Football Cliche: (to) Walk the ball into the net
What is the ‘perfect goal’ in football? Some fans think it might be a thunderbolt which is a really hard shot from distance, maybe from outside the penalty area or the box. Other words or phrases to describe this kind of shot include, ‘to smash home’, ‘to strike from distance’ where the verb ‘to strike’ means to score. Other fans prefer a little more subtlety – perhaps a delicate chip, lob or dink over the keeper; maybe even a free kick where the ball is bent around the wall or a well-worked routine which demonstrates lots of practice beforehand.
There is another kind of goal involving lots of passes among players as they use one-twos and one-touch football to break down a defence – I’m a fan of this type of goal as it shows technical ability, awareness of space and also, despite being a hard thing to do, demonstrates that keeping possession can be effective. However, when a team tries to score this kind of ‘perfect goal’ it does not always work and fans will then complain that they were trying to walk the ball into the net – the fans would prefer them to shoot. Indeed, this phrase now has a negative connotation as it may suggest that a team who tries to walk the ball into the net – or to walk it in – is one that lacks a killer instinct or maybe is arrogant and this then can open up the debate about whether football is all about the result or the performance: product versus process.
There are other examples when this phrase is used, for example, when a team allows their opponents to walk the ball into the net. Very rarely there is a controversial goal that both teams realise should not have stood or counted – it should have been disallowed. In this case, the team that scored the goal may then allow the opposing side to score – they allow them to walk the ball into the net without tackling or aiming to stop them as Leeds United did to Aston Villa in a Championship match from 2019. The Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa instructed his players to let Aston Villa score after they felt the Leeds opener should not have counted (report here). Here are a couple of examples with the phrase ‘to walk the ball into the net‘.
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Example: Barcelona scored a wonder goal against Celtic in the Champions League – they walked the ball into the net after a combination of passes opened up the Scottish side’s defence (See video here).
Example: Leeds United allow Aston Villa to walk ball into the net to score a goal: Incident came after Villa upset with how Leeds scored their opener in 1-1 draw (The National Sport Website, April 28th 2019)
- How would you feel if your team allowed the opponents to walk the ball into the net?
- What kind of goal is your favourite type? You can let us know in our weekly poll (above) and we’ll read out the results and comments on our podcast at the weekend.
- The language of goals – a listening report on language connected to goal scoring.
- The language of assists – find out more about setting up goals.