World's greatest?






Finishing is not the same as shooting. You need to shoot hard and accurately to become a great finisher, but just shooting well isn’t enough.


Characteristics of great finishers

Great finisher’s have a lot of different qualities, most of them mental, not physical. They include:

  • composure in front of goal – great finishers are cool under pressure, and take their time. The game always seems to be moving in slow motion for them.
  • making good decisions – being a finisher means making the right decisions under pressure – which sometimes means holding off on that shot for an extra second to make a better angle or leave a defender in the wrong spot
  • placing the ball well – much more important than hitting it hard. Shoot low, and where the goalie is going to find it hard to handle.
  • anticipation – having that instinct about where the ball is going to be. Develops over time with experience as a striker.
  • acceleration – great first step. Much more important than sheer speed over distance.
  • courage – both in carrying the weight of the team’s need to score goals, and physical courage to stick your face right in there where the boots are flying. Great finishers score most of their goals inside the 6 yard box.
  • strength – sometimes a great finisher needs the strength to hold off a big defender long enough to bundle the ball over the line.

Some finishing characteristics cannot be taught or learned. But most of them improve with effort and experience. If you want to be a striker, the best thing to do is to play as much as possible – every day – and try to play as a striker as much of the time as you can.


Finishing technique

Most finishing technique is not about shooting. We’ll discuss shooting below, but finishing is about putting the ball in the back of the net. Most of Mueller’s goals were placed into the net from close enough in that the goalie had no chance.

So most of his goals came from what he did before he got the ball, not from shooting.

Still, there are some core principles to remember about actually striking the ball:

  • Placement, not power.  Busting the net is fun, and if you are striking from the edge of the box, you need power. But most great strikers place the ball.
  • Low, not high. Upper 90 is spectacular, but remember, you can easily kick it over the goal. If you shoot low, you can’t get it under the net. Along the ground is most difficult to save.
  • Far post first. The near post is tempting, but a good goalie is taught to cover the near post. Far post shots also generate rebounds for teammates.
  • Take your time. You almost always have more time than you think, and you can often gain even more time with a faked shot. More time = better results.
  • Take the extra touch. You will miss more chances taking first time shots than you will having a defender tackle you if you take an extra touch. Watch Müller.


1Shooting zones and shooting technique

The most important thing about shooting is to know your personalshooting zone.”

What’s that? It’s the distance at which you can expect to score 75% of the time against a good goalie. And that tells you how close you need to be before you can shoot with a strong likelihood of success.

If you have a relatively strong shot, your shooting zone might reach the edge of the penalty area. It won’t go much further than that unless you are Steven Gerrard or Cristiano Ronaldo.

Most players don’t have anything like that kind of shot, so your shooting zone will likely be inside the penalty spot.

Key point: you need to get to that point before thinking about a shot. If you shoot outside your shooting zone, you are effectively just giving the ball back to the other team. Know your limits.

Still, shooting technique is obviously an important part of finishing, though less important than getting into the right position, not panicking, and making the right decision on what to do. There are a number of important elements:

  • Body position. Make sure that you are leaning over the ball, not leaning back. It is criminal to put the ball over the bar from a good position, and it’s mostly caused by bad technique. Learn to smack the ball along the ground first, or at most a few inches above the turf.
  • Vertical strike. It is a classic error – bad technique – to find yourself falling over as you strike the ball. Typically, right footed strikers fall away to the left as they strike, and lefties fall to the right. You will never be an accurate striker if you can’t keep your balance. Practice striking the ball and holding the finish as a pose, balanced on one foot. Do this at least a dozen times each practice.
  • Specific techniques for specific types of strike on the ball:
    • Instep drive. The classic power shot, the instep strike requires that you hit the ball with the middle of your laces. Key is to take a full swing, and follow through aiming at the target to a balanced finish.

    • Inside of the foot. Use the inside of the foot for a placed shot – which is all you’ll need for shots close to goal. Key once again is balance, plus a specific spot to aim at. Inside foot shots often take little backswing, and don’t require a big follow through. Key is to make good solid contact and to get the aim right.

    • Outside of the foot. A more spectacular shot, the outside foot is used to impart extra spin and swerve while retaining a lot of the instep power. Here the striking foot swing through and across the ball, from outside to in. A full follow through, with good balance, ends with the foot well inside the original placement of the ball. Ball is struck with the outside part of the foot.

    • Volley. A volley is a ball received in the air and struck before it hits the ground. Usually an instep strike, but can be any of the basic shots. Key is to keep your head down, your eyes on the ball, and your body leaning over the ball – it’s very easy to put a volley over the bar. Finish with balance.

    • Half-volley is a ball struck just after it bounces. The bounce and timing give added power, so the main effort is not make sure you get it on target. As with a full volley, keys are head down, eyes on ball, and body leaning over the ball. Finish with balance.