Finishing – from general to specific or vice versa?

Author: João Tomás

Master’s degree in Sports Training by IPMaia and Former player from the Portuguese First National Team.


Training specialization is a practice that aims to guarantee athletes a high level of learning. The exercises will be the resources used by the coach as a way of expression, in an attempt to lead them to a higher level of performance, ensuring as decisive the natural training/competition relationship in each of the positions, especially in those associated with finishing actions such as the forwards.

The ability to make decisions in a limited time and space is an essential skill of the modern football player, that gives an advantage over opponents . Football has constantly evolved from a tactical and technical point of view, and when we want to achieve high levels of sports performance we need, not only to be involved in the collective training processes, but also to consider the specificity of each position.

Nowadays, it is extraordinarily demonstrated the importance of training, in the player’s learning and evolution process. This development process of young football players is seen as a long-term process, and, therefore, it is essential that, in order to compensate for the effort spent, there is a clear perception of the final goals that we intend to achieve , not only from the coach but also from the athlete. This set of (thousands) hours spent on structured, intentional practice, supervised by a coach with well-defined objectives, can be defended as deliberate practice. At the base of this theory (theory of 10,000 hours of deliberate practice) is the idea that early exposure to a large volume of hours of practice related to specific skills , represents the most effective “path” to obtain high levels of performance. The outcome is that those who become sportsmen, need to confirm their “innate” abilities through the development of specific activities, guided by certain individuals capable of maximizing their potential. Nevertheless, evidence has emerged in the literature that shows the advantages of diversifying the practice in the early ages, with later specialization in a main sport. To this end, it seems that those footballers who “specialize” earlier in a sport, reach higher levels at the youth level (calls for national teams, etc.) while those who specialize later, end up reaching higher levels at the professional level .

The forwards, who are usually the “chosen ones” to finish the offensive actions, have isolated moments of execution in which they must be as effective as possible to introduce the ball into the opponents’ goal. In the conquest of the last five Portuguese First Leagues, the respective top scorers scored more than 25% of the team’s total goals.

Naturally, the needs of some will not be the needs of others, and it is these adaptations that the training allows to make, promoting a wide learning, which provides a variety of exercises that encourage the repetition of gestures, whether technical or tactical.

Bearing in mind the above, we define three dimensions in the pedagogical progression of the training of the forwards that will be identified as the phases: (1) the importance of the individual technique of the players; (2) the framework of the specific training with the opposition of the goalkeeper; (2) the framework of the specific training with all the dynamics of the team. In the preparation of the practical part of these phases, it is important that the criteria for observation or success are always established, and for each exercise or variable, because this is the only way for us to transform what we have idealized for athletes into something measurable.

Practical Implications

Then, we present a possibility of structuring and including the specific training process of the forwards in the daily training of the team. With this in mind, when planning training, and depending on the needs, age or competitive environment of the athletes, the integration of this type of exercises on day -2 is suggested. If there is a training unit on day -1, some exercises can also be added to the training plan, taking into consideration the intensity and physical impact to which the athlete will be subject. The training can last approximately 30 minutes, depending on the number of athletes, age and the type of exercise. In the images below some examples are identified, defined with the distances, number of repetitions and number of athletes needed for the exercises.

In the context of collective training, the suggestions are for feedback to be on the positions of the athletes in the actions that are part of the actions and/or movements proposed by the coaches, observing when appropriate, the analysis of the technical aspects of the actions performed.

Here are some practical examples that allow you to understand the number of exercises that can be used in the forwards training.  We emphasize that these exercises are only for reference, and that they must always be subject to adjustments, even during the training itself.

Illustration 1 exercise that promotes an outer diagonal. The player performs a first phase of motor agility and receives the ball in depth. Number of repetitions: 6 to 8 for each side
Complexity level: Low
Intensity Level: Low
Illustration 2 – Exercise that promotes the positioning of the player on the back of the 2º centre-back. Receive the direct crossing or receive the crossing after making a frontal support looking for the back of the other centre-back.
Number of repetitions: 4 to 6 for each side
Complexity level: Medium
Intensity Level: medium/high


*1 Felegeanu, C.-C., & Ra??, G. (2019). Improving the decision-making the factor through technical and tactical actions in football. The European Proceedings of Social & Behavioural Sciences.

*3 Hendry, D. T., & Hodges, N. J. (2018). Early majority engagement pathway best de?nes transitions from youth to adult elite men’s soccer in the UK: A three time-point retrospective and prospective study. Psychology of Sport & Exercise, 1–39.

*4 Sarmento, H., & Pereira, A. (2018). Talent Identi?cation and Development in Male Football: A Systematic Review, 907–931.

*2 Solana-Sánchez, A., Lara-Bercial, S., & Solana-Sánchez, D. (2016). Athlete and coach development in the Sevilla Club de Fútbol youth academy: A values-based proposition. International Sport Coaching Journal, 3, 46–53.

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