Mastering the Art of Setting Screens in Soccer: A Game-Changing Stride within FIFA Law 12

Ever wondered if you can set screens in soccer like you see in basketball? Well, you’re not alone. This question has sparked many debates among soccer enthusiasts and professionals alike.

In this article, we’ll delve into the nitty-gritty of soccer rules, exploring the possibilities and limitations of setting screens. We’ll also touch on how strategic movements can influence the dynamics of the game.

Key Takeaways

  • The concept of setting a “screen” in soccer, known as “shielding”, involves a player positioning themselves between the opponent and the ball to protect it effectively.
  • Using this technique recklessly or without consideration for the game’s rules can lead to fouls. According to FIFA’s Law 12, “impeding the progress of an opponent” is considered a foul.
  • Shielding is not solely about physical strength but requires body control, timing, judgment, and a good understanding of opponents’ movements. Notable players like Lionel Messi demonstrate these aspects perfectly.
  • The legality of setting screens in soccer is dependent on being within playing distance of the ball and not impeding an opponent’s progress when the ball is not within playing distance.
  • Successful screen setting techniques showcased by professional players such as Eden Hazard, Xavi, and Sergio Busquets involve timed movements, strategic positioning, and body control. Overstepping FIFA Law 12 boundaries while setting a screen could lead to penalties.
  • Properly executed screens not only boost a team’s defense but also pave the way for possible counterattacks. Neglecting to adhere to FIFA Law 12 during screen setting could result in an indirect free kick for the opposition.
  • Effectively setting screens aids in maintaining possession, enhancing defensive solidity, bolstering offensive capabilities, and even drawing fouls for advantageous set pieces.

Understanding the Concept of a “Screen” in Soccer

When it comes to soccer, the term “screen” isn’t as commonly used as in basketball. It’s a strategic move, made by obstructing an opponent player’s movement or vision temporarily. In soccer, it’s most notably recognized as “shielding.”

Shielding in Soccer

Shielding, the soccer equivalent of a screen, serves to limit the chances of the opponents gaining possession of the ball. Players position themselves between the opponent and the ball, often using their body to protect it. An effective shield creates an obstruction, making it difficult for the opponent to reach or see the ball.

Screening in Relation to Foul

Drawing a direct parallel with basketball screening would be incorrect in the context of soccer. Explicit blocking or screening an opponent’s run, without making a play for the ball, is perceived negatively. It’s deemed as a foul under Laws of the Game as per International Football Association Board (IFAB). Specifically, Law 12 suggests that “impeding the progress of an opponent” is a foul.

Maneuvering Shielding Perfectly

Mastering the act of shielding isn’t simply setting up your body between the ball and opponent. It involves a dramatic display of body control, timing, and judgment. Among professionals, Lionel Messi, a football legend, is known for his ideal execution of shielding despite his lean physique. It goes to show that size isn’t the only determinant; it’s about technique and intuition.

Remember, soccer is a dynamic sport. It’s about outsmarting your opponents, not just physically outmuscling them. Thus, the concept of “setting screens” or “shielding” becomes a tool used within the rules of the game to provide competitive advantages. However, the misuse of this technique can result in penalties, stressing the importance of learning and practicing this skill appropriately.

The Legality of Setting Screens in Soccer

Shielding, the soccer equivalent of setting screens, operates under precise legal boundaries. In ensuring its legality, you need to follow three fundamental rules. First, shielding must occur within playing distance of the ball. Second, while shielding, you can’t impede an opponent’s progress if the ball is beyond playing distance. Develop an understanding of these rules to keep your shielding strategy compliant with FIFA laws.

FIFA Law 12, which regulates fouls and misconduct, outlines rules relevant to setting screens in soccer. Player Lionel Messi’s expertise in shielding spotlights the successful navigation of legal constraints, embodied through his balance, strength, and ball control.

In addition, FIFA law 12 states, “an indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player prevents an opponent from playing the ball by obstructing the opponent’s path to the ball rather than attempting to play the ball.” Thus, the actions of players who block opponents without attempting to play the soccer ball are deemed illegal.

