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A free kick from anywhere within 25 yards is dangerous business for the defending team because there are players who specialize in scoring from those long range kicks. In fact, some of the most spectacular goals in soccer are scored off just these set plays. What you will commonly see in a soccer game, therefore, is the defending team assemble a "wall" in front of the kick. That is, several defenders will stand in a row, blocking the kicker's view of their goal. This wall, of course, must be at least 10 yards from the ball. Typically, the defending goalie will oversee the architecture of the wall — he usually places a wall of 4 or 5 players to cover one side of the goal, while he takes the other. This way, when the kicker takes the free kick, he will either kick the ball toward a relatively small area of open space of the goal, which the goalie has covered, or he will belt it ineffectually into the wall. The most spectacular goals in soccer are the ones in which the kicker kicks the ball around the wall and into the section of the goal farthest from the goalie — yes, that's right, around the wall. A soccer ball can be skillfully curved, and the best players can put enormous spin on the ball with both velocity and accuracy, leaving goalies stand feebly to watch the ball curl into the net.

And just when you thought it was safe to go back on the field, we must reveal that there are actually TWO kinds of free kicks: direct and indirect. "Direct" kicks are ones that where the ball is allowed travel directly into the net to score. "Indirect" kicks are ones where a player in addition to the kicker must first touch the ball before it travels into the next to be considered a goal. "What the hell is this all about?" you must be wondering. Well, think about free kicks from the defending team's perspective?Although you must stand at least 10 yards away from the ball when it is kicked, you can rush the gap once it has been touched. Thus if you impose upon the offensive team the burden of having two people touch the ball before it goes into the net instead of just one, it makes it a crapload harder to score. It's almost like the difference between a free throw and a pass in basketball. The spectacular goals are almost always scored off direct kicks, since the wall is 10 yards away and is more or less frozen when the kicker belts the ball. On an indirect kick, the kicker must either lob the ball into a danger area — but bear in mind that a goalie (who can use his hands) will almost always have an advantage over an attacker — or must make a wimpy little pass to someone who will then fire a goal. Of course, once this little tap pass is made, the defenders in the wall can rush the shooter, greatly cutting down the angle and usually successfully blocking the kick.

This leads us to ask the almighty question: when do you get a direct kick, and when do you get an indirect kick? Not surprisingly, it depends on the severity of the foul. You have to commit a more serious foul to be punished with a direct. They are awarded for flagrant fouls, such as kicking, tackling from behind, spitting, pulling shirts, and the ever-feared handball. An indirect is awarded for less serious things like dangerous play (high kicking at someone's knees), obstruction, and offsides.

Into this mush, we add one more type of kick: a penalty kick. A penalty kick is a direct free kick very much like the aforementioned free throw in basketball. It has three main characteristics:

  1. Whenever a foul occurs within the penalty box (the box that extends 18 yards from the goal line), where the foul happened has nothing to do with where the kicker takes his kick. If a defender commits any foul within the penalty box that merits a direct free kick, the offending team doesn't take the kick from the site of the infraction.

  2. The defending team does not get to set up a wall. Instead, the referee orders the penalty area cleared of all but two players: the kicker and the goalie.

  3. The ref will next place the ball on the penalty mark, a soccer ball-sized dot 13 yards from the center of the goal. The set up looks kind of like a free throw: you have a kicker addressing the ball from the penalty spot, a nervous looking goalie standing 13 yards away wondering how he's possibly going to stop a goal here, and hordes of other defenders and attackers lined up on the edge of the penalty box just waiting to pounce on the ball if it is blocked by the goalie or bounces off the goal. Just like free throws, the presumption is that the kicker will score; if a goalie saves a penalty, it is cause for much celebration and the removal of sports bras. Oh, and the kicker is usually vilified and, if South American, he may?"disappear."

Most fouls in soccer are pretty straightforward: if you fight with the other guy, it's a foul. One violation that is not so obvious is "offsides." An attacking player can stand in a position in relation to the defenders that places him offsides, and if he is then passed the ball in that offsides position, the referee will whistle the violation and the defending team will be awarded an indirect free kick from the point of the infraction. The purpose of this rule is to prevent forwards from hanging around in front of the opposing goal all day, just waiting for a long pass to collect and then be in a sweet position to belt home a goal. In hockey, a player may not receive a pass beyond the blue line, and in soccer, the blue line is the second-last defender. Usually, this means that the goalie will be in goal, and the sweeper will be 20 yards in front of him (or further if the play is all up at the other goal); the other team's leading forward, therefore, must stay even with the sweeper. If he wanders into a position between this final defender and the goalie, he cannot be passed the ball without triggering the violation. This rule keeps forwards even with defenders, which is obviously a big help to defenders. Once a ball is passed, however, a fast forward may then be able to use his speed to break away from the defense, but not before. There are a bevy of exceptions and nuances to this rule, which even many rabid fans do not fully comprehend, but you now know the basics.

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Advanced Team Tactics

Every football coach must employ two soccer strategies for their football team, one for attack and one for defending. This section demonstrates a wide selection of Individual and Advanced Tactical principles for offensive soccer and defensive football success.

Inside you will find detailed information on modern soccer formation of play, important principles of attacking width, depth, mobility, setting up play, building from the defensive third and coaching soccer position.

There are topics such as beating the offside trap, overlapping runs, blind sided runs, man for man marking, cross-over runs, making play predictable, recovery runs and channels, playing direct and low pressure defending.

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