In close and competitive matches where the smallest of margins decide the final result, corner kicks can often prove decisive. However, all too often, teams fail to capitalize on their goal-scoring opportunities from corner kicks.
To improve their effectiveness from these set-piece plays, teams need to work on a number of areas, including positioning, organization and communication.
Working on specific plays and routines whilst targeting these key areas during training sessions is a great way of getting all team members on the same wavelength for corner kick plays.
But, just how important can corner kicks be for a team in league and tournament soccer?
After all, it’s been reported that in the past decade, only 3% of all corners in Europe’s top five leagues (English Premier League, German Bundesliga, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, and French Ligue 1) have resulted in the attacking side scoring a goal.
Despite this low percentage, there are countless examples in professional soccer which prove the importance of being a consistent threat from corner kicks. Take for instance Liverpool’s title-winning 2019/20 season in the English Premier League.
They scored countless match-winning goals from creative and innovative corner routines which ultimately helped propel them to the title.
Even in certain matches where they were far from their fluent best in open play, they could always rely on their threat from corner kicks to give them a chance of securing the win.
The bottom line is, whilst all teams will practice their defensive and attacking corner routines, it’s always useful to be as creative as possible with your plays.
If you have a couple of different routines up your sleeve that can catch the opposition unawares, you’ll increase your chances of finding the back of the net.
With this in mind, I’ll now take a look at five of the best corner kick plays that your team can practice and use in real-game scenarios.
1). “4 Flood”
This corner routine is designed to provide a player from the attacking side with a direct shot on goal. In simple terms, you’ll need players from the attacking team in the box making clever runs to open up space for one of their teammates to run onto the ball on the edge of the box with a free shot at goal.
To line up for this play correctly, you’ll need one player stationed at the front post. Then you’ll have four players running into the box from the edge of the 18-yard line, with one left behind them to peel off and take the shot on goal.
Needless to say, it’s best to pick one of your best strikers of the ball for this final role.
An effective way of improving the threat of this routine and adding extra confusion for the team defending the corner is for the player at the near post to make a straight, darting run to the corner taker.
More often than not, this will draw the defensive marker away from the front post, subsequently opening up an area which the shooting player can look to target.
The role of the four players running into the box is to create confusion and unpredictability. This can be done by all four attackers running in together, taking different defensive markers with them.
The frantic, and sometimes chaotic response that ensues will leave the opposition unsure of whether the corner is going to be played to the front post or launched to the back post.
For the majority of defending sides, their natural reaction when faced with a line of attacking players running in towards the goal is to drop off.
This forces them closer to their own goal and makes it increasingly more difficult to maintain their goal-side position of the player they’re marking.
With the defenders forced to retreat, space will be freed up on the edge of the 18-yard box. This is the area where the designated shooting player will move into as the corner kick is being taken, and look to strike the ball from.
When it comes to the actual striking of the ball, the attacker will need to use the correct technique. Most importantly, they’ll need to keep their body over the top of the ball throughout to ensure the shot is low and hard.
If they lean back during the shot, the ball will likely balloon over the bar.
Finally, if you want to add even more confusion for the side defending the corner, you can get your first player to dummy the ball instead of striking it. This is useful if they’re being closely tracked down by a defender and unlikely to get a good strike away.
A second player can then run onto the ball which has been left and attempt to direct an effort towards the goal.
As the name suggests, the aim of this routine is to split the opposition’s defence in half. This allows one of the attackers a free run and effort on goal directly in front of the goalkeeper.
The best way to line up for this corner kick play is to have one attacker positioned in the six-yard box, a straight horizontal line of four attackers facing the goal between the penalty spot and 18-yard line, and two players lingering outside the D.
It’s also sometimes worth having an extra player out wide near the corner taker to give the impression that you may look to play the corner short rather than deliver it directly into the box.
Even if this is never going to happen, it gives the defenders an additional problem to worry about.
