Throw in scoring rules

Can a Football Player Score from a Throw In?

Picture this: It is the final of the FIFA World Cup. England are currently locked at 1-1 with Brazil in the showpiece event with mere seconds to go. The Three Lions have been pushing for a winner and want to avoid penalties. They have a throw-in in the final third and want to throw their big, tall players at their Brazilian opponents. Who steps up off the bench? None other than Rory Delap.

The Stoke-maestro dries the ball off, goes to the end of his run up and launches it at goal. There is an almighty scuffle in the box, defenders and attackers jostle for position, the goalkeeper stares nervously as the ball arrows toward goal. Despite nearly all 22 players being in the 18-yard box, not a single person gets on the end of the bullet throw. In fact, even the goalkeeper misses the ball, which flies into the back of the net.

Everyone stops for a moment. Have England won the World Cup? Is Rory Delap’s face going to be put on the new £20 note? Or is it impossible to score from a throw in? Fear not, we have the answers to this situation meaning you will never need to falsely celebrate a goal straight from a throw-in again.

What Is a Throw-In?

A throw-in is a way a footballer can restart a game of football after the ball has gone out of play. If the ball is to leave the field, there are three ways play can be restarted if a foul has not been committed. If the ball leaves the field at either end of the pitch then a corner or goal kick can be used to restart the game. A corner, which is taken by the attacking team, is used if a defending player has gotten the last touch on the ball before it leaves the field. A corner kick will allow the attacking team to fill the box of the defending team as they look to score from the set-piece. Meanwhile, the defending team will try to clear the ball from the corner.

A goal kick, which is usually taken by the goalkeeper of the defending team, is awarded if an attacking player is the last person to get a touch on the ball before it leaves the field of play. This allows the defending team to relieve the pressure on themselves. The player taking the goal kick can either go long with a punt up the pitch, or they can play it short in an attempt to keep possession. In the modern game, teams like Manchester City and Barcelona tend to play the ball short as they like starting attacks from their own half, while the underdog in a game or a side with a tall and strong forward will look to go long.

If the ball leaves the field on either of the sides of the pitch, then a throw-in is awarded. A throw-in sees a player standing with both feet on the floor and throwing the ball in two hands from above their head. This is seen as one of the few times where an outfield player is legitimately allowed to handle the ball without it resulting in a free-kick or penalty being given against them.

A throw-in can take many forms. A quick throw-in will see a player pick the ball up and try to start an attack by quickly throwing it back into play. A more standard throw-in will see a player given the ball and they will then throw it to their own player while the opposition tries to intercept it. A long throw-in, which is where a player could ‘score’ from, is when a player throws the ball a long way, usually into the opposition’s box.

Can a Player Score from a Throw-In?

Players on field with throw in
Jamie Smed /

It says in the rules of the game that a goal cannot be scored directly from a throw-in. Therefore, if a player were to launch the ball from a throw-in and it goes directly into the goal without being touched, then it will be disallowed.

However, this does mean that a goal can be scored from a throw-in as long as another player touches the ball first. For example, if a player throws a long throw into the box and the keeper then tries to punch the ball only to see it deflect into their net, then this will count as a goal. Of course, this scenario means that a goal has not really been scored from the throw-in. Instead, the goal would likely be seen as an own goal against the goalkeeper.

The reason a player is unable to score from a throw-in is because it is seen as an offence for a player to score using their hands. Perhaps then, even from a situation where a player is allowed to use their hands to touch the ball, it is seen as no different from a player punching the ball into the net Therefore, the use of hands is extended as far as restarting the game and no further.

What Happens If a Goal or Own Goal Is Scored Directly from a Throw-In?

If a player is to score a goal directly from a throw-in, then the opposing team will be awarded a direct free kick from where the ball was thrown. This means that if Belgium scored directly against France from a throw-in, so no player touches the ball between it being thrown and going into the back of the net, then a free kick will be awarded against the player that threw the ball, meaning France will be given a free kick.

If a player scores an own goal from a throw-in, then a corner kick will be awarded against the team of the thrower. The most likely scenario that this would come from is a player throwing the ball to their own goalkeeper. For example, if a defender looks to take a quick throw-in to get the game moving quickly but their goalkeeper has not realised, then this could see the ball roll directly into the back of the net without it being touched by any player. This would then see the opposition side awarded a corner kick, where they can attack from.

This means that in our imaginary scenario from above, Delap’s status as the saviour of English football would quickly be revoked. In fact, because the ball flew straight into the net without being touched, all of the pressure would be taken off Brazil, who would now be able to start their own attack from the free kick they would be awarded.