Player Development Blog

Strike it like De Bruyne

Belgium v Brazil, the World Cup Quarter Final, one of the biggest games in the careers of the very best players in the world. As Kevin De Bruyne receives the ball he is sharing the pitch with some fantastic players such as Neymar, Hazard, Lukaku, Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus.

With the world watching, De Bruyne looks up and has a decision to make, does he play the safe option and slide the ball in to the overlapping full back, or does he strike for goal?

As he took a touch out of his feet he had a quick look up, assessing his options. In that situation, with the ball on the move, many players would play the safe pass.

De Bruyne decided not too.

He stepped to the ball and struck a perfect strike that arrowed into the far corner, giving Brazilian goalkeeper, Allison, no chance.

It was pure technique at the highest of levels.

The power with which he hit the ball was phenomenal, however, he wasn't focusing on hitting it as hard as he can. You can see that he focused on pure technique, striking the ball on his laces and drilling it into the far corner. The ball went dead straight, a clear sign that he connected with it perfectly.

How can you hit the ball so cleanly, with such power?

The answer to this is his focus on technique. He realised that if he was off balance he would end up slicing the ball and missing the target. Firstly he made sure to plant his standing foot firmly into the ground, next to the ball. This giving him stability and a strong base to strike from. As he moved forward to the ball he made sure to keep his body weight over and strike cleanly on his laces. His connection was perfect, drilling the ball hard, and low, into the bottom corner.

Check out the finishing drills below to learn how to strike cleanly on your laces and pose a huge threat from the edge of the box, like Kevin De Bruyne.
The key focus should be technique first, then power. It is very much like a golf swing, if you try to hit the ball too hard then you will inevitably mis-hit the shot. Make sure that your body positioning is correct and strike cleanly on your laces through the middle of the ball.

If you're looking for something to help with your striking of the ball then have a look at the kicking trainer below (ball not included). Giving you the chance to practise your shooting technique more than before.

Remember, practise makes permanent!

Taking the Perfect Penalty


Yesterday brought us the first penalty shootouts of the World Cup. We saw great penalties, great saves, but also players struggle with the pressure. Penalty shootouts, for footballers, are one of, if not, the most stressful situations in the game. You can practise them daily, but never replicate the pressure that you are put under.

All players feel the pressure, whether you are playing for England, or a Sunday league/ youth team.

The main aspect is how to cope with this pressure, what can you do to increase your chances of scoring?

Sometimes it can feel like a lottery as to whether you score or miss, however, it isn't. You are in control.

Firstly, practise is key. You can't replicate the pressure of a penalty shootout in your training. But, you can make sure that you are confident in your ability. Practise your run up, positioning of standing foot, and your technique. The more you do this, the more you will hit the back of the net. Increasing your confidence when the time does come to step up and place the ball on the spot.

Then you must learn how to focus purely on yourself and deal with the pressure.

One of the key areas to scoring a penalty is to control your emotions. There were players yesterday who are superstars, player's you would feel extremely confident in scoring penalties, Modric, Koke, Iago Aspas and earlier in the tournament, Messi. They all missed.

That wasn't because of their ability, it was due to the emotion of the moment and the pressure they felt under.

When the next shootout comes around, (hopefully not England!) watch carefully. The players that miss typically rush their kick, aiming to get the moment out of the way quickly. As soon as the referee blows their whistle, they step up and quickly strike the ball. Those who do this are at a disadvantage, giving themselves less time be composed.

The player's that score will be calm, take their time, and strike the ball when they are ready.

If you are taking a penalty wait three to five seconds after the referee blows the whistle. Focus on the ball, your technique and picture yourself scoring. These extra seconds will calm you down, allowing you to take a deep breath and focus on your technique.

If you've practised your penalties enough in training then your technique will be there. We don't make good decisions when rushing, take your time and believe in your ability, knowing that you have practised this countless times.


Thirty six minutes into the game and England are 2-0 up against a physical Panama side. Scoring goal number three would put the game out of sight and give England a huge lead over the central American side at the half time break.

Jesse Lingard, England's creative attacking midfielder, receives the ball on the left side of the pitch, turning with it, he then plays the ball into Raheem Sterling for a quick one-two. As Lingard receives the ball back from Sterling, he finds himself under pressure, about twenty five yards from goal. He is left with a decision, does he strike the ball with power on his laces, or try to place it with the inside of his foot into the far corner?

He takes the second option and bends the ball beautifully into the far corner, out of the reach of Panama goalkeeper, Penedo. As the ball curls past the keeper it clips the underside of the crossbar and nestles into the back of the net, to the delight of the travelling England fans.

As Jesse Lingard wheels away to celebrate, the nation realises it has just seen something spectacular.

Was it a fortunate shot, one that he luckily hit sweetly into the top corner?

The answer to that is no. He has practised this technique for countless hours and hours, perfecting the skill of curling into the far corner.

No skill comes easily initially, it is a bit of trial and error, assessing how to strike the ball and with how much power. Sometimes he may have found that he was aiming too wide of the post, or too centrally. However, the more shots he practised, the more accurate he would become.

Top players will spend hours focusing on techniques such as these, aiming to routinely hit the far corner. With consistent and regular training the players will put themselves in a position where it feels natural. They will arrive on the edge of the area and without thinking, due to their training and muscle memory, they will bend the ball into the far corner of the goal.

They have performed the skill so much in their own training that they are prepared and comfortable when it comes to the key moment, in a key game.

Learn how to bend the ball into the far corner, like Jesse Lingard, by watching the video tutorial below.
Keep practising this technique and you will see the benefits. As soon as you find yourself in a position just outside the penalty area you will have the confidence to look up and curl that ball around the out-stretched hand of the goalkeeper.

There are three key points to remember when curling the ball to the far corner:
  • Your first touch should be a step or two out of your feet, allowing you to approach the ball and have the room for a clean connection.
  • Aim your hips wide of the goal, your follow through will then curl the ball into the far corner.
  • Strike the ball on the instep, close to the inside of the big toe.

Focus on these key areas and continue to practise. For some players it may take less attempts on goal to become very confident in this technique, whereas for others it may take longer. Focus on yourself and keep practising and you will soon find yourself in a similar position in a game.

Before you know it, you will be running away in celebration after scoring a brilliantly placed goal, out of the keepers reach, just like Jesse Lingard.

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