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Set Pieces in Soccer: A Guide to Success

Set Pieces in Soccer: A Guide to Success

What are set pieces in soccer? Set pieces are any dead ball situations that occur during a soccer game, such as free kicks, corner kicks, throw-ins, penalties, and goal kicks.

Set pieces can be a crucial element in a team’s strategy, as they provide an opportunity to score a goal or create a scoring opportunity.

A well-executed set piece can be the difference between a win and a loss. As teams progress through the years, they’ll spend more time practicing set pieces.

free kick soccerFrom intricate corner kick plays to perfectly placed free kicks, set pieces can make all the difference in the outcome of a soccer match.

Importance of Set Pieces in Soccer

Defining Set Pieces

Set pieces are defined as a planned positioning of players during a restart of play, such as free kicks, corner kicks, throw-ins, and penalty kicks.

These moments are crucial in soccer because they provide an excellent opportunity for teams to score goals or create scoring opportunities.

Why Set Pieces Matter

Set pieces matter because they provide a strategic competitive advantage. They allow teams to break deadlocks in tight games, surprise and outwit opponents, and create scoring opportunities.

Moreover, set pieces require teamwork, communication, coordination, and chemistry, which are vital for successful execution.

Types of Set Pieces

There are different types of set pieces in soccer, and each one requires a different approach and strategy. Here are some of the most common types of set pieces:

  • Corner kicks: A corner kick is awarded when the ball crosses the goal line but not into the goal, and it was last touched by a defending player. Corner kicks are an excellent opportunity for teams to create scoring chances as they allow players to run into the box and head the ball towards the goal.
  • Free kicks: A free kick is awarded when a player commits a foul or handball. Direct or indirect free kicks can be taken from different positions on the field, and they require a well-planned strategy to create a scoring opportunity.
  • Throw-ins: A throw-in is awarded when the ball goes out of bounds over the touchline. Throw-ins are an opportunity for teams to restart play and create a scoring chance.

Preparing for Set Pieces


When it comes to set pieces in soccer, preparation is key. You need to have a solid strategy in place and make sure your team is trained to execute it effectively.

Set Piece Strategy

The first step in preparing for set pieces is to develop a strategy. This involves analyzing your team’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your opponents. Consider the following factors when developing your strategy:

  • Type of set piece: Different set pieces require different strategies. For example, a corner kick will require a different approach than a free kick.
  • Positioning: The positioning of your players is crucial in set pieces. You need to make sure your players are in the right place to execute the strategy effectively.
  • Opponent analysis: Analyze your opponents’ set piece strengths and weaknesses to exploit them during matches.
  • Variations: Develop multiple set-piece options to keep opponents guessing.

Once you have developed your strategy, make sure your team is trained to execute it effectively.

Training for Set Pieces

Training is crucial when it comes to set pieces. Here are some tips on how to train your team for set pieces:

  • Repetition: Practice makes progress. Dedicate time to rehearse set piece until your team can execute them flawlessly.
  • Develop variations: Create multiple set-piece options to keep opponents guessing. The main concept is the same but just adjust a few moves.
  • Scout opponents: Analyze your opponents’ set piece strengths and weaknesses to exploit them during matches.
  • Visual aids: Provide visual aids to your players, especially to your set piece takers, to ensure everyone is on the same page. Unfortunately and fortunately, there are no timeouts in soccer so use halftime as an opportunity to show your team a probably set piece you might call in the second half.

By developing a solid strategy and training your team effectively, you can increase your chances of success in set pieces. Remember, preparation is key!

Executing Set Pieces

Executing set pieces requires proper planning, coordination, and execution. In this section, we will discuss how to execute set pieces effectively.

Free Kicks

Free kicks can be an excellent opportunity to score a goal. To execute a free kick successfully, you should follow these steps:

  • Determine the distance from the goal.
  • Decide who will take the kick.
  • Choose a strategy based on the distance, position, and defenders.
  • Communicate the plan to the players involved.
  • Execute the kick with precision and power.

During a free kick, the kicker must aim for the goal or pass the ball to a teammate. The other players should create space and distract the defenders to make it easier for the kicker to score.

Example: If there’s a wall, an example of a set piece is to have two players lined up on the ball. One player taps the ball and the other pretends to shoot it but passes it to the left or right. That player subsequently shoots the ball.

Corner Kicks

Corner kicks can also provide a great opportunity to score a goal. To execute a corner kick successfully, you should follow these steps:

  • Choose a player to take the corner kick.
  • Determine the strategy based on the position of the defenders and the players.
  • Communicate the plan to the players involved.
  • Execute the corner kick with accuracy and power.

Example: Have a quick winger start in the box and then roll out towards the player taking the corner kick. Proceed to pass to the winger. The winger passes back to the player who took the corner kick. This usually creates a 2v1 situation or they can lob it into the box when everyone has shifted.

Common Set Piece Mistakes

When executing set pieces in soccer, there are common mistakes that can prevent your team from scoring. Here are some of the most common mistakes and how to avoid them.

Lack of Communication

One of the biggest mistakes I see teams make during set pieces is a lack of communication. Without proper communication, players may not know their roles or the intended target of the set piece. This can lead to confusion and missed opportunities.

This often occurs when players don’t know their role or rely heavily on the personnel at practice. Oftentimes, there will be a different group of players involved. The setup of set pieces requires clear communication between the coach and players.

Poor Timing

Another common mistake during set pieces is poor timing. If players are not in the right position at the right time, the set piece may not be successful. This can lead to missed opportunities and frustration for the team.

To avoid this mistake, practice set pieces regularly during training sessions. Make sure that players understand the timing of the set piece and when they should be making their runs.

Additionally, make sure that players are aware of the timing of the delivery and adjust their runs accordingly.

Inaccurate Delivery

A third common mistake I see is inaccurate delivery or lack of execution. If the delivery of the set piece is not accurate, it can be difficult for players to make contact with the ball and score. It’s a domino effect and all the pieces crumble.

Ensure that the player delivering the set piece has good technique and accuracy.


As I’ve noticed recently, set-piece strategies account for a significant percentage of goals scored in elite soccer matches.

Therefore, it is vital for teams to have designated set-play coaches who can train the team in executing them effectively.

To score from a set piece, teamwork, individual brilliance, and team skills are crucial. It is also essential to catch the defense off guard and take advantage of the uncontested opportunity to pass or shoot the ball.

As the offense, the advantage is knowing what you are doing before the defending team can react or adjust.

As a coach, you should integrate set-piece strategies into your overall philosophy and ensure that your team is well-trained in executing set pieces effectively. With the right approach and strategy, set pieces can be problematic for your opponents.

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      Beau Bridges - Soccer Novo Hey 👋 I’m Beau. A proud Dad, former coach and soccer enthusiast. I continue to love the game of soccer today the same way I did when I was 7. I created to share what I know about the game as well as provide a platform so other parents can learn more about youth soccer in the U.S.

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