An attacker in the six-yard box will typically have two defenders monitoring them. This isn’t just for marking purposes, but also to ensure the attacker doesn’t get in the way of their goalkeeper.
As the corner taker launches the ball into the box, the attacking player in the six-yard box should drift to the back post, taking both defenders with them. This opens up an area of space in the middle of the box, directly in front of goal.
The group of four players just behind the penalty spot should keep their eye on the corner taker and just as the ball is delivered, make darting runs, with two sprinting to the front post, and the other two sprinting towards the back post.
This draws the defenders marking them to either side of the goal, creating even more space directly in front of the keeper.
It’s worth noting that these attackers can also directly influence the play. For instance, the two players heading to the front post can flick the ball on if the delivery is short, while the players at the back post can challenge for a header if the cross is overhit and deep.
The two attackers positioned on the edge of the D are the players who’ll have a free header or shot at goal. They’re the main beneficiaries of the whole routine, and will ideally need to have good levels of composure in front of goal.
While it’s almost certain that there will be an opposition player marking them, it’s also likely that another defender will be positioned deeper in the box to prevent one of the attacking players running in and having a free shot.
Therefore, it’s the responsibility of one of the two players positioned on the edge of the D to block the defender from following in the main attacker. This allows the main attacker to get to the cross and attempt to score.
Blocking the defender will slow them down and more often than not, prevent them from challenging for the ball. However, this type of block needs to be clever and discreet as it’s against the rules.
If the referee spots it, they’ll likely award a free kick to the defending team. So don’t try and forcibly push them over or trip them up, a slight tug of the shirt or a shoulder-to-shoulder block is often enough, and will also look reasonably innocuous to the officials.
3). “Cross Quick”
This is a popular corner kick routine and if used effectively, can prove to be a really good option for most teams. It aims to get the corner taker advancing into the box after taking a short corner.
From this position they can either drill a dangerous low cross across the face of goal or cut the ball back to a teammate inside the box.
In terms of positioning, three players should be bunched together near the penalty spot, one on the edge of the D, and another attacker on the corner of the box on the far side.
There will also need to be a player on the corner of the box on the side nearest to where the corner is being taken.
The nature of the set-up for this corner kick play is great because it gives very little away to the opposition. With attackers placed all around the box, there’s little indication as to whether the corner will be played short, to the front post, back post, or cut back to the edge of the area.
As the corner taker shapes up to deliver the ball into the box, the player nearest to them on the corner of the box will need to make a darting run as the ball instead gets played short to them.
The majority of the time, there’ll only be one defender marking the attacker receiving the short corner, so immediately you’ll already have a 2-on-1 situation. It’s then up to the corner taker and the receiver to not play each other offside or lose the ball.
With the 2-on-1 situation created, the three players inside the box near the penalty spot should all make quick sprints towards the goal. It’s best if one darts to the front post, one to the middle, and one to the back post.
Then, if the short corner routine has been performed successfully, the player with the ball (original corner taker) will have the choice of either drilling the ball across goal for one of the three runners, or cutting it back to the player positioned slightly deeper on the edge of the D rushing towards the penalty spot.
If the ball somehow evades all the attackers in the box, the attacker on the opposite side of the box can retrieve the ball. From this position they can either take on a defender, put in a cross, or take a shot on goal.
4). “The Love Train”
This corner kick routine is all about creating a numerical advantage in the box, which in turn, will increase the likelihood of the attacking side scoring a goal.
To use this routine you’ll need to start with four players lined up behind one another at the penalty spot. However, just before the corner is played into the box, these four attackers need to peel off and make their own runs into space.
In addition to the four attackers lined up at the penalty spot, a further two players need to be positioned in the six-yard box.
Their sole responsibility is to stop the goalkeeper from coming out to claim the ball. They can do this effectively by staying super close to the goal line and making distracting runs. These are incredibly annoying for the opposition and difficult to defend against.
The four players packed closely together make it hard for the defenders to pick up on any kind of idea where each player will run, due to all four moving together in different directions at exactly the same time.
