How to Defend a Corner Kick Successfully

By Luís Miguel
Updated on

You already know it:

Defending a corner kick is NO easy job.

But… there’s a “but”!

Life can be much easier for you if you learn the right corner kick defense essentials.

Specific essentials that will make you 50 to 75% more efficient at defending corner kick set pieces.

In today’s post (and video), I am going to share what those essentials are by discussing the two primary types of defensive setups and several other different strategies and approaches on how to successfully defend a corner kick.

How to Defend a Corner Kick

In professional soccer, roughly 12% of corner kicks produce a shot. Of those, about 13% end up producing a goal, giving you about a 2% chance to score a goal from any given corner kick.

At youth level, however, those numbers go up drastically. The reason for that is because of defending errors.

Coaches, parents and, especially, the players themselves usually have zero ideas how to properly defend a corner kick which ends up leading to so many goals taking place.

In this article here, we’re taking a deeper and more incisive look at defending corner kicks.

We’ll share two of the most effective ways to achieve it, plus teach you some other valid and smart approaches on how to defend a corner kick the right way.

Most Effective Types of Defensive Setups

Let’s begin with the most elementary and common-sense type of marking system to use: man-to-man.


Man-to-man is a great system for use for those that are very young, those at a low level of competition and those who are just learning to play with one another.

It’s very easy to master as it is simply down to you versus them.

The main idea behind the man-to-man system is to take one player and get in between one of the attacking team’s footballers and the goal.

This is absolutely crucial as if the ball does come in, you have a way to combat the danger and then hopefully clear it out for, at least, another corner or possibly a throw-in.

Man-to-man’s primary objective is to stay in between the opposing player and the goal. If you fail to do this, you are negating the system entirely.

Although it seems like a great system on the surface, there are definite cracks in the idea that you need to overcome.


  1. You can definitely be outmatched by height in a big way and,
  2. You can be taken advantage of if you have a player or two that kind of switch off (stop paying attention easily).

Zonal Marking

Nowadays, it seems that the sleek, sexy new trend in world football is zonal marking. Marking in a zone, however, is really nothing new.

It has been around for ages in open play and I’m pretty sure it’s been around for corners for quite a time as well. It’s just never been this publicized.

Some of the world’s best teams, such as Bayern Munich and Barcelona, deploy this and many managers live and die by the system at the top level.

Zonal marketing is a very intellectual system, but it does work very well in practice as well.

The idea behind a zone is to make sure that you mark certain areas of the box, instead of the man.

Unlike man-to-man, a player is able to attack the ball full force once it comes into their zone. After that, the team is meant to work together to converge on the football and then get it clear.

With this system, it is actually easier to attack the soccer ball and be proactive, whereas the man-to-man system is reactive in nature.

Nevertheless, it can be difficult to teach at younger ages, as it is very hard to convey to a child that they are defending an area.

It can be hard to get them to stay still in an area at times, so this is why it’s acceptable to go with the man-to-man system at the youth levels on most occasions.

It’s taken me a long time, but I am starting to see the merits of zonal marking. Soccer rewards the bold, so I tend to favor zonal marking for older players.

I believe it is something that should be considered by all coaches as they seek to learn more and more about the game.

Other Ways to Defend Corner Kicks

There are other ways to help defend corner kicks as well. Here is a quick look at these ideas.

Putting Players on the Post

Unlike what I discuss below, putting players on the post can be a viable tactic at a youth level.

This is to help protect the goal.
It’s a good idea if you have big goals and smaller kids together.

Please note, however, that the proper way to stand in goal is for the player to face directly outward. By turning sideways, they give up space they could otherwise be defending!

Covering the Low Ball

A very common tactic that even some professional teams use is putting a player on the corner taker.

Of course, ten yards (~10 meters) are required to be given to a corner taker, but you can put someone ten yards away to ensure that they don’t pass it short or attempt to simply kick it in low.

This oftentimes messes up the kicker as they don’t know how to deal with someone standing in front of them.

Prepare for the Counterattack

One of the most interesting things about soccer is that it involves attacks, counterattacks and lots of other moving parts allowing room for many schools of thought and, thus, different tactics, approaches and strategies.

Sometimes, even, the best way to defend a corner is by leaving a player (or players) forward.

If you would ask me…

I would say that it’s a really smart plan.


Well… there are two sides to this idea:

1. If the team that’s defending the corner kick would get hold of the ball, they’d have someone up the field to pass the soccer ball to and start a dangerous counterattack.

I.e., they would be prepared for the counterattack.

2. The team that’s taking the corner kick would have fewer men trying to score (which would make it easier for the defending team).

Simply because they would be forced to leave two players (or even more) back in order to be prepared for an eventual counterattack from the team defending the corner kick.

On the flip side in regards to the second bullet point, though…

A bold strategy that Leicester City has deployed has seen them leave three or four men up at times, daring the other team to push too many men toward the corner and leave their goal unguarded.

It’s a courageous approach that might just result in some goals for you if you are brave (or desperate) enough to try it!

The Wrong Tactic You Shouldn’t Even Try

There is one specific defending corner kick tactic that I personally cannot stand; in fact, it almost makes me sick.

The tactic I’m talking about and that I’ve seen many, many times at youth level is making a wall on the goal post nearest to the corner taker.

Making a wall is a terrible idea.

For one, a decent player, or someone that can just kick it high, can easily chip the football over the top for an easy tap in.

And a second problem is that you can pull the soccer ball back low and hard across the ground to an open player for a shot by doing this.

It doesn’t allow your team to defend any of the opposition and it gives the other team a much higher chance than the 2% that we talked about earlier.

Video: How to Defend a Corner Kick

There’s nothing better than to actually see some of these concepts and essentials in action.

Here’s a quick sports video here Adrian Heath, Heach Coach of the Austin Aztex gives his professional advice and expert instructions on how to defend a corner kick.


The biggest thing to take away from all these corner kick defense tactics is that preparation is capable of beating any corner kick attacking routine.

No matter which system you choose to use no matter what additional approaches go along with it, being organized is going to help you win the majority of your battles.

It is sometimes a tall task to get all of your players on the same page, but if you take the time to do so you will see success in a short time!

Note: The USSF (United States Soccer Federation) has banned heading for all ages 10 and below.

Therefore, a lot of corner kicks are much easier to defend now.

If your league goes by those rules, or any other rules, make sure that you coach and convey this to your players. It can make a massive change to the tactics and strategy that you use to defend!

I hope that you’ll soon master everything behind how to defend a corner kick efficiently and you keep learning, training and working hard to become a better soccer player or coach.

Guy wearing an SL Benfica jersey holding soccer ball over his head

Article by:

Luís Miguel

As a true soccer enthusiast, I’m Soccermodo’s team captain. My job is to make sure the site’s content is top-notch so that you, our reader, can focus solely on improving your game and reach new heights.