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What Is A Set Piece In Soccer? 4 Simple Ways A Team Can Score A Goal

There are many ways to score a goal in soccer. Open-play goals account for a large number of goal-scoring opportunities. One of the easiest ways to convert a goal, though, is to practice the art of the set piece.

What is a set piece in soccer? Any situation where play starts once a player interacts with the ball. A set piece will usually advance play forward and is often an opportunity for teams to carry out plays and score goals.

It is also referred to as a ‘dead ball’ situation because the ball is not alive. Play cannot continue until the ball moves back into play by kicking it, or throwing it if it goes out past the sideline.

What Are The Different Types Of Set Pieces?

The set pieces to look out for in a soccer match are corner kicks, free kicks, throw-ins, and penalties. These are all opportunities for a team to score a goal, and lots of practice goes into these areas of the game as they happen a lot.

Corner Kicks

When the ball goes past the goal line but not between the goal posts it is either given as a goal kick or corner kick. Corner kicks are given when a defending team touches the ball last past their goal line.

Corner kicks, you’ve guessed it, happen in the corner of the pitch. You can take a corner kick from the right or left-hand corner of the goal line, hence the name corner kick. A defender cannot interfere with the ball until it has been kicked by the attacking team.

A team will either cross the ball into the penalty area for a player to head or volley the ball, or play it short and work the ball in another route. Whilst the defending team looks to clear the box of any danger and regain possession.

Corners are a good opportunity for teams to score goals. Often practiced in training situations, both from an attacking and defending perspective.

Some teams will create plays around corners. Players make specific runs or dummy runs to fool the defending team, get into open space, and take a shot at the goal.

Free Kicks

A free kick is another opportunity for players to score a goal. Free kicks are like corner kicks. The main difference between a free kick and a corner kick is that a free kick can occur at any place outside of the penalty box. Meaning there could be a free kick on the edge of the box, right in front of the goal.

Free kicks happen when a player is fouled by the opposing team. Because free-kicks often happen in a ‘dangerous’ position, defending teams will put extra attention to where they position their players. Teams will create something known as a wall, where a row of 3 players or more will attempt to block a segment of the goal from being open.

You also see free-kick specialists brought in to make the most of these situations. An example of this would be Cristiano Ronaldo (who’s a specialist in everything!) Or David Beckham who famously took England to the 2002 World Cup finals with a last-minute free-kick goal against Greece.

Throw-Ins

This is like a corner kick. But instead of the ball going over the goal line, it crosses the sideline and a throw-in is awarded to the team that didn’t touch the ball last.

Throw-ins can vary in their opportunities for goal-scoring. A throw-in right by your own penalty box is not likely going to offer any goal-scoring opportunities. But a throw-in right by the other team’s penalty box might.

Teams will often use throw-in specialists who have the power to throw the ball into the box. This turns a throw-in into a pseudo corner kick or free kick which increases the chance of a goal. Rory Delap from the English Premier League was a prime example of this.

Penalties

Whenever a player is fouled in the opposition’s penalty box they are awarded a penalty kick. A penalty is also given when the team handballs the soccer ball in their penalty box. The ball is placed on the penalty spot, 12 yards away from the goal line, and it’s the penalty kicker versus the goalie. One-on-one.

Penalties can also be a game decider. If a game needs to have a winner as the outcome., like the World Cup knockout stages, penalties can decide this.

Out of all the set-piece scenarios, this is the set piece with the greatest chance of a goal. As it’s only two players involved.

In the 2022 season, LA had 14 penalties awarded to them. And 14 goal-scoring opportunities with only one player to beat (the goalie) is worth getting right.

What Is Not Considered A Set Piece?

Goal kicks could also be referred to as a set piece, but aren’t considered the same as the above scenarios. Unlike penalties, corners, most freekicks, and throw-ins, goal kicks don’t usually result in a goal-scoring opportunity,

Goals kicks are given as the inverse of a corner kick. This is when the ball goes past the goal line and is last touched by an attacking player on the opposite team. A goalie then kicks the ball from a dead ball situation inside their goal area or 6-yard box. Any player can take a goal kick, and it doesn’t have to be a goalie.

You also don’t count the first kick of the game as a set piece, as this begins the soccer match.

Drop-ball situations are also not set pieces, as either team has the potential to win possession. Teams are unable to make that many effective strategies and plays based on this scenario.

How Can You Improve Your Set Pieces?

There are a few ways to get better at set pieces. If you know how to kick a soccer ball properly, it’s going to make corners, free kicks, and penalties a breeze.

Here’s a guide on how to kick a ball with power and accuracy. Perfect for penalty kicks. And here’s the best advice on how to curve a soccer ball like Messi or Ronaldo. Ideal for taking the perfect corners and free kicks!

FAQ

Why Is It Important To Know What A Set Piece Is?

The simple answer is that one team has a great opportunity to score, whilst the other will likely need to stop a goal from being scored.

Practice sessions are carried out around set pieces. Both from an attacking and defensive perspective. Each team has its own set plays that they learn depending on the set piece, and practice this a lot. Defending a set piece can be difficult.

It takes good communication and organization to pick up attacking players and figure out what they are going to do.

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