Exploring throw-ins from the FIFA Men's World Cup 2022

Exploring throw-ins from the FIFA Men's World Cup 2022

Ben Futcher, FA Youth Coach Educator, and Si Houston, Game Insights Analyst explored throw-ins from the World Cup and consider the implications of coaching younger players.

How common are throw-ins?

The Men’s 2022 World Cup took many exciting twists and turns along the way but one thing we could have predicted before the tournament is that throw-ins would occur more frequently than any other dead ball ‘restart’. The graphic below shows that each team took on average 20 throw-ins, across 90 minutes in the tournament.

Why are they important?

For good reason, corners and free-kicks have traditionally been the set pieces meticulously planned and practiced by some coaches. This is because of the goal-scoring potential associated with them, they can often feature in practice before games to ensure players can effectively attack and defend them.

For coaches of younger age groups that may not have the time, space or need to prioritise practicing corners and free-kicks, the throw-in might provide a solution to more effective restarts. So, apart from the amount they occur, what makes them important?

If coaches undervalue throw-ins, then players will too. The image above provides examples of why a throw-in is more than just getting the ball back in play. Whether it’s the thrower themselves, or surrounding teammates, every single player on the pitch is likely to be involved in throw-ins throughout a game at any level and they are critical to the way a team performs.

Let’s begin to see throw-ins as a pass, and a skill that can be practiced. It’s a receiving opportunity. They present an chance to progress up the pitch, or even score, but if we don’t use them effectively, they can spell danger to our team.

Retaining the ball with throw-ins

We can safely assume that a team taking a throw-in will look to gain the first touch, so we’ve explored attacking 1st contact of each of the 2617 throw-ins across the tournament.

The image above shows that most throw-ins achieve attacking 1st contact, but the lowest success rate comes from throw-ins taken within a team’s defensive third of the pitch. Only 74% hit a teammate first in this tournament, in what may be the most important area of the pitch for this to happen. Let’s now take a closer look into this third of the pitch…

The image above combines attacking 1st contact with throw in direction and shows that when the ball was thrown forward from the defensive third, attacking 1st contact was made only 59% of the time. This represents a large difference from where attacking 1st contact was achieved nearly every time from throw-ins that were directed sideways or backwards.

As coaches, does this confirm or challenge our current strategies for throw-ins? There will always be good reasons for throw-ins being directed forwards from the defensive third of the pitch, but how can we support players to become more effective in retaining possession when the situation allows them to?

Observing the graphic below can give us more insight into average possession times following a throw-in, and how many possessions lasted over 5 seconds.

We can see that in the middle third of the pitch, possessions lasted for an average of 12 seconds following a throw-in and that 60% of the possessions lasted over 5 seconds. The lowest average possession time was 7 seconds in the defensive third, with only 30% of possessions following a throw-in lasting over 5 seconds.

Coaching considerations

What would this look like for the team you coach? Do you aim to keep the ball following a throw, or use these situations to gain territory up the pitch and get the ball as far away from your own goal as possible?