Own goals are part and parcel of the modern game of football. Whether it is a ricochet in the box that ends up in the back of the net after touching a defender, a goalkeeper making a wonder save only to push the ball onto the post before it then bounces in off the ‘keeper or a truly comical strike from a defending player. Own goals can be as beautifully comical as they are damaging for a team.
However, are there times when it is not possible for an own goal to be scored? Are there instances where the embarrassment of hitting the back of your own net is reprieved? In this guide to own goals, we will take a look at where and when own goals are and are not possible.
What Is an Own Goal?
The basics first. An own goal is a goal scored by a player as they put the ball into the back of their own net. If France are playing Portugal and any French player puts the ball past the French goalkeeper and into their own net, whether accidentally or not, it will be deemed an own goal. This will see the opposing team awarded a goal to their tally. For example, if the match between France and Portugal is 0-0 before a French player scores an own goal, Portugal will then go 1-0 up.
It is the exact opposite of a standard goal, which would be scored by any French player putting the ball in the goal that is guarded by the Portuguese team and goalkeeper. An own goal can be scored through any medium that can see a goal scored. Therefore, a player can head the ball into their own net, use their feet or any other part of the body that is allowed to touch the ball without it resulting in a free-kick or penalty being given.
Can You Score an Own Goal from a Set Piece?
No, this is the major area where it is not possible to score an own goal. The Laws of the Game dictate that it is not possible for an own goal to be scored from the majority of methods used to restart a game. A corner is awarded to an attacking team if the defending team were to score directly from kick-off, a goal kick, a dropped ball, throw-ins, corners and free kicks (both direct and indirect).
This is true if the ball goes into the back of the net directly from the restart of play. For example, if a player is about to take a free-kick, turns and passes the ball back to their own ‘keeper who is nowhere near the ball, fails to get a touch on it and it goes into the back of the net, then a corner is awarded to the opposite team.
However, if the player passed the ball back from the same free-kick and the goalkeeper gets a touch on it before it rolls into the back of the net then a goal is awarded to the opposite team. This is because the ball did not go directly into the goal, it was touched by another player first.
Why Are Own Goals Scored?
This is like asking why football players sometimes miss penalties, misplace passes or get sent off in a game. Mistakes and errors happen because footballers are human and therefore not perfect.
Own goals are often scored by defenders that are faced with a pass or cross from the opposition that is tough to deal with. If a player fires a cross into the corridor of uncertainty, which is an area in the box where the goalkeeper does not want to come to collect it while it is awkward for a defender to clear it, it leaves the defenders with a horrible proposition. They must either leave the ball and hope that it flies past the attacker, or they have to get something on the ball and try to clear it away from danger. In this scenario own goals are scored as defenders do not want to take the chance of an attacker scoring, but they ultimately put the ball into the back of their own net by mistake.
A defender’s objective in this scenario would be to put the ball out for a corner. If the situation is seen as dangerous enough, then conceding a corner would be perceived to be a positive outcome from that phase of play. In some circumstances, a defender could hook the ball up the field if they are positioned well enough or get some luck. Other times, a defender may try to clear the ball but only succeed in deflecting it toward goal, which the ‘keeper can then try to save.
Do Own Goals Count Toward a Player’s Goal Tally?
No, they do not. A player will be credited in the game if they score an own goal, with the accreditation usually reading ‘Maguire ’25 (OG)’. This means that Harry Maguire has scored an own goal in the 25th minute. While Maguire would be given the own goal on the scoresheet, this would not go toward his tally of goals. If he had already scored four goals in the Premier League and then scored an own goal, he would remain on four goals for the season.
This stops any player from scoring a number of ‘goals’ across the season by only swelling their tally with own goals. In the race to be named top scorer in the Premier League, it would be incredibly unfair for a player to win the award by scoring five own goals on the last day to go above their competition.
While this scenario is unlikely to happen in elite football like in the Premier League or Champions League, it could happen elsewhere. Football has not been able to stay completely clean in a match fixing sense, with some matches and leagues sullied by match fixing. If own goals did count towards a player’s goal tally, then they could be used to see a player with little chance of being named top scorer win the award.