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A Few Quick Soccer Tips
Below are some useful soccer tips for players who want to play at the highest level, from how to communicate on the soccer field to how to shield the ball to how to surprise the opposing team with a blind pass.
When you move into the professional soccer level it becomes even more important to communicate on the field. Simple directions or alerts, such as 'man on' and 'turn' or 'you have time', make playing the game so much easier and become more important as the game speeds up.
Communication is also about asking for the ball all the time. Yes, you'll need to ask for the ball - tell your teammates you want it. Demand the ball even. And it really doesn't matter what position you play, whether you're a right back or a forward, you should always want the soccer ball. The idea is you want to help and offer support and make things happen. Otherwise, why are you out there playing.
At the same time though, once you get the ball, give it to the player who is in the best position to create something. Give it to the player who can do the most damage to the other team with the ball. Often on a team there are two or three players, or maybe one, who you always want to have the ball at their feet. These are the play makers, when they are open, pass them them ball and then make a run to get the ball back. Watch the best teams in the world, there's always two or three players who always get the ball at their feet and run the show.
Players like Messi and Xavi at Barcelona. Both are play makers and combine cleverly with Dani Alves on the right side. Alves acts as support player, like a wall that Messi and Xavi can play off of and get the ball back when they are open again. Alves of course is a unique player, as he's extremely skilled, and can get down the line to cross the ball and into the attack. But players should work together and share the ball, and Messi, Xavi, and Alves offer no better example of this.
Communicate through how you play the ball itself, if you play a hard ball into someone's feet that tells the player they are under pressure. If you play a soft pass to somone that means you're trying to draw the player back to the ball to open up space behind them. Overall, play crisp passes to your teammates, if not, the ball will get cut out by the defense and it's easy to control a firm pass.
Play the Ball Quickly
The key though is to give the ball and get the ball - play the ball quickly in one and two touches. If you hold on to the ball too long you will lose it. And even if you don't lose the ball, if you don't play the ball quickly, you can kill an attack and allow the opposing team to get back on defense.
Also, this means you should be prepared to receive the soccer ball at all times, and of course want the ball! This kind of energy, wanting to always be involved in the play, puts the other team that much more on their heels. So play simple and smart soccer, give and get the ball and move it quickly.
Try to attack the space when you have the ball. See if you can draw a defender in, and then release the ball just when they're about to close you down or win the ball. There's a certain flow to the game of soccer when things are going well. Everyone is on the same page, fighting for one another and sharing the ball. That's the type of soccer you want to play. This often comes from sharing and moving the ball quickly with one and two touches passing.
Shielding the Soccer Ball
A simple and great exercise is to dribble in a small square and have an opponent try to take the ball from you. Use your body to shield the ball from the defender. Always keep your body between the ball and the defender. Tell your friend or the person who is acting as the defender to fight for the ball with a game like intensity, pushing you and playing so hard they are almost fouling you. Add more players into the game as you get more confident holding on to the ball and holding off the defender. If the defender wins the ball you switch roles.
This game can eventually build into a possession game that focuses on shielding. Call out to stop play now and again and whichever team doesn't have the ball has to do push-ups or a few sprints as punishment.
When shielding the ball, and there's space, carry the ball into the open space - all the while shielding the ball from the defender. Carry the ball with the inside of your foot, this is where you will get the most control, kind of dragging the ball along as the defender pushes against you. Make sure to bend your knees and have a strong sense about you that this person is not going to get the ball from you no matter what. Then, try to work on cutting the ball back and forth. Carry the ball with the inside of your foot for a few yards and then cut back with the outside of your foot and shield the ball with the outside of your foot. As you get better, practice shielding the ball using all parts of both feet.
Shielding the soccer ball, protecting it with your body, is one of the most underrated skills in soccer. As you get more comfortable, try shielding the ball for a few yards with the inside of your right foot and playing it to your left and carrying it in the other direction. Next, use the sole of your foot to turn or switch directions. Try to use all the different surfaces of your foot without letting the defender get a touch on the ball. Chop and cut the ball back with the inside and outside of both feet. Keep the defense honest by turning and taking the defender on from time to time. This way they know you're actually trying to get past them and not just hold the ball.
