Monday, May 21, 2007


The Swing of Things

An afternoon at the football in the company of my Well-Informed Covite friend always features a few good-natured disagreements and expressions of enjoyable indignation from both parties. And I continue to be staggered at the breadth of his knowledge of the local game; I’ve decided that he needs to start an online database of Australian football to rival the excellent Australian Football Archive (and I’ve thought of the perfect name for it: W.I.C.ipedia).

Yesterday afternoon, we got onto the topic of corners. Nick Carle, now “wintering” with Sydney Olympic, swung in a number of insidious, dipping left-footed flag kicks from the right in the second half, two of which very nearly resulted in a goal. I was moved to remark how dangerous inswinging corners were, given that the merest flick from an attacker (or a defender) is often enough to send the ball into the net.

W.I.C. countered with the just observation that outswinging corners were far more difficult for the goalkeeper to claim, and that attackers could get more power on a header or a volley from an “outswinger”. Clearing defensive headers, too, are undoubtedly problematic from a corner curving away from goal.

I’ve observed that, in black-and-white-TV era matches, corner taking was generally fairly conservative; the left-winger took corners from the left, the right-winger took responsibility from the right. And so, most of the corners were outswingers.

In more recent times, corner taking seems to have become more specialized, and there are plenty of “inswing” experts – not to mention players who take the corners from either side.

I’m still of the belief that, on the whole, inswinging corners should be the rule rather than the exception. So often, shots or headers from outswinging corners seem to give the goalkeeper time to react (and often save spectacularly), while a header from an inswinger will sometimes be in the net before the goalkeeper has even registered the change of trajectory.

My mind always goes back to France’s first goal in their triumphant 1998 World Cup campaign. As Zinedine Zidane prepared to take a right-footed corner from the left-hand corner flag, in the midst of a howling wind, the commentator remarked ominously, “This will inswing viciously…”

Indeed it did, and Christophe Dugarry, timing his jump beautifully, flicked it past a bewildered South African goalkeeper in the flash of an eye.

I've heard commentators say the odds favour inswingers but I couldn't tell you where they get their information. Sydney certainly looked a lot more dangerous from corners when Carney was putting in inswingers from the right. The problem is you very rarely see a good outswinger most left footers from the left and right footers from the right deliver those annoying floating corners that are very rarely successful.
Interesting topic.

Like anything in life, the real key is quality IMO. A fast, wickedly swerving free kick/corner will always be difficult to cope with if the kick taker finds team mates more often than not.

If I have a preference however, it would have to be the inswinger if taken by a good technician (sorry). I still shudder at the thought of Recoba's free kicks/corners on the right and Schwarzer in no-man's-land every single time.

Lazaridis also played some excellent inswingers from the right against Brazil (circa Confeds Cup 2001 for Shaun Murphy) and England (for Popovic in 2003) with both goals scored at the far post.

Unfortunately, less effective inswingers (I'm thinking most of Bresciano's efforts) are about as useful as tits on a bull, so there's a fine line.

Quality is imperative.

Yeah the other comparison to be made is between the quick, whizzing ones that are flashed in compared to ones that float over to the waiting players. I hate floaters, and sight of Michael Carrick standing over the dead ball was inevitably followed by a delivery that took an eon to reach the men in the middle to be cleared by a centre-half who had forever to read the ball. It can outswing or inswing, but it has to be quick...
We really miss Laza in the set-piece department, don't we. Definitely our best dead-ball man of the last ten years (with Skoko a close second).

Arnie even had Wilkshire taking the set-pieces against China, which doesn't inspire much confidence.

One of the best corner-takers in world football at the moment IMO, oddly enough, is Thierry Henry. Odd because you don't often see strikers doing it (although he used to be a winger, I suppose).
Having followed a side with a Vampire between the sticks for a few years, I can say that my census is that the inswinger is more dangerous to the suspect keeper.

It has got to the point where I look to see if it's a left-footer or a right-footer coming over to take the kick.

A vampire always prefers to stay in, and when he does so for an inswinger, there usually is no time to react if the ball gets a touch before the ball is in the net. A header from an outswinger is usually met with more force but it's got further to travel, and the keeper has a chance to make a save.

As tfo says though, quality counts. I had the chance to see Giggs takes corners, and they were superb, high enough to get above the first line of defence but flat enough to leave the keeper no time to decide.
I think as mr fourth said, the key here is quality of the corner, regardless of it's swing.
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