A set-piece routine that will guarantee goals

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Set-pieces are vitally important to the modern game, with around 20% of goals being scored from set-pieces in the Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga and Serie A this season. However, we are a firm believer in giving players creative autonomy and freedom to make choices in football matches. Allowing them to have a voice in attacking set-pieces is the perfect spot to allow them such creative input, as set-pieces can often be so different to everything else the team puts together in their formation, style of play and game model. With that said, we want to help your team score more goals from set-pieces, especially if you’re going through our game model examples, only to see that we don’t focus all that much on set-pieces. So with that, here is my favourite corner kick routine, which can easily be used at both the senior and professional level.

Rhys’s favourite corner kick routine

This corner kick routine is one of my favourites to deploy at any level, and encourages a perfect mix of just about everything you could want in a set-piece.

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-> Delivery type: Inswinging – left footed taker on the right side. High ball (pro), low and driven (youth). Explanation as to why is given later on, but I’d urge you to consider potential reasons as you read on.
-> Number of players in box: 6 – one backpost, one on goalkeeper, one decoy runner, one blocker, two targets.
-> Number of players outside box: 3 + GK – two at halfway line, one lurking outside box. Goalkeeper also ready to sweep in behind.

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  1. Set-Piece Taker: When walking over, raise one hand in the air, to signal that we are implementing this routine. Drop hand just before taking the kick. When delivering, target just in front of the penalty area, for a right footed player to head or volley in.
  2. Targets x 2: Start at the edge of the eighteen, and make way toward the right of the penalty spot to get on the end of the delivery. Having two targets increases chance of scoring, but players have to be careful not to get in each other’s way, and be fearless in attacking the ball.
  3. Blocker: Block the ability of the opposition’s defenders to track the movement of the targets as they make their way toward the targeted delivery zone. Don’t foul. You can even just stand there and get in the way.
  4. Back-Post: Draw further attention from the target zone by making a back-post movement, or simply get on the end of an overhit cross.
  5. Decoy Runner: Start at the top of the six yard box, and then dart toward the corner kick taker as soon as their hand is lowered. This should open up more space for the targeted delivery zone.
  6. Goalkeeper Disrupter: Start directly in the goalkeeper’s line of sight, disrupting their focus and view away from the situation. Get out of the way as the ball is travelling toward the targets and stay on-side, but be prepared for a rebound.
  7. Put It Back In Player: Wait at the edge of the eighteen yard box. This player will usually be unmarked, as opposition players will focus more attention on compacting the eighteen. Be prepared to put the ball back into the box or let it fly from range if it comes your way.
  8. Safety’s x 2: Hold a withdrawn position at the halfway line, preparing yourselves to defend against counter attacks.
  1. As the corner kick taker is walking over, they signal with one arm in the air, which suggests that we’re implementing this routine.
  2. Set-up involves six players inside the box and three outside, plus the goalkeeper waiting to sweep in behind.
  3. Once set-up and ready to take the kick, the set-piece taker lowers their hand. The decoy runner quickly makes a movement toward the ball, hopefully drawing an opposition defender with them.
  4. At that moment, the targets also make their way toward the targeted delivery zone – slightly to the right of the penalty spot, and the blocker impedes the defenders attempting to follow the targets.
  5. At the same moment, the back-post runner also makes their way toward the back-post while watching the flight of the ball, and the ‘Goalkeeper Disrupter’ gets out of the way, preparing for a rebound.
  6. The targets try and get on the end of the ball and put it toward goal, preferably with a near post header or volley.
  7. GOAL! We score and celebrate by hugging our set-piece coach.
  • The ‘Blocker’ has to be careful not to cause a foul, and should do little more than getting in the way of the path of the back-tracking defenders.
  • The ‘Goalkeeper Disrupter’ must remain on-side if the ball is won by the targets, allowing them to tap in a rebound if it comes their way. As a result, they need to be aware of the positioning of the second last defender, such as a post-player who has moved up with the play.
  • The type of delivery doesn’t matter all that much, so long as the accuracy is in place. It is recommended for youth under the age of about 15, that the cross be more of a low driven delivery at around knee or shin height. Young players are generally able to generate more power with their feet than head, and in some cases, heading is banned at the younger ages. For pro players or older youth, you can target the noggin of the targets instead, using height and aerial prowess to your advantage.
  • At the 9v9 level, the roles that could be taken away are the ‘Goalkeeper Disrupter’, and the ‘Put it Back in Player’. Generally a player outside of the box isn’t needed, and a player on the goalkeeper might only get in the way if the youngster doesn’t understand how to play it right.
  • Practice, practice, practice over and over again before implementing this routine in a game to ensure the players have their roles down to a pact. While it’s great to let all players be a target at the youth level, keeping that consistency of who is chosen for what role will allow for a greater chance at scoring a goal.
  • Consider adding these fun signals and asking players what kind of signal they want to implement for this routine.
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Many teams will have different set-piece routines, where they target different players, different areas, or conjure up different strategies for finding a chance at goal. Here are some of the best and most common signals teams can use to differentiate between routines.

  • One arm in the air – usually lowered at the time the kick is about to happen to set in place the movement sequences that should follow. You can also have the set-piece taker raise their right hand for one routine, and their left for another routine. This would likely confuse the opposition greatly.
  • Two arms in the air – used to the same device as above. Sometimes teams even go one step further, starting with two hands and then lowering down to just one.
  • Numbers or code words – usually only able to be used once a game without the opposition working it out. But if it does work, the opposition could quiver in their boots and suddenly become a whole lot more fearful, remembering what happened the last time.
  • Fixing the socks – this may be from the free kick/corner kick taker themselves, or the players about to be involved in the situation, as they pull up or fix their socks.
  • Bouncing the ball – this is another unsuspecting action that can mean something to the team in question, that the opposition likely won’t notice (i.e. it’s easier to repeat the same routine.)
  • Additional player standing over the ball – Many teams also use a decoy player not involved in the set-piece routine that will stand over the ball. In different moments, this can be used as a signal for the type of delivery that is about to go in. When I wasn’t taking free kicks as a player, I stood over the ball in such a way that would suggest I was about to take it with my left foot (I’m right footed). This would signal that my right-footed friend was about to whip it into the box rather than shoot.

Many people talk about the timing of the signal in the sense of when to stop giving the signal (i.e. as the ball is about to be hit). But you could also give signals as the kicker is walking over to the ball. This would give the others more time to organize themselves.


This set-piece routine works great at any level, and will give your team a cutting edge when it comes to scoring from corner kicks. Additionally, it’s a fun way to get youth players to understand the tactical side of the game – as you can give each player a creative name for their role, making every player feel important to the situation.

So there it is! A set-piece routine that will guarantee goals. Be sure to try it out with your team and let us know if it works using our comment section below, or social media @mastermindsite. Thanks for reading and see you soon.

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