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Why you should stop getting annoyed about corner-takers hitting the first defender

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It’s guaranteed to induce a loud groan from any crowd in the country.

The team’s floppy-haired set-piece specialist struts to the corner flag as the towering bruisers make their way up from centre-back.

It’s a chance for a goal, that’s what they crowd think anyway.

The corner-taker raises at least one of his arms to indicate which meticulously rehearsed routine he wishes to unfold.

And then… his delivery is headed away by the first defender.


Not naming names…

Not naming names…

You’re livid.

“He gets paid (insert any sum above £500 here) every week and he can’t even get it past the first man, what a joke!”

The person besdie you suggests another player should take the next one.

Everyone agrees, it was s**t.

But here’s the thing, while failing to beat the first defender is obviously an unsuccessful corner, it’s far from groan-worthy…

Have you ever been this angry about a corner?

Getty Images - Getty
Have you ever been this angry about a corner?

Winning a corner is often greeted with a hearty round of applause and/or guttural encouragement.

In reality, only 3% of corners result in a goal.

And generally, corners are only successful when the ball is delivered flat and with pace (see also: whip).

Think Darren Anderton finding Teddy Sheringham at the near post.

This is one of very few repeatable corner routines with a respectable conversion rate.

Classic combination

Action Images - Reuters
Classic combination

Standing the ball up to the back post with no pace is an ill-advised tactic, but such deliveries are never greeted with mass groaning.

You have to remember that at the top level (and several levels below that) players are not simply trying to get the ball into the box at corners.

They are trying to deliver a threatening cross, one with a team-mate can guide goalwards without having to generate any power.

If the ball is headed away by the first defender then the corner-taker has only missed the optimum delivery by about 30cm.

Your uncle after Ozil finds the first man with two corners in a row

Your uncle after Ozil finds the first man with two corners in a row

Whipping the ball ever so slightly over the head of the first defender is pretty much the most dangerous delivery possible.

So it doesn’t make sense why so many people are so enraged when players miscalculate by a tiny fraction.

You wouldn’t groan if a player whipped a direct free-kick 30cm wide of the top corner would you?

You’d probably applaud a close effort.

We won’t mention the dreaded sort corner

PA:Press Association
We won’t mention the dreaded sort corner

It’s worth pointing out that this only really applies to corners that are headed away by the first man.

If the defender doesn’t have to jump and can chest the ball down, or hook it away won the volley, then yes, that’s a poor corner; the same as clipping it over everyone’s heads and out for a throw-in on the opposite side.

In conclusion, not all corners that fail to beat the first man are awful, many are close to perfection.

Amend your records.