Go and watch back Harry Kane’s penalties during the tournament in Russia (in normal play and in the shootout against Colombia). He kills the ball every time. England didn’t just kick their penalty hoodoo into touch, they leathered it into the next okrug. There was no delicate playing of the ball into the net. Sure, the Spurs striker is placing it, but it’s a brutal, violent act. He’s kicking the ball very, very hard.
Another England captain known for giving it some welly is Alan Shearer (the Premier League’s leading goalscorer and Match of the Day mainstay). Have a look at a compilation or two of his goals and you’ll see that a lot of time he absolutely murders the ball. It is an action defined by its viciousness. Pity the defender who got in the way of one of his shots. Indeed, the former Newcastle United goal machine has gone on record saying that later in his career, as he got a bit slower, he deliberately trained to hit the ball harder. It clearly paid off.
Of course, it’s not just English players who can serve up a thunderbolt or two. French World Cup winner Paul Pogba is known to be able to conjure up a fearsome drive, as is Chelsea and Brazil star David Luiz. Then there’s Swedish football icon Zlatan Ibrahimović, who has a shot clocked at an astonishing 150km per hour, which is almost as quick as an effort by Bayern and Dutch legend Arjen Robben that was recorded at a staggering 190km per hour.
So, how do you strike a ball with power and accuracy?
How do you crack it like Kane, ping it like Pogba and zap it like Zlatan?
It’s all in the technique. Being fit is important, but muscle size will only get you so far. It’s how you strike the ball that really matters.
To get energy behind the ball, to get power and accuracy in your shot, whether you’re striking a dead ball or one in open play, you need to apply the right technique.
First of all, your run-up has to be correct (long, wide strides). Then, as you go to strike the ball, your planting foot has to be in the right place (to the side of the ball). At the same time, your kicking foot should be pointing where you want the ball to go. Doing all these things will help you achieve the balance and stability that you need for a powerful and accurate shot.
When you hit the ball, in particular when it’s on the ground, you should be striking it with your instep. This is the sweet spot. Everybody’s is slightly different, so you’ll need to work out exactly where yours is. Get it right and your shot will be cleaner and stronger.
Alternatively, you can hit the ball using the top of your foot (on the laces). Get this right and you can generate some serious power, especially when hitting the ball on the volley. It’s also important to hit the ball in the right place – around the centre is where you should be aiming.
And don’t forget your backswing and follow-through. The former should be big, helping to generate more power, and the later must be disciplined and targeted (at the goal), helping you to hit the ball where you want it to go.
This is what you need to do. And, as the saying goes, practice makes perfect. So, get down to your local park, find a goal and work on your technique, over and over again. Because when it’s second nature, you’ll do it better.