#World-class skills

Katie McCabe: Ball-striking precision

FIFA, 23 Apr 2024


In the latest instalment of our "World Class" Skills series, we examine the ball-striking technique of a versatile wide player who can change the point of her team’s attacks in a very dynamic way, and who excels at scoring goals from difficult angles and from range.

In 2023, Republic of Ireland captain Katie McCabe scored the first ever “olimpico” in FIFA Women’s World Cup™ history – and Ireland’s first ever goal at a Women’s World Cup finals. It came in the fourth minute of their group B match against defending Olympic champions Canada, and sparked global recognition for the Arsenal player. 

Scoring an olimpico (a goal scored directly from a corner kick) requires exquisite technique and pinpoint accuracy. You also need to put plenty of pace on the ball to make it bend on its journey from the corner-taking position to the goal. The skill is so difficult to execute that even Lionel Messi has to yet to do so in a competitive game, despite numerous attempts over the course of his illustrious career. 

The video clips in this article show McCabe’s olimpico, as well as some other deliveries that highlight her impressive ball-striking technique.

Katie McCabe is a versatile, left-footed wide player who can play as a full-back or a winger. She is a respected leader for both club and country who scores important goals and creates goal-scoring opportunities for her team-mates. These qualities, combined with her ferocious work ethic, make her a tough competitor. However, it is her ball-striking technique that really sets her apart and allows her to create game-changing moments for her teams.

McCabe’s ability to strike the ball with such power and accuracy is a key reason why she scores so many goals for her club and country, and also explains why so many of those goals come from positions around or outside the penalty area. Her distinctive kicking technique and the angle at which her foot makes contact with the ball combine to make the ball curve in the air. The bend she generates makes it very difficult for opponents to judge the ball’s trajectory and defend against it.

Key insights

  • The proximity of the standing foot to the ball when it is kicked affects the speed at which the ball will travel. To generate power, the standing foot needs to be alongside the ball; this facilitates maximum contact and follow-through for the kicking foot. If the standing foot is ahead of or behind the ball, the follow-through for the striking leg is restricted, which in turn reduces power and the pace on the ball.

  • The part of the ball that is struck also affects how the ball will move through the air. Connecting with the bottom half of the ball will secure maximum lift, while connecting with the top half of the ball (i.e., with the knee of striking foot coming over the ball) will send the ball downwards into the ground. Striking the ball through its centre will produce a mid-height drive.

  • The specific part of the foot that makes contact with the ball also affects its trajectory. Striking through the ball with the laces (i.e., making contact with the front of foot and the toes pointing down) drives it straight, low and hard. By contrast, kicking with the outside of the foot will make the ball arc away off the outside of the striking foot, while kicking with the instep of the foot will produce a guided pass that either travel straight forward or arc inwards.

  • Finally, the angle at which the ball is struck determines the amount of back spin or front spin in the flight of the ball.

It follows, then, that players in possession can strike the ball in different ways in order to influence its flight. McCabe is renowned for the accuracy, pace, power and deceptive movement of her shots, especially when she strikes the ball from range (over distances from about 20-40 yards). As we saw in the video clips, she uses these techniques when delivering set plays, when crossing the ball, and when playing forward passes to release team-mates in behind the opponent’s defensive line. Her olimpico against Canada at FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ is just the most famous example of her proven ability in this area.

The approach

As can been seen in the images below, McCabe plants her standing foot directly alongside the ball prior to making contact with it. As she approaches the ball, her kicking leg is fully extended to maximise the follow-through, which generates pace and power. Because she leans back as she strikes through the bottom half of the ball, she generates height and lift in the ball’s trajectory towards the goal area. Her planted foot is at a 45° angle to the ground (non-ball side) as she strikes the ball, and it is this angle that causes the delivery to curve back towards the goal.

The contact

The corner kick’s deceptive trajectory, which sees it curve outwards and then back towards the goal, is a result of the part of McCabe’s left foot that strikes the ball and the angle at which it makes contact. As the images below demonstrate, she strikes the underside of the ball with the instep of her left foot, before following through at an angle to generate lift, pace, power and bend.

The deceptive curve

To see how the trajectory of McCabe’s cross deceives the goalkeeper, look at her positioning in the images below. In the second picture, as the ball is accelerating towards maximum height and the peak of its outward swing, we can see how the goalkeeper is moving towards the ball. In the third photograph, we can see how the ball has started to curve inwards towards the goal, and how the goalkeeper has changed her stance accordingly. As the ball starts to drop and curves quickly back towards the goal, it becomes very difficult for the goalkeeper for judge when she can intercept the cross. In the final picture, you can see the ball swinging into the net behind her.


Mastering the technique required to score a goal like this requires a huge amount of practice. Understanding the nuances of how and where to strike the ball to achieve distance, pace, power, lift and bend takes hours of work on the training ground, but McCabe’s dedication has paid off. Her stunning ball-striking technique is a trademark of her game and has resulted in her scoring many spectacular goals from challenging distances and angles for both her club and her country. Her olimpico goal at the World Cup puts her in exalted company, and marks her out as one of the best strikers of a ball in the world game.

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