Soccer-Shaqiri strike continues long-range goal feast at Euros but will it last?


Soccer Football - Euro 2024 - Group A - Scotland v Switzerland - Cologne Stadium, Cologne, Germany - June 19, 2024 Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates scoring their first goal REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

DUESSELDORF, Germany (Reuters) - When Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri planted a magnificent curling effort into the top corner of Scotland's net on Wednesday from outside the area it continued a pleasing trend at Euro 2024.

Shaqiri's equaliser in the 1-1 draw in Cologne was the 42nd goal in 15 matches and the 12th from outside the penalty area.

Euro 2024 is barely a week in but already there have been several long-distance contenders for goal of the tournament.

Shaqiri's stunner is vying with the likes of Turkey teenager Arda Guler's curler against Georgia and Czech Lukasz Provod's sublime effort versus Portugal.

For disciples of the "if you don't shoot you can't score" mantra touted by Dutch master Johan Cruyff, the group matches in Germany have been a refreshing throwback to a time when having a go from distance was actively encouraged.

The modern game has become so system-based with the emphasis on ball retention that many believe the skill of the long-range shot is being coached out of the game with players actively discouraged from chancing their arm.

That certainly appeared the case at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar where it was not until the 17th game and Iran's win over Wales that a goal was scored from outside the penalty area.

Of 172 goals scored in Qatar, only 13 were from outside the penalty area -- a paltry 7.7%.

The last Euros, held in 2020, featured 19 goals from outside the area (13.4%) while at Euro 2016 there were 16 at 14.8%.

So far at Euro 2024 the percentage of long-range goals is 28% although the ratio for attempts from outside the area is currently trending lower than every other Euros apart from 2020.

The trend against long-range shooting is also seen in the English Premier League. Last season only 32.8% of goal attempts were from outside the area compared to 44.9% a decade ago.

The jury is very much still out on whether Euro 2024 will continue to see goalkeepers beaten from distance.

As the stakes get higher and matches tighter, the risk-reward equation is likely to be more weighted against players having the freedom to let fly and towards creating more likely scoring outcomes inside the penalty area.

Romania seem to favour the former with six of their nine attempts in their win over Ukraine coming from distance.

However the goals are scored, fans and TV audiences will hope the free-flowing football witnessed so far at the Euros which has delivered 2.8 goals per match will continue.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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