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Football's new wave of set plays and dead-ball situations


Goals are goals

I'm happy, of course, whenever my team scores from a set piece. I can still recall Gento’s near-post corners, flicked on by Puskas and headed home by Zoco. Essentially, a goal is a goal, and it doesn't matter whether it's from Amancio’s trickery or, in the case of Madrid’s rivals, Fusté arriving in the box, or Ufarte’s delivieries which would invariably end in Luis finding the net from the back post. Dead-ball goals win games and trainers are right to practice it, with their efforts rewarded and justified at the World Cup in Russia, where there was a higher number of goals from set pieces than ever before – this is almost how the tournament will be remembered.

The merits

But is it a good thing? I don’t think so. I’ve never left home or crossed the street just to see how my team scored from a set piece. I always set off looking for imaginative football that is not pre-fabricated on a black or white board, for moves that make me feel that genius finds its place of expression on the pitch. A move involving numerous team-mates, fine, but something that is not restricted to a tactics board. Players that hide, appear, search, find… there’s something graceful about the feigned moves and faux runs which come to nothing. But compare Mandzukic’s own goal and Griezmann’s penalty with Pogba’s and Mbappé’s goals in the final.

Issues to resolve

Therefore, in view of the 43.19% of goals at the World Cup coming from dead-ball situations – double the number in past World Cups - it is worth considering where football is going. Many say it is football’s natural course, which you cannot argue with, but, with the addition of VAR, it’s also worth scrutinising which free-kicks near the area are truly free-kicks and which corners are rightly corners, or when do we overlook or penalise tugging and pulling and fouling in the box. This issue is a loose end FIFA will be analysing, particularly after seeing so many goals from dead-ball situations which were not reviewed.