Expert section: Mate Kontra – I’ve played soccer at a very high level all my life. Throughout my time playing, I’ve been coached by ex-pro, D1, and Academy level coaches, currently playing at the MLS-Next level as a wingback in California. I’ve learned many different shooting techniques, and I’m here to tell you which ones you need to learn if you want to play at the next level.
There are too many types of shots in soccer, and all of them are more or less specific to different kinds of situations.
The Panenka, Chip, Rabona, and Trivela are just some of the types of shots that exist in soccer, but are all of these even useful? Are they worth learning?
The short answer is probably not.
So to help you out, I’ve made a list of the most important shooting techniques that you should learn.
For a more in-depth understanding of a certain topic discussed in this article, be sure to check out the provided links!
Related article: How to Improve Your Technical Ability in Soccer | Academy Advice
The 5 Types of Shots You Should Master in Soccer
Here are the basics.
The most important part of any shot is the placement.
It is always important to check if the keeper is off his line, meaning in an awkward position in goal before you shoot the ball.
When the keeper is off their line, always shoot to the side where they leave more space, and when they aren’t off their line you should shoot to the nearest side of the goal (or just near post for short).
It is best to shoot low from close range because goalkeepers take time to get low to the ground to make a save.
Goalkeepers have less time to react to a shot from close range, so when they have to get low to the ground on top of that, it tests their ability to make a save.
On the contrary, it is better to get the ball in the air when shooting from a longer range because the ball moves around in the air, making the trajectory more unpredictable and giving you a higher chance of scoring.
And now onto the list.
We will start with the most common and basic techniques, and then progress to the more sophisticated techniques.
#1: Low Shots
As we said before, shooting low is the best technique for close-range shots.
However, two types of low-shooting techniques should be accounted for; low placed shot, and low driven shot.
Here is a thorough explanation for both of them:
Low Placed Shot
The low placed shot is the exact same technique as a pass, but instead of passing to a player, you are passing the ball into the net.
These shots are most commonly used when the keeper comes out of the goal, or just generally close to you and the ball.
The reason for this is that from really close range it is almost impossible for goalkeepers to react to a shot, even if it’s a weak shot.
So the most efficient way to score in this scenario is to place the ball into a pocket of space that the goalkeeper can’t reach but is still within the frame of the empty goal.
Low Driven Shot
The low driven shot is performed with the use of your laces, hitting the ball right in the center and skimming it across the ground with power.
Your runup shouldn’t be completely straight, but at the same time, I recommend using a runup that is less than 90 degrees from the ball, compared to your target.
This shooting technique relies on the speed of the ball to get past the keeper before they can get low enough to the ground to make a save.
You have the best chances of scoring with this technique from inside the 18-yard box, where the goalkeeper has the least amount of time to make a decision.
I found the most success when shooting across my body toward the far post because even if I missed the goal, I put my team into a position where a teammate can just tap the ball into the net from 5 yards out.
#2: Power Shot
The power shot has a lot in common with the low driven shot, and it is pretty much the same difficulty.
It is performed by driving the laces through the ball, but instead of hitting the ball in the center, you want to hit the ball a little bit lower to lift it in the air.
Your runup doesn’t have to be completely straight, but your angle of attack shouldn’t be more than 45 degrees.
Power shots are the best when shot from outside of the 18-yard box because even though they are difficult to hit with accuracy, the way they move around in the air makes them very unpredictable and difficult to save.
This shooting technique doesn’t rely on catching the goalkeeper off guard in any way, but rather on the movement of the ball to confuse the keeper.
To have the most movement on the ball, you want to focus on eliminating any kind of spin on the ball.
When the ball has no spin and moves around randomly in the air, it is called a knuckleball, which is a variation of the power shot.
A knuckleball should be your goal.
An additional benefit of power shots is the high chance of a rebound.
Rebounds are the easiest opportunities to capitalize on and score.
So by mastering the power shot, not only are you increasing the chance of scoring a beautiful goal, but you are also increasing the probability of gifting your team a goal from a rebound.
The finesse shot is the shooting technique where the goal is to curve the ball, or in other words, whip the ball.
To perform this technique, you want to hit the ball with the big bone that is the start of your big toe and wrap your foot around the ball to create a side spin.
Whichever foot you hit the ball with, the ball will curve in the opposite direction.
The angle of your runup should be around 90 degrees so that you can properly whip the ball.
I usually focus on putting enough spin on the ball rather than the height of the shot, because as long as I put enough power behind it the ball will lift in the air, and it will curve around the goalkeeper.
Although this technique isn’t very difficult to learn, it takes a lot of time because both accuracy and power have to be perfect to find success.