One essential requirement is that players must be within playing distance of the ball while shielding. Failing to adhere to this rule, you’ll face a consequence in the form of an indirect free kick awarded to the opposition. For example, if a player blocks an opponent 10 meters away from the ball, an indirect free kick is given to the opposing team.

Lastly, it’s imperative to note that “a player who places himself between the opponent and the ball for tactical reasons has not committed an offense as long as the ball is within playing distance and he is not holding off the opponent with his arms or body.” As such, physical contact is limited and mustn’t resemble blatant pushing.

Hence, legal setting of screens in soccer is not about blocking opponents forcibly, but skillfully positioning oneself tactic-wise within the parameters of the game.

Techniques for Setting Screens in Soccer

“## Techniques for Setting Screens in Soccer

Mindful positioning forms the bedrock of successful screen setting in soccer. Shield the ball with your body, keeping an eye on the ball at all times, and maintaining a safe playing distance. Take note, instances with players like Eden Hazard demonstrate effective shielding through smart positioning rather than forceful contact.

Deciphering opponents’ movements plays a critical role, exampled in situations where anticipatory moves help create a screen. Gauge your opponent’s path, and position yourself accordingly, as Lionel Messi often does. He positions himself between the opponent and the ball, creating a human screen, obstructing the direct route to the ball.

Mastering body control contributes significantly to successful screen setting. Maintain balance, bending your knees slightly and positioning your foot with the ball. Stand firm, exemplified by players like Xavi, who skillfully uses their lower body strength to hold off opponents and protect the ball.

Timing is quintessential when setting screens. Release the ball just as the opponent encroaches on your playing space, akin to maneuvers Sergio Busquets often exhibits. This technique requires practice and a watchful eye to recognize opportune moments.

Skillful shielding involves a mix of these techniques, offering strategic advantages such as keeping possession, staving off challengers, and even drawing fouls from the opposition. Remember, conscientious adherence to FIFA Law 12 ensures your screen-setting maneuvers remain within the game’s rules, emphasizing technique over physicality to avoid penalties.

Utilizing Screens Successfully on the Soccer Field

Success in setting screens in soccer demands understanding your opponents’ strategy, mastering your body control, and timing your movements impeccably. Employ successful players’ techniques, such as those exhibited by Eden Hazard, Lionel Messi, Xavi, and Sergio Busquets, to outsmart your adversaries and maintain control of the ball.

As a player, grasp your adversaries’ motion and predict their next move. This foresight creates opportunities for you to position yourself effectively, allowing you to break their rhythm and create advantageous scenarios. For instance, Lionel Messi often anticipates his opponents’ tactics, adjusting his positioning to provide an effective screen.

Body control, just as discussed in the previous section on shielding, stands a pivotal aspect of setting screens. Precise control over your weight distribution, posture, and balance helps withstand the impacts by opponents and keeps you from retaliation ensuing a foul. Eden Hazard, despite not being one of the physically largest players on the field, prevails in shielding the ball effectively through his impeccable balance and body control.

Time your movements for maximum impact. Sergio Busquets, the Barcelona midfielder, exhibits an uncanny knack for timing his movements to coincide perfectly with his opponents’. The result? A screen set at just the right moment, offering him precious fractions of seconds to make his next move. Remember, timing isn’t just about responding to your opponent’s movements, but also about anticipating their next pass or tackle and intervening before they get there.

Preceding shielding or creating a screen, ascertain your actions adhere to FIFA Law 12 by not restricting the opponent or drawing an illegal contact. While screens constitute a strategic edge, they shouldn’t cross over the boundary into foul territory.

Incorporating these factors into your game can elevate your effectiveness on the field. Remember, soccer isn’t all about physical prowess; mental acuity, strategic planning, and finesse have equally significant roles to play. The clever application of screens and shields can be the difference between maintaining possession and losing the ball. And often, that’s the difference between winning and losing a game.

