Sometimes all players in the wall will jump to prevent the ball being kicked over the wall. This then leaves a gap at the bottom, through which a low shot can pass, and through which Ronaldinho scored in a match for Barcelona against Werder Bremen.

What is the best option for the defending team? Jump or stand still? Does it depend on the distance from goal or the height of the players?


6 Answers 6


Obviously, it depends very much on the distance from goal. If there's a free kick from 30 meters a low shot will be very inefficient because of the friction force with the ground; the goalkeeper will have no trouble catching the ball.

When there's a closer free kick you have to consider some factors:

  • Kicker's ability
  • Wall's players height

In the first case, the defending team should be aware of kicker's habits. Most of kickers usually maintain the free kick style: David Beckham has always kicked the ball making it fly over the wall; in this case the wall has to jump. When the kicker is someone like Ronaldinho, the wall strategy becomes a bit harder. In my opionion the best way to avoid a score is to make defenders jump in an alternatively way: I mean, if you have a 5 defenders wall, you could make the 2nd and the 4th jump, and let the others stand still. In this way you should reduce (theoretically speaking) the probability to get scored.

In the second case if the defenders are pretty short, the wall is actually forced to jump, because the kicker will try to use opponent's disadvantage to score, in this case a fly over the wall free kick. If the defenders are tall you can let them stand still, unless the kicker's ability is very good.

  • 4
    I voted for you, but I think you are wrong on the jump in an alternatively way part. Your body will cover the same space wherever you are in the wall and whether you jump or not. You need to choose a strategy and then apply it. Commented Feb 25, 2012 at 6:59

I'm not sure if you can say that one strategy is better than another.

I think the best thing you can do if you're concerned about this would be to watch a lot of tape on your opponents and see what they do most often and try to adapt your strategy to it.

If they often send someone wide for a cheap pass then maybe you will want to widen or shift your wall to compensate or send an extra rover to handle them. If they often go for the top of the net then perhaps you will want to have your guys jump. I think it all depends on your analysis of your opponent which comes from playing them in the past and from watching a lot of film.


As a center back, we (my line mate and I) have been told to get in the wall according to how our goalkeeper directs us, square up and don't move. Both of us are 6'2" 190 lb, as is one of our center midfielders, so two of us will go in the wall while the third will hard mark one of their perimeter players if they attempt a chip-and-header. As said, though, we've been told in no uncertain terms to "don't move" as that movement makes it more difficult for our goalkeeper to read and react to the flight of the ball. I also play and umpire baseball, and the adage holds true -- if you have a weakness or a flaw or a gap, the ball will find it. Same goes for soccer -- if you jump or twist while in the wall, the ball has a way of finding that gap.

At the level of soccer we play, very few guys can rip a precision shot over or around a well-deployed wall. Some can, or could... a fair number of guys were pro or collegiate players at one time, and of them, maybe a third could do it? What we actually do, to increase the odds if we're taking the free kick, is to place one of us (center backs) on the end of the opposing team's wall. Plant our feet, don't get elbowed out of the way, and our striker knows to aim right at our head. We know to duck and slide -- we create that gap that gives that much better a chance of scoring.


It really depends on how well you know your opposition. My coach tells us to jump to a height where the ball cannot travel under your feet. However that is because our goal keeper isn't the tallest player around, your goalkeeper should also have a large say in what happens with the wall, he should position them and tell them what he feels comfortable with.


Interesting question, with a number of really nice answers, but I feel a third option is forgotten. The wall can rush as well, which usually happens just for that reason to prevent smart passes. Obviously the decision of wall behavior is extremely dependent on:

  • the distance from the spot to the goal
  • the angle at which the spot sees the goal
  • the kicker(s) standing behind the ball
  • the type of the kick (direct/indirect)
  • the number of players in the wall

To answer your question without going in to all possible scenarios, whether to jump or not primarily depends on the where the spot kick is taken from. If the kick is close to the arc, seeing the goal from a favorable angle, 9/10 times the wall will jump, as the chances that it's a high curveball is much more than a speedy lowball. Keep in mind that keeping the ball low but fast is not that easy.


In the years since this question and its answers were posted, teams have begun guarding against the strategy mentioned in the question by having an additional player lie down behind the wall, blocking the gap that would otherwise be left behind when the wall jumps. This tactic seems to have originated in Brazilian league football (the earliest reference I can find is this article from July 2013; the image below depicts Santa Cruz performing the trick in May 2016). It's now become fairly common, with multiple teams using the tactic during the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Brazilian side Santa Cruz line up to defend a free kick, with five players forming a regular wall and one player lying behind it.

So to answer the question directly, the "best option for the defending team" is definitely to jump, and to have an additional player lying behind the wall to eliminate any possibility of the free kick being rolled under the wall.

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