World Cup Goal Scoring
How Most World Cup Soccer Goals Are Scored
Understanding how goals are scored can make you a better coach or player
17 Things to Watch For

Note From David. Below is an article about how goals are scored at high levels of play. It is a list of some things to watch for as you watch World Cup matches. Keep in mind that the goals you see on the highlight clips are usually only the most spectacular goals and are sometimes not typical of how most goals are scored.

At high levels of play it can be very difficult to score. The highlight clips show the spectacular soccer goals, many of which are a result of brilliant individual effort, but most goals are due to good positioning, team play and good coaching. A team that has players who dribble too much will usually lose to a team that has players who are unselfish and use the dribble and penetration to freeze the defenders so a teammate can get open for a pass. (There are exceptions to every rule and if you can dribble like Messi, then you should ignore all of this and attack every chance you get.) Your enjoyment of the game and your effectiveness as a soccer coach will increase if you improve your understanding of how most goals are scored. This will help you develop a better attack and also a better defense. Watching the "404 Great Goals DVD" can be enlightening because you see how 404 goals were scored in the English Premier Soccer League over a 3 year period. You will see that there are patterns and that there are things you can do to improve your soccer offense and defense, and that scrappy forwards can score a lot of goals by positioning, anticipating and hustling. (I would define Messi, Drogba, Rooney, Tevez and Villa as scrappy, opportunistic and tenacious). The great thing about the "404 Great Goals DVD" is that most goals are shown twice, once at normal speed, a second time in slow motion and sometimes from a different angle, and the build up of play is shown.

Below are some of the things you can learn by watching the "404 Great Goals" DVD. Read the detailed review of "404 Great Goals" DVD for more. Watch for the types of goals and support play described below as you watch World Cup soccer matches:

  1. Start by asking: What caused the goal? Some are individual brilliance, some are caused by dribbling, some are great passing, some are caused by a great assist (such as a through pass or a one-touch pass), and some result from balls crossed to the goal front inside the Penalty Box. Notice where the scorer was positioned for the opportunity and how much that difference that positioning made.

  2. Notice the location from which most goals are scored. Notice that many goals are scored from in front of the goal and inside the Penalty Box.

  3. Notice the differences in attackers and how they score. Some score more goals with long shots than others. Some score by getting a little opening and getting off a quick shot. Some (such as Drogba, Messi and Villa) seem to be able to score using any legal part of their body. Some are fast and seem to score a lot of goals on breakaways (these players have the ability to shoot accurately while on the full run, which is hard to do, and are strong enough and determined enough to avoid being pulled down from behind by defenders). Some are very quick near the goal. Notice that some are short (Messi is 5'7") and some are tall (Drogba is 6'2"). All great scorers are alert, position well, anticipate where the ball will be (to paraphrase Wayne Gretzky, the famous hockey player, they go where the ball will be, not where it is), tenacious, brave and opportunistic.

  4. Notice that very few soccer goals occur because a player makes a fancy "move". The moves involved are usually simple body swerves, quick cuts, or a change of speed (a "burst" to blow by the defender). Messi doesn't need fancy moves, he beats attackers because he is fast, quick and can change direction while on the run, "fancy moves" would diminish his effectiveness.

  5. Watch the runs and positioning of supporting soccer attackers.

  6. Notice that in scoring range one-touch passes and wall passes are used to play the ball to open space in front of attackers so they can run onto the ball.

  7. Many soccer goals originate from passes to space near the goal front ("passes to space" instead of "passes to feet").

  8. Occasionally, goals are scored on breakaways or from aggressive runs into the Penalty Box, but at high levels of play the defenders are very good and don't allow those a lot.

  9. Quite a few goals are scored from flick or redirected headers.

  10. Scrappy, aggressive soccer attackers will position themselves well and score goals on rebounds and second efforts.

  11. Notice that some goals are scored from the Far Post on a cross (these are very difficult for the Goalkeeper to cover). Crossed balls are especially difficult for the Goalkeeper because the ball is coming from the side, but the shot is from the front and from close to the goal, so the Keeper has little time to react.

  12. On soccer Penalty Kicks, the Goalkeeper should stay on his feet until the ball is struck.

  13. As many goals are scored using the inside of the foot as by instep drives.

  14. Most headers are scored in front of the goal and inside the Penalty Mark (12 yards from the goal). Some of the headers are headed down to the ground and those balls can be very tough for the Goalkeeper to stop. If you have a player who can head the ball, having him play off the Far Post on corner kicks and crossed balls may be a good idea.

  15. Many goals (about 20% of those at high levels of play) are scored from Set Plays (corner kicks, free kicks and penalty kicks). The percentage of goals scored on Set Plays seems to have decreased in the past 5 years.

  16. You can increase your odds of scoring by getting several soccer attackers in front of the goal and then passing the ball into that area. Many goals are due to having attackers in front of the goal and sending the ball there.

  17. Smart, unselfish attackers will dribble to draw soccer defenders, which will create the opportunity to pass to an open teammate (versus being selfish, dribbling too much and losing the ball). The players who can create scoring opportunities in this way are very valuable and deserve credit for the goals that result from their assists. As a coach, you should always give these players immediate credit for the assist, and do so in front of all players and parents. You should also insist that the first thing the scorer does (instead of trying to grab the spotlight and all the glory) is to thank the player who made the assist by giving him or her a "high 5" that everyone can see (a 'thank you" that all the other players and spectators will notice). This is a way to publicly say "thanks for the assist, I recognize that you allowed me to score this goal".