The Impact of Screens on Soccer Gameplay

Screens play a transformative role in soccer, directly influencing the dynamics of the game. As you judiciously execute this technique, you’ll notice significant control over the narrative of the match. Changes, profound yet subtle, are visible in your team’s possession, defensive solidity, and offensive prowess. Committing to this strategy not only boosts your team’s defence but, when correctly applied based on FIFA Law 12, also allows room to mount effective counterattacks.

  1. Maximizing Possession: Screens bolster your team’s possession stats. Crafting an impenetrable shield around the ball makes it harder for opponents to intercept or steal. Instances of this are visible in matches where teams with superior screen setters often enjoy longer periods of possession. Barcelona, famous for Tiki-Taka football, illustrates this principle with players like Andres Iniesta, who’ve consistently set screens during gameplay.
  2. Enhancing Defensive Solidity: Optimal screen setting builds a formidable defensive line. It’s potent in disrupting the flow of oncoming attacks, just as effective screens in basketball impede an opponent’s path. Think of famed defender Sergio Ramos, whose use of legal screens often intercepts or blocks opponents’ runs or passes.
  3. Bolstering Offensive Threats: Screening enhances your team’s offensive capabilities. Done right, it opens spaces and creates opportunities for surprising counterattacks. Consider Mohamed Salah, Liverpool’s forward, whose screen setting abilities often lead to quick transitions from defence to attack.
  4. Winning Free Kicks and Penalties: Proper technique in setting screens could lead to drawing fouls from frustrated opponents, potentially resulting in lucrative free kicks, penalties, or advantageous set pieces. Examples include Neymar Jr., whose knack for drawing fouls stems from setting clever screens.

Finesse in setting screens introduces a new dimension of strategy to soccer gameplay. Screens are not about brute force; they’re about mind games, tactical insolence, and a keen mastery of body movement and control. By respecting FIFA Law 12, effective screen setters can change the gameplay dynamics in your favour.


So, you’ve seen how setting screens in soccer isn’t just about physicality, but a complex interplay of technique, timing, and understanding the rules, specifically FIFA Law 12. You’ve learned how screens can strategically enhance your game, whether it’s keeping possession, strengthening defense, or boosting offense. Not to forget, drawing fouls to win free kicks or penalties. The examples of soccer maestros like Iniesta, Ramos, Salah, and Neymar Jr. have shown you how it’s done at the highest level. Remember, finesse in setting screens is a game-changer. It requires strategic thinking, tactical awareness, and precise body control. So, go ahead and incorporate this skill into your game, and see how it transforms the dynamics in your favor, while keeping you within the legal boundaries of play.

Setting screens in soccer requires compliance with FIFA’s Law 12 while strategically positioning players to disrupt opponents and create scoring opportunities. The LA84 Foundation Soccer Coaching Manual offers guidance on skill development, while the Chappaqua AYSO Advanced Coach Manual provides insight into playing fairly and safely within the rules.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the concept of shielding in soccer?

Shielding in soccer is a technique used by players to protect the ball from being taken by an opponent. It requires mastery of body control, timing, and knowledge of the rules of the game, particularly FIFA Law 12.

How does screen setting impact soccer gameplay?

Screen setting can strongly influence possession, defensive robustness, and offensive power in soccer. It can also play a role in drawing fouls from opponents. The process requires strategic thought, tactical knowledge, and exact control of the body.

Who are some examples of famous soccer players who use screen setting effectively?

Notable soccer players such as Andres Iniesta, Sergio Ramos, Mohamed Salah, and Neymar Jr. have demonstrated effective use of screen setting to gain strategic advantages in gameplay.

How does mastering screen setting lead to strategic advantages?

Strategically set screens help in maintaining possession, enhancing defense, boosting offense, and winning free kicks or penalties. It underscores the importance of thinking out strategies, being tactically aware, and having mastery over the body control.

Why is adherence to FIFA Law 12 crucial in screen setting?

Adhering to FIFA Law 12 is fundamental for legal play in soccer. It’s especially vital in screen setting to avoid penalties and to ensure the tactic is used within the boundaries of the law. It supports both skillful and legal play.