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Passing the Test - Soccer Passing Skills
Having learned the importance of strategy in soccer, one of the most critical skills to develop if you want to implement any type of soccer strategy—as well as the backbone of soccer—is passing the ball.
Yes, dribbling the ball is an amazing skill and beautiful to watch, especially when Messi or Ronaldinho are on the ball, but there's not much better than seeing a team string six or eight passes together and then score a goal. Everything happens so fast the opposing team can't really do anything about it. A quick combination of passes and the ball is in the back of the net.
Passing the ball is really what soccer is all about. As the say, the ball never tires, just let the soccer ball do the work by passing it to the open player. Pass and move is a mantra that you'll hear from every soccer coach in the world on nearly every level.
Passing the ball in soccer allows your team to keep possession of the ball and find holes in the opposing team’s defense. It's the Tiki Taka style of play. This is what Barcelona does 70% of the match sometimes, just keep the ball from the opposing team. And at times, it seems like a big game of keep away for them or piggy in the middle. How does Barcelona do this? Well, for one, they have incredible players, but they also keep the ball moving and spread the defense with one and two touch passes. And the switch the ball from one side of the field to the other, searching for holes and spaces. They play the ball in and out and constanly move off the ball so they're always someone offering support.
But first you have to understand the fundamentals of passing the ball and learn the right technique. As a player, if you want to pass like Pirlo and Beckham you'll have to master the ability to pass the ball with pace and accuracy. How? This means hours and hours of practice, striking the ball with every part of your foot. Find a wall and just begin hitting the ball against it with the inside, outside, and instep of your foot. Keep your ankle locked and strike through the center of the ball with pace. Get your body behind the ball with a uniform strong sense of balance.
To make a pass, strike the ball with pace so that your teammate doesn't have to wait on the ball. A firm pass is more likely to arrive at its destination. If you play a soft pass this means you want your teammate to come back to the ball or you might be setting them up for a cross or shot. But if the pass is too soft you could be setting them up for a hospital ball - meaning they're bound to get injured trying to win the ball from the defender who's closing the space down.
In terms of teamwork, the player who is the intended target of your pass must go to the ball to receive it - they can't wait for it. At the same time though, make your teammate who's making the pass look good by digging out a bad pass and keeping possession for your team. This might require you to use your body to block the defender and shield the ball. But the passer has to know where to play the ball so the defender can't get it.
And keep your passing game simple, if a defender is closing you down from behind, play the ball back to the person who passed you the ball. This is called playing the way you're facing. This way you can break free from your defender to receive the ball again or the passer might switch the point of attack, where there's more space to work with.
As a team, to develop the ablity to pass the ball quickly, train in game-like situations, with the right kind of intensity and pressure. Anybody can pass the ball or keep the ball when they aren't under pressure, but only the good players can do it when they're surrounded by defenders.
In training, recreate game-like conditions by making the areas you are playing in small so that there is constant pressure on those with the ball. Then, when you are getting the right intensity, open the game up and play in a larger area. For example, start with 8 versus 8 in the goal box and then open up and play in the whole half of the field once the intensity matches that of a real game. And get your players to play one and two touch soccer, players should be thinking about a clean first touch of the ball and moving off the ball to support each other.
In order to become a great passer, you’re also going to need to become familiar with the different kinds of passes, and the various ways in which they are used in soccer....
Put Your Best Foot Forward
The way in which you pass the soccer ball depends on several things, such as:
- Where the ball is going - is intended target of the pass close or far
- What do you want the player to do when the ball gets there - this gets back to the pace of the pass
- Who’s in the way - where it the defender
- What part of the foot you use
The first three factors depend on your own strategy and knowledge of the game, but the last one depends solely on technique:
Inside of the Foot: This is the most useful part of the foot to use when passing the ball. It’s the part of your foot with the most surface area, thus giving you the most control and accuracy. Turn your hips to the side you're kicking the ball with and strike through the center of the ball.
Inside Edge of the Foot: This is the same as the above but with the upper portion of your foot to bend the ball, as in when you wrap your foot around the ball so it curves into your teammate’s feet or into an area, as with a cross. Beckham is a master at bending the ball in for a cross from any area on the field.
Outside of the Foot: This kind of pass is used when you want to bend the ball into a teammate or into an area. Often your body is in a position where you can't make a simple pass with the inside of the foot. If this is the case, try to strike through the ball with the outside of your foot. Outside of the foot is also sometimes used to flick the ball or make a surprise pass. Rather than having to turn the body to hit the ball with the inside of the foot.
Instep or Upper Area of the Foot: This is for driving the ball into a teammate. In this situation, when you are picking a player out, you don't need to follow through. Instead, strike the ball sharply and stop your follow through just after hitting it so the ball flys directly into the player at pace. This is much different than a instep shot, where you follow through and land on your shooting foot.
Upper Area of the Foot: This is used to drive the ball into a forward or make a long cross field pass but you want the ball to land with a bit of back spin but not as much as when you chip the ball. To hit a driven ball you don't follow through like in a shot but stop your swing once you connect with the ball.
Upper Area/Instep of the Foot : Chipping the soccer ball is similar to the instep drive but don't use as much force when kicking the ball. This requires a soft touch as you're trying to get more lift on the ball and create back spin so the ball dies in the area you're aiming at.
By fine-tuning your skills as a passer, you can significantly increase your team’s chances of success. It's really impossible to dribble through an opposing team, you'll need to make a least a few passes to score. Your victory won’t be complete, however, unless you and your teammates learn to work together and to control the ball.
Next: Learn more about passing and crossing at these pages: the stock ball, passing skills, crossing the ball, two touch soccer, play the way you're facing, and passing standards.
Watch These Passing Videos:
Check out these great passing videos and our section on crossing: