Finishing in the Euros: What do the tournament headlines and goal locations mean for working with younger players

Finishing in the Euros: What do the tournament headlines and goal locations mean for working with younger players?

In this blog, Simon Houston, The FA’s game insights analyst and Mark Neville, The FA’s youth coach developer talk about some key insights from the Euros tournaments and how these can be applied to coaching sessions with young players. 

How do we as coaches plan game-realistic finishing sessions? 

If we're planning to focus on scoring goals, a great place to start would be to observe precisely how goals are scored within the top level of the professional game. We analysed goal-scoring within both the Men's U21 and Senior European Championship's, then used the data (from open play goals only) to gain insight into goal-scoring locations, finish techniques and the number of touches taken by the goal-scorer, build up and crossing. 
This blog explores the insight from the first webinar in our four-part series and relates specifically to the tournament headlines and goal-scoring locations from the tournaments. We as coaches need to use these insights to help design effective practice sessions that develop our players’ skills and gives them the tools to flourish on a matchday. 
The findings... 
The first and perhaps most simple finding from the combined 148 open play goals analysed, across both tournaments, is the body part used for the successful finish. As we can observe from the table below, when compared to left-foot finishes, right-footed finishes were slightly more common in the senior tournament and far more common in the U21 tournament. 15 open play goals in the Senior Euros were scored with a headed finish (16%), which is somewhat more common than the U21 Euros, in which there were only two (4%). 

It's obvious that the closer a player is to the goal, the more likely they are to score, but how many goals are actually scored in different areas of the pitch? Patrick Schick's stunning half-way line strike against Scotland would have had most fans out of their seats applauding, but which areas are key to focus on to allow players to solve common game challenges?

In both tournaments, we can see that the 'second six-yard box' was the most common area for goal scoring finishes. The 'second six-yard box' describes a central location six to 12 yards from goal and represented nearly half of all open play goals in the Senior Euros. One contrast between tournaments is that double the proportion of goals were scored from outside the box by the senior's (18%) when compared to the U21's (9%). This could be down to multiple factors, including individual player capabilities, in possession playing styles and differences in defensive setups across tournaments. 
Mark Neville has observed this data and considered how it could impact coaches when considering practice design. His thoughts are summarised in to 3 key areas: 

Relevant area sizes for practices  

If we've got the luxury of having a goal area for practice, that's great; if not, let's create one to give players realistic pictures of where they can be successful in this phase of the game. We should recognise the benefits and trade-offs to working in different area sizes within sessions. How much do you want to allow all different types of finishes versus concentrating on practicing from critical areas? And how much do our practices enable the ball to appear in these areas?  

The use of goals and goal positions 

Goal scoring is evocative. The sound of the ball rolling down the back of a net or hitting the post and going in brings joy to attackers and motivates defenders to avoid conceding. Kids and adults need to have that as often as possible, so as obvious as it sounds, the importance of including goals in our practices should not be overlooked. The size of the goal, of course, changes the challenge point for players, and we must strike a healthy balance between the challenge point being too easy or difficult for attackers, defenders, and goalkeepers. We know that practicing without goalkeepers is sometimes a reality we face, so pushing the goal back further gives players more of a challenge and, at the same time, allows for different ball-striking techniques.  

Types and variety of finishes 

Coaches should be able to constantly place players in situations where they must make decisions to solve problems. How do I arrive in this position? What part of the foot should I use? How do I avoid this defender? Predictable practices produce players with a limited 'toolkit'. Each goal-scoring situation a player finds themselves in requires a split-second decision of which type of finish to use. So why remove the decision-making from practices? Players love a game in training so consider how we get repetition and variety in equal measure. 

To view the practice Mark created from using these coaching implications, watch this webinar Tournament Headlines And Goal Locations | Finishing At The Euros And Working With Younger Players OR check out the whole 4-part series here

What do you think of this blog? Do you have any questions for Simon or Mark? Have you tried out their suggestions? Let us know in the comments below.