What the majority of soccer fans hope for is to have a winner at the end of every game–and it should be their team. Players of both teams in a match work effortlessly to achieve this aim.
During a match, players in both teams are always on alert, waiting to make use of any little chance they get to score a goal and also creating defense strategies to prevent the opposing team from scoring.
One of the defense strategies used in soccer is setting up or building walls. Teammates can often be seen most of the time during matches standing shoulder-to-shoulder with each other to block any chances of the soccer ball penetrating their goal post.
To set up a formidable wall in soccer, players in a team must work together as one and carry each other along because walls can’t be built by a single soccer player.
Setting a wall is very effective most times as it helps to cover up almost half of the goalpost, thereby allowing the goalkeeper to cover and concentrate more on just a little section of the goalpost.
Setting up a wall is a common tradition in soccer and has existed over a long period. In this article, we have discussed at length, what is meant by walls in soccer, the benefits of setting up walls, the various methods, and other important information concerning walls.
How to set up a wall in soccer?
A wall in soccer is mostly set up by the defending team during freekicks from the opposing team. The wall consists of players of a team standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a straight line.
Walls are usually built in front of a player taking a freekick to make it difficult for him or her to score a goal.
According to law 13 of the Law of the Game, the minimum distance between the walls and the ball must be 9.15 m or 10 yds. The referee will usually mark out this distance and draw a line using a foam spray and the wall must be set behind the line.
The only exception to the 10 yds rule is when the freekick is so close to the defending team’s goal and the players form the wall directly on their goal line.
A strong defense is needed when the opposition is awarded a free-kick close to the penalty area to prevent them from scoring a goal. Without building walls in soccer, some freekicks will be scored as easily as penalty kicks.
However, some soccer players have mastered the art of bending freekicks over the wall and into the corner of the post that is far from the goalkeeper’s reach.
Although players are allowed to set up walls at any part of the pitch, you will rarely see them doing it for freekicks that are close to the center half. This is because it is very rare to see players score direct freekicks from that distance.
In the 2000s, the most popular wall formation was the 4-man wall. However, we are seeing an increasing number of players on a wall formation.
For example, it is common to see a 5-man where four players are standing between the freekick taker and the ball while a fifth player is lying on the ground behind the wall – to prevent shots that are close to the ground and pass through the legs of the wall (in case of the wall jumps).
Some of the benefits of setting up walls include;
- Little vision of the goalpost
Walls usually prevent a freekick taker from having a clear vision of the goalpost, this might affect the accuracy with which the kicker will strike the ball towards the goalpost.
- Difficulty in deciding a target
It should be easy for any professional soccer player to get a clean target and kick the ball accurately into the net since the goalpost is 8 feet tall and 8 yards wide, but when walls are set up, they tend to limit or cut down the scoring chances of freekick takers.
It becomes hard to decide on a viable target because walls protect a large part of the goal post leaving the goalkeeper with a little area to focus on. This also improves the efficiency of the goalkeeper.
- Takes the power away from shots
If a freekick taker decides to go direct, there is a high chance that the ball will hit one of the players on the wall—if it is properly set up. This takes the power away from the shot, making it easier for the goalkeeper to either catch or parry the ball.
In a bid to avoid the wall, freekick takers will always want to play the ball over the wall. Not every soccer player knows how to bend the ball and it mostly ends up over the crossbar.
Below are various methods of setting up a wall in soccer:
The odd case wall setup
In rare cases, the referee can award a freekick inside the 18-yard box instead of a penalty. When this happens, the defending team will form a wall that covers the entire post—hence the name odd case wall setup.
In the odd case wall setup, the defending players usually stand on the goal line, till the ball is kicked. It usually requires the entire team to stand shoulder-to-shoulder.
The tallest players will mostly stand on their goal line directly in front of the ball while the other players stand beside them. The players will not move until the ball is played.
This kind of wall setup is very rare. It is estimated that it happens less than 1 percent in any tournament. As players are becoming more skillful in taking freekicks, this type of wall formation is becoming less effective.
Very skilled players will aim for the roof of the net where the head of the soccer players will not reach. The disadvantage of this wall formation is that the players block the goalkeeper from diving effectively.
Pros of the odd case set up
- Makes it harder for an unskilled freekick taker to score
Cons of the odd case set up
- The players on the goal line can obstruct the goalkeeper
Traditional wall setup
The “anchor” who is the tallest striker or midfielder starts the setup of the traditional wall. Once there is a call for a wall, the anchor quickly runs to the position of the pitch that is 10 yards from the ball.
At the position, the anchor turns to face the goalkeeper who is termed the wall setter. As the wall setter, the goalkeeper directs the anchor to any position that needs to be covered.
