A barrier – is a group of players from the same team, always placed side by side in a sort of line, who stand in front of their goal at the distance established in the rules of football in order to protect it from a shot taken by a player of the opposing team. These kicks take place immediately after a foul has been signalled by the referee.

When a foul occurs, the free kick is the means by which play is restarted. Free kicks may be direct or indirect, but in both cases the ball must remain stationary when the kick is taken and the player taking the kick may not play the ball again until it has been touched by another player, regardless of whether he is a member of his team or not.

The barrier shall be placed at a distance of 9.15 metres from the place where the ball is placed for a free kick. The goalkeeper is the person who chooses how many players he wants to make up the barrier. The referee may use a vanishing spray to mark the area where the required distance is correct. This will prevent the players in the defensive wall from shortening the distance between themselves and the kicker by taking small steps.

Setting up a barrier when a free kick is to be taken serves to help the goalkeeper to cover one part of the goal while the other part is being protected. In addition to setting up the barrier in the way he thinks is most appropriate, the goalkeeper also has the task of ordering the marking of free opponents by his team-mates, especially those who he believes pose a danger to his goal. The goalkeeper usually chooses the number of players he considers necessary in the barriers depending on the area where the free kick is to be taken.

Some views on the placement of barriers

Although it is the goalkeeper’s job to position the barrier, there are different opinions about the best way to position it. The following are some of them, taking into account the distance between the goal and the place from which the free kick is to be taken.

  • Free kicks near the goal
    For free kicks closer to the goal, it is considered that placing a barrier may be favourable in the case of fouls close to the front of the penalty area line, as this is detrimental to the kicker. If the kicker takes the kick over the barrier, he will not have enough space for the ball to come down in time.

However, although the goalkeeper should have no problem stopping the shot, the fact is that if the shot is taken so close to the goal, he may not be able to see the moment when the ball comes out, causing him to make an intuitive movement towards one side, and in the event that the ball goes towards the other side, he may not have time to rectify the situation and therefore not be able to stop it.

In short, it can be said that in short distances it is a good idea to place a barrier, but the most important thing is that the goalkeeper is able to see the precise moment when the shot is struck, as in football a tenth of a second can be enough to prevent a goal.

  • Free kicks farthest from goal
    For free kicks further away from goal, it is considered that placing a barrier may be unfavourable in the case of distant free kicks, where goalkeepers usually place two, three or four players in the barrier, as it is thought that the goalkeeper will be disadvantaged for the following reasons:

The kicker has a reference point, so it will be easier for him to position the ball where he wants, but if a barrier is not placed, it would be much more complicated for him because he would not have that reference point. The fact is that the thrower has a very important reference on the distance, the height and the way to hit the ball when a barrier is placed. On the other hand, his problems when hitting the ball would be greater if there were no barrier, as all of the above-mentioned references would disappear completely.

The goalkeeper covers the side of the goal that is uncovered by the barrier, leaving one side free. Because there is so much distance between the place where the shot is taken and the goal, there is plenty of time for the ball to go down and into the side that was uncovered. Also, if it is a shot with spin to either side, there is plenty of time for it to go the full distance without the goalkeeper being able to get to the ball. However, if no barrier were placed, the goalkeeper would be in the centre of the goal and would be able to reach both sides of the goal, even if the shot was a curling one.

When the goalkeeper sets up a barrier, he may have problems seeing the ball when it is hit, as his own teammates make it difficult for him to see it. With a barrier, the goalkeeper will not be able to see the placement of the striking foot when the ball is struck, making it much more difficult for him to guess the trajectory of the ball.
After the ball has been kicked, it is very common for the barrier to move a little or for the ball to touch one of the players in the barrier, thus changing its path, which can disrupt the goalkeeper and cause the ball to cross the goal line.

After the ball has been kicked, it is very common for the barrier to move slightly or for the ball to touch one of the players in the barrier, thus changing its path, which can dislodge the goalkeeper and cause the ball to cross the goal line.

Therefore, although the thrower has a better view of the goal at distances farther away from the goal if there is no barrier, it must also be taken into account that it will be more difficult for him to choose the destination of the throw, as the goalkeeper is more centred on the goal, he will be able to see the trajectory of the ball perfectly. The chances of scoring a goal without a barrier would increase if the thrower takes a very powerful shot which the goalkeeper is unable to stop.

The correct positioning of the barrier

As mentioned above, the goalkeeper is the person in charge of organising and positioning the wall for both direct and indirect fouls. The number of players in the wall and controlling the positioning of the wall become two very important aspects.

Goalkeepers must take into account the distance and the angle of the shot when setting up the wall. In addition, in order to defend what is of most interest to him, he must position his team-mates by height. The goalkeeper also has to position the barrier in such a way that he can always see the ball.

It may be a good idea for the goalkeeping coach and the coach to organise joint sessions to rehearse situations in which it would be necessary to set up the barrier. It is also essential that teams develop effective strategies for defending set-pieces where goals are often conceded.

The best way to deal with front fouls is to place a player in front of the ball so that the opponent cannot shoot prematurely and the wall can be well positioned. In order not to make it too difficult for the goalkeeper to see the ball, four or five players can be placed in front of the wall. Most goalkeepers do this, although this number can vary depending on the distance of the throw-in.

Normally, the nearest flanker is positioned in the corner and the tallest as number three. The two centre-backs should not be placed in the wall, as there is no certainty that the shot will be on target, so if there is a second play or a cross, it is preferable to have one of the centre-backs available.

Obviously, anyone who does not want to be hit by a ball should not stand on the wall, as the pain it causes lasts only for a few moments, but if the opposing team scores a goal, it can cost their team the game. In addition, the players on the wall should not put their hands over their faces to protect them from being hit, because if the wall is positioned inside the penalty area and the ball indirectly touches a player’s hand, the referee may award a penalty kick.


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