Playing the Angles
Soccer is a beautiful sport that has millions of followers around the world. It teaches sportsmanship, team play, and individual skill. It also teaches us about geometry. How, you may ask. Let’s breakdown the game and we will see.
The field (pitch, as it is called overseas) is rectangular and has boundaries that form halves, penalty boxes, corners with quarter circles and goals. The center circle has a specified diameter that separates the circle into semicircles.
There are several formations in which players can be set. These formations all form geometric shapes—squares, triangles, and diamonds—designed to enhance the ability to score a goal, stop a goal, maintain possession of the ball, or to slow the pace of the game.
It is spherical and at any touch by the foot of a player has its own curvature, angle, and speed.
We can look at the passing of the ball from player to player. Whether passing a long ball, a give-and-go, a square pass, a header or chested ball, all form various geometric shapes and angles.
The Goalie and Goal Keeping
The position of goalkeeper is always adjusting to ball and player angles. By determining the angle of play, and the angle of the player’s legs and foot to the ball, the goal keeper can determine the ball placement within the goal. This will usually determine whether a goal is or is not accomplished. The less space the goalie gives to the player with the ball is detrimental (to the opponent), because the less space given diminishes the shooting angle and space to create a play. The goalie is not restricted to one spot in the goal; the ball can be shot vertically and horizontally.
There are five main types of plays the goalie must face: a direct kick, a corner kick, a breakaway, a penalty kick , a direct kick, and an in-the-flow shot. With direct kick, the goalie gets to set up a wall of five or six players to take away the prime shot angles given where the ball is placed. This allows the goalie to cover more shot angles than he/she would be able to do without the wall. One must always remember though, the kicker could always bend the ball around the wall.
Similar to direct kicks is another set piece called a corner kick. The corner kick is particularly dangerous because the purpose is to bend the ball into a group of players who may kick, head, or chest the ball into the goal.
The goalie may face a breakaway play where another player with the ball is coming horizontally, vertically, or diagonally to the goal. The goalie must decide whether to come off his/her line to close down the prime shot angles, or stay on his/her line, leaving the prime angles open.
In a penalty kick, the goalie is in a one-on-one mind game with an opposing player for one shot on goal. The opposing player takes a shot on goal from approximately 12 feet away with just the goalie as a defender. The goalie must not only guess where to dive but he/she must determine the height at which to dive.
Of all five types of plays the goalie faces, the most challenging is the in-the-flow shot. An in-the-flow shot is one where the opposing team has possession of the ball in what is called the final third of the field. This final third of the field is where the opposing team is more inclined to score. What makes this play so difficult is that there are too many unknowns (angles, trajectories, feet on the ball, etc.) for the goalie to determine where to go much less make normal reactions that a goalie needs. For example, the opposing team can make dangerous passes within 10 yards of the goal, which forces the goalie to make decision on what to do about the scoring threat. In making each decision, the goalie must always keep in mind the best way to make sure the he/she covers the maximum area of the goal while also giving the attacking team the minimal area of the goal to attack.
So, as we have seen, soccer and particularly goal-keeping is about playing the angles.