Finesse shots are the most effective when you are at an angle from the goal, or when the goalkeeper favors one side of the goal over another.
I tend to shoot far post more often than not because when you are at an angle from goal, there is more space behind the keeper than in front.
So when targeting the far post, the keeper has to make up more ground and the shot becomes more difficult to save.
A crucial benefit of a finesse shot is that they are the same technique used for crosses into the box.
This means that if the ball goes off-target, the defenders will have a difficult time clearing the ball, giving you another potential opportunity to score.
#4: Placed Shot
We have mentioned low placed shots previously in this article, and they have a lot in common than just normal placed shots.
Similarly, this shooting technique takes advantage of the goalkeeper’s positioning and catches them off guard by precisely targeting the part of the goal they can’t reach.
The amount of power you need on the shot to be successful is completely up to your interpretation of the scenario.
You need just enough power to reach your target, and no more because then you are sacrificing accuracy and decreasing the probability of scoring.
Goalkeepers will often try to anticipate your next move by positioning themselves in a way that they think is advantageous for them, disregarding the amount of space they leave open for a shot.
For example, goalkeepers anticipate crosses by creeping out of the goal, so they have a better chance at a catch or clearance.
This is a perfect opportunity to exploit the open space by placing the ball into the farthest corner of the goal because they will have no chance of getting to the ball before it crosses the goal line.
As a wingback, this is where I found the most success.
After getting the ball down the line, I would cut inside and set up for a cross, but instead, I would place the ball into the far corner of the goal.
Bear in mind, however, that it is essential to recognize if you have enough space to score before you shoot the ball.
Giving the keeper an easy catch is the last thing you want because this can gift them a quick counterattack and potential goal.
By far the most difficult shooting technique on this list is the volley.
The volley is when the ball is hit with the first touch in the air, toward the goal.
This can be with the laces or the inside of the foot and can be from a cross, corner, or any situation where the ball is hit with the first touch in the air.
To perform this technique, I recommend using the inside of your foot because shots are consistently more accurate that way.
Although if you are far from the goal, it is possible to hit an accurate volley with the laces, whether you are swinging your foot from below you or beside you at waist height.
Personally, I did not attempt many volley shots in games so far, so I can’t share my personal experience.
However, I can share what I learned from college and academy-level coaches, as well as watching hundreds of professional matches throughout my life.
The inside of the foot should be used from close range to redirect the ball toward the goal or to a teammate in a better position to score because this technique doesn’t produce a powerful shot.
Using the volley technique with laces should be used from at least 18 yards from the goal because it is very powerful and easy to mess up.
The last thing you want to happen is trying to volley with laces from 5 yards out and missing the target, so use the inside of the foot from close range, and laces from long range.
Shooting techniques can be overwhelming at first glance.
However, when fundamental techniques are separated from advanced shots, it becomes very simple to understand when you should use what technique.
Low shots are almost always used for finishing off a play, as they are close-range shots optimized to take advantage of the time it takes for a goalkeeper to get to the ground and save a shot.
Power shots are the complete opposite of low shots, as they are meant to beat the keeper from range, by exploiting how unpredictable a ball is in the air.
Finesse shots are commonly performed when a player is at an angle from the goal because in these situations goalkeepers tend to leave space behind themselves, making curved shots more effective.
Similar to low shots, placed shots are mostly designed to take advantage of a goalkeeper’s positioning, by sacrificing power for deadly accuracy to aim the ball where the keeper has no chance of making a save.
Last but not least, volleys are often used to make a one-touch shot from a cross, corner, or aerial pass from a teammate, typically with the inside of the foot or the laces.
If I had to give you only one piece of advice about shooting the ball, it is to always imagine the ball going into the goal, and just sense how you will hit the ball with your foot before you shoot it.
It has helped me tremendously to have confidence in my ability to shoot the ball, so it is proven that it works, you just have to believe in yourself.
Image Attribution & Licensing
Featured Image: ‘Soccer Player Practicing Shooting Technique’ by Omar Ramadan (Licensed via Pexels)
#1: ‘Ready for Shooting Practice’ bv Alberto Frías (Licensed via Unsplash)
#2: ‘Female Player Shoots Ball With Laces’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)
#3: ‘Female Player Performs Low Placed Shot’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)
#4: ‘Soccer Player Practicing Power Shot’ by Omar Ram (Licensed via Unsplash)
#5: ‘Female Player Uses Finesse Shooting Technique’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)
#6: ‘Well Placed Shot Beats the Goalkeeper’ by Álvaro Mendoza (Licensed via Unsplash)
#7: ‘Soccer Player Performs Volley Shot Toward Goal’ by Sven Kucinic (Licensed via Unsplash)