Creating a defensive wall when a freekick is being taken is one of the most underappreciated and misunderstood aspects of soccer. If a wall is incorrectly placed and does not carry out the responsibilities of a wall, disaster can strike in the form of a goal.
Let us first break down rules in the free kick process. There is what is called direct and indirect freekicks. A direct freekick signifies that a goal can be scored from the kick – only one touch is required. Direct freekicks are awarded for more dangerous fouls and can result in a penalty. Indirect free kicks are usually for minor infringements, like obstruction and dangerous plays; it covers the range of infringements committed by goal-keepers (e.g. a galie picks the ball up in his box) and of course, for offsides. A goal cannot be scored from an indirect freekick. The ball must first be touched by another player before a goal can be scored. A referee will signify an indirect freekick by holding one hand in the air. A direct free kick involves so specific signal from the referee.
Once a freekick is awarded, the team taking the freekick has the option of asking for 10 yards – and at that point they must wait for the whistle – or quickly taking a freekick where 10 yards is not required of the defensive team.
Creating the wall.
Do not allow any surprises. Your team has just committed a foul and it is right on the edge of the 18 yard box. A good idea is to have the closest player immediately stand right in front of the ball not allowing the offensive team to take a quick freekick. This player should not move until the referee has signaled to move away. At this point, the other team must wait for the referee’s whistle. Too many times have players assumed they should just begin creating a wall while the offensive player notices the unorganized team and quickly takes a shot and scores. So, never allow that player to move until signaled by the referee. Watch Thierry Henry take advantage of an unorgazied team in this free kick scenario.
Who sets up the wall? The only way to properly organize a wall is to have the goalie and one player in the wall communicate. It is absolutely crucial that the player in the wall dictating the angle and line be on the outside end of the wall covering the near post. This player should turn to the goalie and push the entire wall left or right as per the goalie’s requests. The rest of the wall should face the ball and be watching for any developments in the play. The goalie should decide, based on how close the freekick is, how many players should be in the wall. A basic rule of thumb is to have 5 players in the wall anywhere from just inside the box to just outside the box; 4 players for freekicks 20-25 yards out; 3 players 25-30 yards out; and so on. You want to make sure the wall is big enough, however, you do not want to over-commit players to the wall as the important thing is to have players covering the other offensive threats in the box.
How to set up the wall. While creating the wall, the goalie should stand right at the nearest post to the ball. The idea is to have the wall cover the near side of the net, while the goalie covers the other side of the net. As the goalie sets the wall up, he should have the outside man the second man in the wall be in line with the ball and the post. The reason you want the second man in the wall to be in line with the ball and the post and not the first man is the first man should slightly be outside the post to make it more difficult for the offensive team to curve it around the wall.
Responsibilities. Once the wall is created, the goalie should stand in the middle of his net and slightly over to the opposite post to cover that shot. If a ball is shot over or around the wall, the goalie should have enough time to jump/run over to the near post to make a save (unless a ball is struck perfectly – then goals happen and no one is to blame really). The players in the wall should stand shoulder to shoulder and should never move. Cover the parts of your body you feel hold most value to you, and do not move. Cheap goals occur because the wall breaks for many reasons: players turn their backs, rush the ball or get scarred. Assign someone to run at the ball if you feel necessary, but the core wall should not ever move. Some coaches and players suggest jumping – however, try to avoid jumping as it can result is the wall breaking and the ball being shot under the wall.
- Have someone stand in front of the ball to avoid quick freekicks
- Designate a player in the wall – ideal the outside player closest to the near post – to communicate with the goalie and create a wall
- Maintain a distance of 10 yards between your wall and the ball. Ask the referee to measure if you are questioning the distance
- Align the second person in the wall with the ball and the post. The outside person should account for the potential or a curve ball around the wall
- Assure that the other offensive players in the box are accounted for – they are also threats. Do not over commit players to the wall.
- Players in the wall need to be shoulder to shoulder. Do not move for anything and avoid bad habits such as jumping, rushing and turning