Free Kicks in Shooting Range - Setting Up The Wall

In the modern game a large percentage of goals are scored from set plays. One of the most dangerous types of set plays is the free kick that is within direct shooting distance of the goal. Many outfield players now specialize in these situations and being able to make their task more difficult is of utmost importance to the goalkeeper if he wants to be successful.

In most of these situations it will be impossible for the goalkeeper to cover the entire goal by himself. He will require assistance from his teammates.

This assistance will usually come in the form of a defensive "Wall" placed 10 yards away and directly in front of the ball.

These Free Kicks may be Direct or Indirect.

Goalkeeper - Frolian Fromlowitz
Setting Up Wall - Figure One

When dealing with direct or indirect free kicks within shooting range, the first question always asked is 'How Many Players in the Wall' or 'Do I Even Need a Wall'? There is no clear or definitive answer and there are many factors to consider. How close is the ball? What is the ability level of the kick taker? What is the ability level of the goalkeeper? Etc.

The diagram above can help to serve as a guideline for determining the minimum number of players needed in the wall. Distance of the ball from the goal is the main determining factor and the goalkeeper may decrease the number of players who are in the wall if the ball is further away, or he may not require a wall at all.

The goalkeeper is always in control of how many players are in the wall. It is the goalkeepers decision, and his decision alone. The goalkeeper must communicate quickly and effectively to his teammates when the time comes. He should shout and use his hands to signal the number of players required in the wall.

Goalkeeper Robert Enke
Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon
Goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano

Here we clearly see the goalkeepers signalling how many players in the wall.

Setting Up Wall - Figure Two

Here we see some examples of how many players might be in the wall based on the positioning of the ball. Again, we empahasize that these are merely guidlines that we recommend. Every goalkeeper is different and only experience will tell the goalkeeper what works best for him.

Setting Up Wall - Figure Three

Once the goalkeeper has decided how many players to have in the wall, he must then ensure that the wall is lined up properly to effectively cover  one side of the goal. We highly recommend that the wall be positioned to cover the side of the goal at the nearest post to the ball. The goalkeeper is then responsible to cover the arear at the far post of the goal. If the ball is positioned in a central area the goalkeeper can choose one post or the other to be covered by the wall and then he will cover the open side.

Philadelphia Union - Wall
German National Team - Wall

When lining up the wall there are two different options. Some suggest that you line up the last man in the wall with the near post. Others recommend that you line up the second last man to cover the near post. Our recommendation is to use option #2 if you know the kick taker has the ability to bend the ball around the wall at the near post. Better to be safe then sorry.

Chelsea Defending A Free Kick
Blackburn Rovers Defending A Free Kick

If possible, you should also try to line the players up from tallest to shortest so that the tallest player is in line with the near post.

The goalkeeper should then take up a position in the goal so that he lines up with the last player in the wall. This will give the goalkeeper the best option to see the ball as it is kicked. The goalkeeper should try to avoid standing behind the wall as he will not see the ball at the point of contact and this will cause a delayed reaction.

Goalkeeper - Steve Mandanda - Setting Up The Wall
Goalkeeper - Gianluigi Buffon - Directing The Wall
"Move Right!"
Goalkeeper - Artur Borac - Directing The Wall
"Move Left!"
Sevilla Goalkeeper Directs The Wall
Goalkeeper - Ben Foster - Directing The Wall
Goalkeeper - Sebastien Frey- Directing The Wall

Once a free kick has been given it is someones responsibility to make sure that the wall is lined up properly. The person who lines up the wall will be the choice of the head coach. Some coaches prefer an outfield player to line up the wall, while others prefer the goalkeeper.

 The person responsible for lining up the wall will stand in front or next to the near post. He will then communicate with the `Ă€nchor Man`. The Anchor Man is the player designated to stand at the end of the wall closest to the near post. Often times the Anchor Man will turn around and face the direction of the goal so that he can clearly see what direction the wall needs to move. Once the wall has been lined up, the Anchor Man will then turn back around to face the ball.

The person responsible for lining up the wall should use both his voice and hand signals to communicate with the Anchor Man so there is no confusion. The player yell Right! (pointing to the right), Left! (pointing to the left) or Stop! (hand up). If the goalkeeper is responsible, once the wall is lined up, he should quickly move back into position in order to be able to see the ball.


Game Footage


BEWARE! The Quickly Taken Free Kick

When the opposing team is awarded a direct or indirect free kick they are not required to wait for the whistle before putting the ball back into play with a quick shot or pass. They are only required to wait for the whistle when specifically instructed by the referee. This will only happen if the attacking team asks for their required yards or the referee feels a defender is encroaching on the ball, in which case a yellow card may be issued.

Referee Benito Archundia
Referee Howard Webb
Referee Nicole Petigant

Here we clearly see the referees signalling to wait for the whistle.

As the goalkeeper, do not get caught leaning on the post trying to set up the wall unless the referee has signaled that the attacking team must wait for the whistle (see video below). If the referee does not signal to wait for the whistle then the goalkeeper must remain in position to save any quickly taken shots at goal.

Don't Let This Happen To You!
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