What is a Goal Kick in Soccer?

In the world of soccer, moments of transition hold immense importance, both in shaping the rhythm of the game and providing strategic advantages.

One such critical juncture is the goal kick—a defensive restart that sets the stage for a team to regain control and launch their offensive maneuvers.

Often an underrated aspect of the game, the goal kick serves as a fundamental pillar in the tactical arsenal of every team.

In this article, we delve into the intricacies of the goal kick, shedding light on its importance and unveiling the strategic nuances involved.

We explore the technical aspects of executing a successful goal kick, including the positioning of players, the methods employed by goalkeepers, and the potential outcomes of this defensive restart.

A goal kick occurs when the ball crosses the goal line at the end of the field, last touched by an attacking player, resulting in a restart for the defending team. This dynamic play requires precision and strategic decision-making from the goalkeeper, as they hold the responsibility of distributing the ball effectively and initiating the transition from defense to attack.

what is a goal kick in soccer - restart of play for defending team


What are the goal kick rules that players have to adhere to?

When it comes to soccer, every aspect of the game is governed by a set of rules carefully crafted by the International Football Association Board (IFAB).

Among these regulations, an entire section is dedicated to the intriguing and vital aspect of the goal kick.

Known as Law 16, it outlines the essential details and guidelines that dictate the execution of this defensive restart.

Now, let’s dive into the key elements that define the goal kick:


1. The ball must fully cross the goal line

To initiate a goal kick, it is crucial that the entire ball has fully crossed the goal line, signalling its departure from the field of play.

Similar to other boundary lines, such as those governing corner kicks or throw-ins, the ball’s complete passage over the line is necessary for the referee to award a goal kick.

Whether the ball is on the ground or in the air, its trajectory beyond the goal line prompts the referee to intervene and indicate that the defending team will take the goal kick.


2. Last touch by an attacking player

Following the ball’s departure from the field, the referee’s primary consideration is identifying the last player who made contact with the ball.

Only when the attacking team’s player is determined to be the last to touch the ball can the referee award a goal kick.

In the event that the ball was last touched by a defending player, the referee would instead award a corner kick to the opposing team.


3. Goal kick taken within the goal area

Once a goal kick is awarded, the player designated to take the kick must do so from within their team’s goal area.

Although goalkeepers often opt to position themselves near the edge of the goal area parallel to the goal line, the kick can be taken from any position within the designated goal area.

Strategically, the kicker may choose to take the kick from the spot closest to their intended target for the goal kick.

It’s important to note that the ball must be stationary at the moment of the kick; a rolling ball that is kicked while still in motion necessitates a retake.


4. Opponents must stay outside the penalty area

A crucial rule to bear in mind during a goal kick is that opposing players are prohibited from entering the penalty area until the kick has been taken, and the ball is in clear motion.

The exception to this rule is defending players who are now allowed inside the penalty area as per a revision made in 2019 by the IFAB.

The ball is considered in play once it is kicked, and only the opponents of the kicker must maintain their position outside the penalty area.

This rule enables goalkeepers to pass the ball to a teammate within the penalty area during a goal kick.


5. Goalkeeper can score from a goal kick situation

One intriguing aspect of a goal kick is the potential for scoring opportunities.

Any player, including the goalkeeper, can score directly from a goal kick, as it is considered a “direct” kick in soccer.

While it’s quite rare to witness a goal scored directly from a goal kick, instances of unexpected wind gusts or goalkeeper errors occasionally lead to such remarkable outcomes.

Here’s a recent example of such an event happening:



6. Goalkeeper can not score an own goal

Another thing to note is that a goalkeeper cannot score an own goal from a goal kick.

If such an unlikely event were to occur, the referee would disallow the goal and award a corner kick to the opposing team.


7. Any player can take the goal kick

Contrary to popular belief, the goal kick is not exclusively reserved for goalkeepers.

According to the rules of soccer, any player from the defending team, including defenders, midfielders, and forwards, can take a goal kick.

While it’s less common for players other than the goalkeeper or defenders to assume this responsibility, coaches may opt for such variations to surprise opponents and initiate strategic play patterns.


8. Restriction on second touch for kicker

Once the goal kick has been taken, the player executing the kick is prohibited from touching the ball again until it has made contact with another player.