This can create overloads and plenty of promising scenarios in the box for the attacking side.
For example, the front players may successfully block a few of the defenders which would result in a numerical advantage on either side of the penalty spot for attackers to exploit.
In addition to this, a run to the front post or back post by one of the four attackers around the penalty spot can also draw man-markers with them. Whilst this run may not directly lead to a goal, it will likely leave more space that other attacking players can move into.
The final corner kick play on this list relies on an attacking player darting to the front post in order to flick on the ball for a teammate in the opposition box.
In order to set this corner routine up, you’ll need to have two players positioned on the front post, one on the opposition keeper, two at the back post, and then a couple of players hovering around the edge of the box to make late runs in.
The corner taker needs to aim the delivery for the area just ahead of the front post where one of the two attackers will dart in front of their marker to try and head the ball onwards to a teammate.
To improve the chance of the attacker at the front post getting to the ball first, one of the two attacking players needs to make a short run back to the edge of the six-yard box.
This means they can also be in a position to flick the delivery on if the ball goes over the head of the first attacking player.
With the keeper occupied by an attacking player tasked with standing in front of them, they won’t be able to come and claim the ball in the air. This subsequently allows the two attackers on the back post to split and make a couple of short runs.
One should move in towards the center of the goal, whilst the other should drop off just in case the ball travels all the way to the back post.
The two players hovering around the edge of the box should look to make powerful late runs into the box as the corner is struck. If timed correctly, they’ll arrive into the area just as the flick on arrives, so perfectly positioned to make a powerful connection and direct an effort towards goal.
Alternatively, it could be useful to keep one of the hovering players at the edge of the box. If the ball is cleared by the defensive side, this will provide an option for an attacking player to either sweep the loose ball up and recycle possession out wide, or look to take a shot on themselves.
Some teams may prefer to use this corner routine with just one hovering player on the edge of the box, but if you decide to use two, it’s definitely worth leaving one on the edge even after the corner has been delivered.
While many of the most effective corner kick plays in soccer take a considerable amount of time and practice to perfect, they’re often worth it. They can lead to several extra goals, whether you’re competing in a domestic season or an international knockout competition.
By varying up your corner kick routines, and keeping a number of creative and innovative plays up your sleeve, you’ll keep opponents guessing. In fact, this may give you the decisive edge on the field, making the all-important difference between winning and losing.
To conclude, any soccer team which looks to adopt similar corner kick plays to the five explained in this piece, will certainly carry a greater attacking threat from corners.
Whether you prefer to play it short, long, or to the edge of the box, being flexible and unpredictable with your corner kick routines is a valuable asset to have.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you take a corner kick to yourself?
First of all, the ball is in play when it’s kicked and clearly moves from a stationary position. However, after it’s been kicked and is no longer in this stationary position, the kicker can’t touch the ball again before it has touched another player.
If they do, an indirect free kick is awarded to the opposition. Therefore, you can’t take a corner kick to yourself.
Can you kick a corner kick directly into the goal?
Yes, a goal can be scored directly from a corner kick. However, this is only the case for the attacking side. If for some reason, the ball somehow directly enters the kicker’s goal at the other end of the pitch, a corner kick is awarded to the opponents instead of a goal.
Can you get an assist from a corner?
Yes, this works the same as it does with any pass or cross in open play. If your corner kick is directly headed or struck into the net by a teammate, you’ll be awarded with the assist. This also works for own-goals.
So, if an opponent gets a touch on your cross and inadvertently diverts it into their own goal, you can still claim the assist so long as the ball remains on course to its intended destination.
Why do corner takers sometimes raise their arms?
If a corner taker raises their arms as they prepare to deliver a cross, this usually is a signal to their teammates about where the ball is going. These are typically part of a routine that the team has rehearsed during their training sessions.
For example, one arm in the air may indicate a short corner, while two arms raised could signal a deep corner to the back post.