england world cup

England Relying on Set Plays to Win the World Cup

The 2018 World Cup in Russia has seen a record number of goals scored from set plays. In total, 66 of 157 goals in the World Cup have been scored from corners, free kicks and penalties.

That’s a figure of 42%, which beats the previous record of 36% from the 1998 World Cup in France. It’s also higher than the percentage in 2014 (27%), 2010 (24%), 2002 (29%) and 1994 (33%).

The trend of scoring from set plays began in the group stage and continued into the knockout rounds. 5 of the 11 goals scored in the quarterfinals came as a result of set plays.


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This phenomenon has been attributed to the introduction of VAR to the tournament. Due to the opportunity for officials to review video footage, more goal scoring chances have been created. It’s undeniable that defenders are struggling to cope without the dark arts that usually take place in the penalty areas.

However, the England team would argue that it’s down to hard work and preparation. England have scored 8 goals from set pieces so far, more than any other team. In doing so, they have qualified for the semi final for the first time in 28 years.


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“We’d been spending a lot of time on set pieces, right down to the details, all the runs and the blocks,” said midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

Captain and top scorer Harry Kane added: “(Attacking Coach) Allan Russell does finishing sessions with us, tells us about opposition defenders, goalkeepers, and tells us maybe where we can exploit a weakness. It’s just little stuff to maybe give us an edge.”

The semi finalists on the other side of the draw, France and Belgium, are far less reliant on set plays. They have scored three goals each from set plays in this tournament.

The final could well be a matchup between a great footballing team and a resilient underdog who looks to steal a goal on a set play.

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