If the kicker violates this rule and touches the ball again before another player’s involvement, the referee will award an indirect free kick to the opposing team.

This regulation aims to prevent players from exploiting goal kicks as a means to gain an unfair advantage by taking multiple touches before passing to a teammate.


Why are goal kicks usually taken by the goalkeeper?

Goal kicks are usually taken by the goalkeeper due to several strategic and practical reasons inherent to the role of the goalkeeper in soccer.

Goalkeepers are already positioned in the defensive area, closer to the goal line, making it convenient for them to retrieve the ball and initiate the goal kick quickly.

Their proximity to the goal area allows for efficient distribution of the ball upfield.

Additionally, goalkeepers typically possess excellent kicking abilities, honed through training and experience.

They have the technique and power to launch the ball over long distances, facilitating the transition from defense to attack.

While goalkeepers are the primary choice for goal kicks, it’s worth noting that other players on the defending team, such as defenders or midfielders, can also take goal kicks depending on the team’s tactics or specific game situations.

Variations in goal kick strategies can add an element of surprise or exploit the strengths of specific players.


How many goal kicks usually happen in a soccer game?

The number of goal kicks in a soccer game can vary depending on several factors, including the playing style of the teams, the level of competition, and the dynamics of the match.

However, on average, a soccer game typically sees around 17 goal kicks per game.


Does the soccer ball have to leave the 18-yard box on a goal kick?

The soccer ball does not have to leave the 18-yard box on a goal kick.

According to the Laws of the Game set by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), the ball is considered in play as soon as it is kicked and clearly moves.

The requirement for a goal kick is that the ball must be stationary and within the defending team’s goal area when the kick is taken.

Once the ball is kicked and moves, it is considered in play, regardless of whether it leaves the 18-yard box or not.


Are there any innovative goal kick techniques that have revolutionized soccer?

There have been some innovative approaches and strategies employed by teams to optimize goal kicks and create tactical advantages.

These techniques aim to enhance the team’s ability to retain possession, initiate attacking moves, and maintain control over the game.

Here are a few notable examples:


Short passing and building from the back

Instead of launching the ball directly upfield, some teams prefer to play short, precise passes from the goal kick within their own penalty area.

This approach allows the defenders to maintain possession, draw opponents forward, and create passing angles to build attacks from the back.

One of the most satisfying things that happened recently in an English Premier League fixture was seeing Brighton’s goalkeeper Jason Steele bait Arsenal’s forwards into a press before launching the ball long to a team mate situated in a wide position.

Case in point here.


Variations in delivery

Goalkeepers often vary their delivery techniques during goal kicks.

They may opt for a driven low pass to a nearby teammate, a lofted ball to a target player in a more advanced position, or a diagonal pass to switch play.

Just look at how Manchester City’s Ederson Moraes does this during games:


What is the difference between a goal kick and a corner kick?

A corner kick occurs when the ball is positioned in the corner of the soccer field, specifically at the end closest to the goal being targeted by the attacking team in their quest to score.

On the other hand, a goal kick is executed from the 6-yard box adjacent to the defending team’s goal.

A goal kick is granted when the ball crosses the goal line at the end of the field, with the last player to have made contact belonging to the team attacking the goal.

In cases where no goal has been scored, the defending team has the opportunity to take a goal kick from any location within their own 6-yard box.

The significant distinction between a corner kick and a goal kick lies in the ball crossing the goal line at the end of the field, with the last player to have touched it being a member of the defending team.

At this juncture, the attacking team is granted the chance to execute a corner kick.


Concluding thoughts

In conclusion, the goal kick is a fundamental aspect of soccer that plays a crucial role in restarting the game and transitioning from defense to attack.

It’s a set-piece that allows the defending team to regain possession and initiate their offensive play.

The goal kick embodies the dynamic nature of soccer, constantly evolving as teams explore new ways to optimize their play and gain a competitive advantage.

Mastering the art of the goal kick contributes significantly to a team’s ability to control the game, maintain possession, and launch effective attacking moves.

For further reading on soccer’s core concepts, check out our related post on what a kick off in soccer is all about or our article which examines whether a player can be called offside from a goal kick situation.

Samuel Waihenya
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