The goalkeeper directs the anchor by giving instructions and pointing in the direction on which way to move and the number of steps to be taken.
For instance, the goalkeeper would say, “Left, two steps” or “Hold” (when the anchor is rightly positioned).
The anchor obeys and other players take their places next to the anchor shoulder-to-shoulder from the tallest down and no gap should be allowed.
The anchor then takes the responsibility of positioning other players in the wall properly, once the anchor adjusts, they must follow suit until they attain the right position.
After the hold signal from the goalkeepers, the anchor will face the ball. Players in a wall are allowed to protect particular body parts.
For example, girls and women are allowed to hover their arms over their breasts while the boys and men are allowed to hover their hands over their genitals.
Pros of Traditional wall set up
- Oral and hand signal directions are given which makes it easier to understand
- The goalkeeper has the opportunity of giving direction to the anchor player based on the goalkeepers’ wish
Cons of Traditional wall set up
- There can be miscommunication between the goalkeeper and the anchor player from the use of hand signs
Non-Traditional wall set up
In this method, the goalkeeper is freed from the responsibility of directing and positioning the anchor player. The wall setter in this method is either a lead midfielder or a forward. The wall setter takes instructions from the goalkeeper and relays it to the wall.
The anchor need not face the goalkeeper before turning to the ball as the wall setter takes full responsibility for the positioning. The wall setter still uses both oral and hand signals to give directions.
Pros of Non-Traditional wall set up
- Allows the goalkeeper to focus on the ball
- Oral and hand signal directions are given which makes it easier to understand
Cons of Non-Traditional wall set up
- The wall setter may not get the positioning properly as the goalkeeper wishes
How far should a soccer wall be?
Law 13 of the Laws of the Game talks says that for an indirect freekick, players should be at least 10 yards (9.15m) from the ball and the freekick taker.
Also, all attacking team players should stay 1 yard (1m) from the ball. This is why besides the player taking the freekick, the other players will mostly be far away from the ball.
Immediately an indirect free kick is awarded, the referee goes directly to the point of occurrence and measures the 10 yards distance from the point where the ball will be placed.
After getting the measurement, the referee marks the line where the players will set the wall with a “varnishing spray”.
The spray mark is done to ensure that the players do not leave the line in order to move closer to the ball. The referee will caution any defender that crosses the line.
How do you line up a wall for a free kick?
Once a free kick is awarded, a player from the defending team immediately positions in front of the ball and the free-kick taker. A wall is then built starting from the tallest midfielder followed by other players accordingly.
The first player who is usually the tallest player is to stay 10 yards from the ball then the goalkeeper communicates with him or her to position the wall.
If properly positioned, the wall should block off a portion of the post so that the goalkeeper will only focus on the remaining portion. This makes it easier for the goalkeeper to reach fast moving balls.
How many players should be in a wall?
Although there are no rules limiting the number of players that will be on a wall, the location of the ball in most cases determines the number of players to be on the wall. As many as five players or more and as little as one or two players can set up a wall.
A wall consisting of two players is common when the freekick is taken from the side of the penalty area close to the corner flag.
The thinking is that the freekick taker will most likely want to cross the ball into the penalty area rather than trying to attempt a direct shot at goal. Using lesser players in the wall frees up more players to defend the ball in the penalty box if the wall fails to stop the ball.
When the freekick is to be taken in front of the goalpost, you will usually see a wall consisting of five (or up to 8) players.
A three-player wall can be set when the freekick is 25-30 yards away from the goal post. As the freekick distance gets below 25 yds, the number of players on the wall increases.
However, when setting a wall, it is always important not to make the wall too long that they totally block the vision of the goalkeeper.
The opponents often set up false walls close to the defending wall with the sole aim of making it harder for the goalkeeper to see the ball when it is played.
Who should be in a wall in soccer?
Strikers and midfielders are usually saddled with the burden of setting up the wall while defenders will mark attackers from the opposing team.
The wall setup involves all-hands-on-deck whereby all defenders evacuate to designated locations to mark attackers. Immediately the ball is played, they leave the wall and get ready for a counter-attack.
Setting up a wall is very effective in soccer as it helps a defending team block a goal from the attacking team during a freekick.
How to set up a wall is usually one of the drills that soccer players are taught in training. It is always important for the players to follow the instructions of the goalkeeper during the formation of the wall.
By virtue of the goalkeeper’s position, he or she can see possible holes on the walls that the players on the wall may not see.
While the number of players that can be in a wall is limitless, the team should always be alert to the possibility of a deflection and have enough players outside the wall to deal with such loose balls.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!