Crossing the soccer ball is about picking out a player in the goal box so they can score. Usually, the cross will come from a wide area on the soccer field. As when David Beckham gets the ball out wide, has a little bit of space and time, and whips the ball into the box.
Sure, there are times when you'll need to just get the ball in the box, serve it in to a specific spot where a teammate should be, but it's best to get your head up prior to crossing the ball and cross the ball to a specific player making a run.
Here are the key steps to crossing the ball in soccer:
Step 1) Push the ball a little ahead of you at an angle so you avoid the defender and give yourself enough space to cross the ball without the defender being able to block the cross.
Step 2) Look up so you can pick someone out with your cross.
Step 3) Plant your standing foot right next to the ball.
Step 4) Turn your hips at an angle to the ball.
Step 5) Wrap your foot around the ball to bend it with the inside area of your foot.
Step 6) Strike the ball with pace, although not necessarily like a shot, take just a little pace off the ball, but hit the ball with enough power so you whip the ball into the player you're picking out with the cross.
Step 7) Cross the ball from any part of the field in the attacking third, you don't have to get to the endline all the time to cross the ball.
Crossing in soccer is a lot like taking a free kick, you want enough power to make it on goal but enough touch and skill to bend the ball around the wall or to get over the wall. With crossing, you're trying to place the soccer ball on a platter for the player to score. So all they have to do is get a foot or head on the ball and re-direct the ball into the goal.
A lofted ball or chip has a time and a place, like if you're chipping the ball over the defense for a breakaway, but for most crosses it's much easier for the keeper to get to these balls and harder for a player to score if the ball is hit softly in the air. If the ball is whipped in at pace, all the player has to do is redirect the ball into the goal.
The majority of the time, when crossing the ball, you'll use the upper area of the inside of your foot to hit a cross. This way you can wrap your foot around the ball and bend the ball into your intended target. If the ball is coming into the player rather than going away it's much easier for them to score - the ball is coming into their path rather than away.
But there are times when you'll want to cross the ball with the outside of your foot or even drive the ball in with your instep across the goal mouth. And it's always good to surprise the defense and the goalkeeper. Remember Maicon's goal, everyone thought the Brazilian defender was going to cross the ball, but when he saw the keeper cheating a lilttle bit out of the goal, anticipating the cross, Maicon bent the ball directly into the net with the outside of his foot.
What part of the foot you use when crossing the soccer ball depends upon what you're trying to do and where the defender is positioned and how much time you have. If you have to kick the ball across the goal line with your toe at the last minute to get the ball to a player than that's wide open then what's you do. Just do what works in that situation. But overall, you're want to wrap your foot around the ball with the inside area of your foot.
Take a look at Beckham whip in this cross when he played for Real Madrid that results in a goal by Ronaldo:
Players you should watch to learn how to cross the ball better? Here's a short list of some of the best crossers of the ball in the world. These are the experts at crossing the ball:
Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspurs)
Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy)
Jesus Navas (Sevilla)
David Beckham (LA Galaxy)
Luis Figo (Real Madrid)
Ryan Giggs (Manchester United)
More on Crossing: Get the Ball in the Box
As a winger or wide midfielder, it is important to get the ball in the goal box. That means serving the ball across the goal mouth. Again, whip the ball in at pace. This makes it easier for the targeted player to redirect the ball on goal and also helps avoid getting the ball cut out or blocked by a defender.
Get accustomed to crossing the ball when you have the opportunity. You don't always have to beat the defender before you cross the ball. The defender who is marking you will begin to think you are going to cross the ball into the box every time you get it. That’s when you take the player on and go down the line to cut the ball back or cut inside and take a shot yourself. Learn how to play give and goes to get past a defender and down the line. Figure out ways to get just enough time to set yourself up to cross the ball.
But you don't need to reach the end line to cross the ball. Really, you can cross the ball from any point over the half line, as long as you are trying to pick out someone directly or if you are leading a player with a cross or long pass - as that player makes a run towards goal, it doesn't matter where you're at on the field. There's no rule saying you have to cross the ball from this part of the field. If a player is open and making a good run, get the ball to them with a cross.
There's a certain art to crossing the soccer ball, just like taking a free kick. It takes practice and more practice to perfect this skill. When it's done right, when the ball comes in at speed right to a player's feet, it's a thing of beauty.
Reminder: Cross the ball when defenders are running back facing their own goal, not turned with their back to their goal. this is when it's easy to clear the ball. In other words, cross the ball when defenders aren't set and ready - cross it when they're rushing back to try to get in position to win or clear the ball. Cross the ball early, whip the ball in behind the defenders if you can.
And so often, when you cross the ball early, this is when own goals occur. When defenders are rushing back trying to block or clear the ball but miss hit the ball when they're facing their own goal and it goes in. Plus, an early cross will surprise not just the defenders but the goalkeeper.