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The Tracker: The sneaky corner in Round 4

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Roar Rookie
17th June, 2020
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There were 18 goals scored in the A-League this round. Failure to track by defenders was implicated in seven of them.

One of those goals followed a corner that allowed the Wellington Phoenix to be first to score in their away match to Melbourne City.

According to Ruud Gullit in his book How to Watch Football, both attackers and defenders have the tendency to watch the ball at corners.

However, in this position on the field the advantage must surely lie with the attackers. Gullit confirms this by describing how Real Madrid’s Mexican striker Hugo Sanchez used to regularly collect goals sneakily at the far post when defenders were watching the ball on corners.

In this A-League instance it was the Phoenix’s Gary Hooper who was the sneak at the far post, untracked by defender Lachlan Wales – Hooper’s first goal in the A-League.

The awarding of a corner will tend to give an attacking team confidence and optimism. In contrast, this is a precarious match situation for those trying to keep the ball out of the net. Defenders may feel worry, fear, trepidation, and confusion.

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In an interview this week, Rikki Sheterline said that before the ball comes across from a corner “defenders are already heightened.”

The word ‘heighten’ means to intensify, and the implication is that feelings of fear are amplified and increased.

The example in the dictionary of the word heighten is most pertinent in the context of the corner at a football match – the tension heightened as the enemy forces advanced.

Rikki was coached by an ex-All White player at Eastern Suburbs, Auckland. In the 1970s Eastern Suburbs set the standard for New Zealand football in the National League.

As a central defender, Rikki recalled being taught on how to “read” the game. The coach took a hands-on approach by remaining behind Rikki in training games and talking to him about what was unfolding as an attack was built.

This involved not only positioning yourself correctly according to other teammate s, but also in relation to tracking attacking forwards.

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Rikki’s background knowledge about defending evaluates the Phoenix’s Steven Taylor as very calm at marking space and that Taylor can change immediately to tracking if the situation demands it.

It is this calmness that is required when defending on corners.

Controlled, slow and deep breathing has been shown to reduce heart rate. It enhances the ability to perceive more aspects of the environment. Improved outcomes in sport have been demonstrated through this technique. For example, a team of elite young baseball players had previously been taught how to slow their breathing.

Individuals would use the technique immediately prior to exiting the dug-out to face the pitcher. Measured results, which excluded other variables, showed players improved their batting performances.

In football there is usually enough time between the awarding of a corner and the actual taking of the kick to enable defenders to slow their breathing. Using this technique at that time comes highly recommended.

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It is likely to allow excellent surveillance of the scene and reflection on the part of each defender to ensure they go fast to their attacker. It may have helped Lachlan Wales in his tracking duties of Gary Hooper.

Goals conceded Defending team Goal scorer
Ball watching (7)
Lachlan Wales Melbourne City Gary Hooper
Scott Jamieson Melbourne City Ben Waine
Alex Rufer Wellington Phoenix Connor Metcalfe
Dario Jertec Western United Kristijan Dobras
Matthew Millar Newcastle Jets Kosta Barbarouses
Jack Clisby Central Coast Mariners Ivan Franjic
Unnamed Perth Glory Daniel De Silva
Focused Defence (9)
Wellington Phoenix
Sydney FC
Perth Glory
Western United
Melbourne Victory (3)
Newcastle Jets (2)
Penalty (1)
Wellington Phoenix
Own Goal (1)
Newcastle Jets
Total (18)