Finishing and Shooting in Soccer

Finishing and Shooting in Soccer

The following article explains the basic principles behind shooting in soccer. We will consider the importance of power and placement in common situations as well as the role of surprise, where an unexpected shot can beat the goalkeeper.

How to shoot the ball

Placement, power and surprise

When you’re close to the goalkeeper, the focus should be on placement. Good placement requires composure and knowing the position of the goalkeeper. You can find where he is by looking up before shooting or better yet, before even receiving the ball. Powerful shots are only necessary when you are far away from the goal. It’s hard to beat a decent goalkeeper who is well positioned and ready. This is why it’s important to shoot unexpectedly, without telegraphing your shots.

Deciding ahead of time

Usually, attackers don’t have a lot time to choose how or where to place their shot. The most important factor to consider is your own skills in terms of the situation. For example, if volleying isn’t one of your strong suits, your odds of scoring from a cross would improve by setting up the ball. Decide how and where to shoot ahead of time so that you don’t hesitate when the opportunity is available.

Gianni Rivera scores Italy's winning goal in the 1970 semi-final against West Germany

Different ways of finishing


During breakaways, an attacker is facing the goalkeeper in a 1v1 challenge. When you are that close to the keeper, there’s no need to shoot very hard. A well placed ball in the corner or a sudden touch can beat almost any keeper. If you’re really confident, you can even try a nutmeg or a chip. Just make sure to keep it simple. Hesitating or trying something too complicated are the main reasons why most breakaways are wasted.

Long range shots

When trying to score from long range, your first priority should be keeping the shot low. If your shot is above the crossbar, the play is over and there is no possibility for a deflection. Weather conditions like wind and rain can sometimes convert long-ranged shots into a keeper’s nightmare so use the weather to your advantage.

Near corner vs far corner

Let’s say that you’re approaching the goal from the side and you have a teammate in the penalty box. Shooting in the near corner may force the keeper to punch the ball out-of-bounds. If the shot is directed in the far corner, the goalkeeper may have to deflect the ball infield, in the direction of your teammate.

Narrow angle shots


Sometimes, when approaching from the flank, the keeper might assume that you are about to cross the ball. He may step forward off his line, expecting to catch or clear your potential cross. At this point, he’ll be vulnerable for a chip or a far-post shot. Many top-level goalkeepers have made similar mistakes.


Finishing crosses is mostly about adjusting to the cross, rather than trying to hit the ball really hard. Make sure your body is leaning forward on low or bouncing crosses. On high crosses, the best way to beat the keeper is by directing the ball downward. Remember, placement and proper contact are more important than power when the goal is close by.

Updated: May 1, 2017
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