way to score goals with new ideas on exploiting the oppositions weaknesses. This piece is split into two parts with the first part focussing on examples from the 2018 world cup semi finalists (England, Belgium, France and Croatia) and the second part focussing on different examples I have put together from the teams I have coached, played for and examples I have observed.

France

This free kick from Greizman is so clever (might use this in training!) as he fakes to take it 1st time and therefore the Uruguayan defence was set for the 1st run, but never was set for the 2nd run. Varane was very clever as he used that extra second to lose his marker due to Greizman’s intelligence with the free kick. Due to this free-kick, France scored and dominated the 2nd half to see out Uruguay.

France 1

There were a lot of high lines in this world cup too. However, if you play a high line then the opposition might spin in behind which could cause a problem. As you can see in this diagram, the French team had a very high line. In addition, the French players are on the wrong side of the Uruguayan players. If they are going to play a high line – they still need to mark the players around them. Again, it is the French staff who decide if it’s zonal or man to man? 

France 2

England

England were impressive back in the World Cup of 2018. They had only scored 3 goals from open play and 11 in total. Due to Southgate’s new way of set pieces with 4 lining up – queuing for a train! (queue love-train music!) This is something new as the opposition didn’t know what runs they were going to make. This makes it so difficult to mark. The analysis will be on the 4 players breaking out, but they will decide themselves who goes where to confuse the team. 

England 1

England had only kept 1 clean sheet in this World Cup. When they played against Columbia – they struggled to keep them out. Columbia overloaded the mid 6 area. As you can see there is a 2v1. One is to block and the other is to attack the ball. 

England 2 

Croatia

They don’t use a lot of Set plays as they have a lot of technical players such as Modric and Rakitic. When they do have set plays they like to overload the middle of the box. Here is a 3v2 in Croatia’s favour. Due to the height and power with the quality of crossing they do possess a threat.

Croatia 1

Croatia’s defending is poor in this image. They have a 4v3 in their favour, but due to Russia’s Power and Croatia not having any players on the posts – they conceded.

Croatia 2

Belgium

Belgium have a tall and powerful team with a lot of technical ability. In this instance, Kompany makes a run to front post and attacks the ball which leads to a goal, but set plays is not where Belgium will win the game. Belgium use Kevin De Bruyne and Hazard to transition from defence to attack by playing the ball to Lukaku. Through his power and pace he links the game well to spin in or another attacking midfielder to help with a 3rd man run in behind.

Screen Shot 2020-04-01 at 09.55.27

Belgium are one of the better teams that defend set pieces more profoundly. Here we have a 2v2, however the distance between attacker and defender is too much as the attacker has a run on the defender. They need to be tight with them as Belgium have a tall and powerful team so players should not be able to run off them.

Screen Shot 2020-04-01 at 09.56.35

As you can see from the examples at the World Cup in Russia there was a lot of different set-plays that were successful.

In the next part of this analysis, I have put together 10 examples of corners ranging from a variety of different movements. They all have different names to them for the trigger for the players. I would recommend using 2 or 3 of these first as it takes time to understand and work on them. The biggest part of this corner routine is verbal and non verbal communication. I will write out a brief explanation to each routine below each example for some clarity. Again, this is just some ideas and can be adapted to your own team.

Split Train

split train corner

Trigger – Bounce Ball x2

When the corner taker takes the ball – they bounce the ball twice to ensure all the players understand what corner routine is taking place. The 6 players attacking all line up like a train and split into the areas numbered. The ball would be delivered to the mid 6 area as 3 or 4 players will be attacking that area.

Criss Cross

Criss Cross

Trigger – Ball on your head

When the corner taker takes the ball – they balance the ball on their head to ensure all the players understand what corner routine is taking place. The 6 attacking players cross over to cause confusion for the opposition with the ball being delivered to the back post.

Pairs

Pairs

Trigger – 2 hands up

When the corner taker takes the ball – they put 2 hands up to ensure all the players understand what corner routine is taking place. The key player in this routine is number 1 as they delay their run to ensure that the space is clear with the ball being delivered to the mid 6 area.

3’s a crowd

3's a crowd

Trigger – 3 Keepy ups

When the corner taker takes the ball – they keep the ball up 3 times to ensure all the players understand what corner routine is taking place. All 6 attacking players rotate with 1 of the 3 at the back attacking the ball – the ball being delivered to the back post.

Invasion

Invasion

Trigger – 1 hand up

When the corner taker takes the ball – they put 1 hand up to ensure all the players understand what corner routine is taking place. The 6 attacking players are in the 6 yard box with the ball being delivered in the mid 6 area. Another option is the holding midfield taking the ball short, having a shot or crossing it from a different angle (Trent Alexander Arnold area).

Run the line

Run the line

Trigger – Ball thrown up 2x

When the corner taker takes the ball – they throw the ball up twice to ensure all the players understand what corner routine is taking place. The 6 attacking players are on the 18 yard box with each player taken up a new position with the corresponding numbers.

4v2

4v2

Trigger – Tap head 2x

When the corner taker takes the ball – they tap their head twice to ensure all the players understand what corner routine is taking place. The 6 attacking players are split into 4 and 2. The 2 at the back make their runs late with the ball being delivered to the back post. The front 4 make the run to the front post.

1 Cut Back

1 cut back

Trigger – Fold Arms

When the corner taker takes the ball – they fold their arms to ensure all the players understand what corner routine is taking place. The 6 attacking players are split into 2 groups of 3. There are 2 options with the cut back being the number 1 choice. If that option isn’t on then option 2 is used.

2 shortcuts

3 shortcuts

Trigger – 1 keepy up

When the corner taker takes the ball – they keep the ball up once to ensure all the players understand what corner routine is taking place. There are 2 options with 1 short option and 1 short run.

3 options

3 options

Trigger – Basketball Spin

When the corner taker takes the ball – they spin the ball on their hand like a basketball to ensure all the players understand what corner routine is taking place. There are 3 different options. The 1st option is a short corner then passed out to option 1, if option 1 is blocked then option 2 and 3 are the other viable options.

These are 10 examples of corners, but can be used with free kicks, throw ins and also adapt them to help your team when it comes to set plays.

Laurie McGinley is a UEFA Licensed Coach and can be found on Twitter at @LaurieMcGinley1


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