Freeze the Defender
If you see a defender rushing to close you down and win the ball, throw in a fake to slow them down. Before receiving the soccer ball, fake like you’re going to make a long pass or about to take a shot – this will freeze the defender who is rushing towards you and give you more time. Simply pull your leg back as if you’re going to play the ball down the field, or, get more animated with it, and throw your shoulders and whole body into selling the fake kick.
Either way, this simple move will freeze the defender who's rushing at you. Again, just before you receive the ball (and control it), fake like you’re going to shoot or make a pass by drawing your leg back in the shooting or kicking motion to momentarily freeze the defender. This move will surprise them a bit and slow them down so you have time to control the ball.
As a team keep the game flowing by ball swinging the ball from one side to the other to find the best ratio of numbers and the most space. Release pressure by switching the ball to the other side of the soccer field.
If you watch the best teams in the world, like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich or Manchester United, they move the ball from one side of the pitch to the other looking for space and a numerical advantage. You want to draw the other team to one side of the field and then quickly switch the ball to the other side when they start to close you down.
Try playing the ball into the forwards feet, so the defense collapses into the center, and when the forward lays the ball back, you can swing the ball out wide and into the corner to get a cross off. There are a number of different ways to switch the ball, and open up the defense, but the key is to keep the ball moving and play one and two touch soccer.
The Quick Switch - Blind Pass
Think about playing a pass or cross that will surprise the other team. Dribble to the right with your right foot and then swing a pass to the left, sending almost a blind pass to the other side of the soccer field. It's the opposite way if you use your left. Dribble to the left side of the field and swing a ball back to the right side of the field.
The defender on the other side will not expect the pass. Hopefully you will catch the opposing team sleeping. You are selling the idea that you're going to the side you're dribbling towards when in fact you're intention is to swing the ball over to the opposite side. Teammates will adjust to the expectation that a switch is coming.
Sometimes you can dribble a few times in the opposite direction you really want to play the ball - to throw the defense off - then you swing the ball to the other side of the field. It doesn't have to be a long switch, just a quick cut back to the other direction can create a goal scoring opportunity.
Of course, this is a pass that has to be done at the right time and the right part of the field. It might a counter attack or when you have the ball in the attacking third.
Get the Cross In
As a rule almost, when you have the opportunity and are open, swing the ball in for a cross. Besides finding your intended target with the cross, and them scoring, you never know what else could happen. The ball could take a deflection and go in off the other team and into the goal or get flicked on to a teammate who can then take a shot.
If you're out wide, try crossing the ball right when you get it. Do this the next two or three times you get the soccer ball. Then, when the defense is anticipating you to cross the ball again, that's when you take the player on the dribble, beat them down the line, and cut the ball back to a teammate. Of course, you can always go to right towards goal and take a shot yourself if the opening is there. The idea with crossing the ball on a regular basis is to make the defense think you're always going to serve the ball into the box, and then that one time you cut by them and go at goal. It's also helpful to your teammates you are making runs. If they know you're going to cross the ball they can time there runs accordingly.
Need an example of how to cross the soccer ball? There is no better crosser of the ball than David Beckham, just mimic what he does. Yeah, I know that's easier said than done. See how Beckham puts the ball in with pace, so all the attacker has to do his redirect the ball on goal. That's what you want to do when you cross the ball. No lofted balls when you cross it - whip the ball in at speed.
Play with Older Players
If you want to get better, try to find the best game possible near where you live when you are training. To become a great player you should push yourself, and there is no better way to do this than to play with more experienced players who are better than you are.
The idea is to pick up all of their tricks and skills that they have learned over the years. This kind of mentoring process is a huge part of improving your game and you often won't even realize what subtle skills you'll pick up, just by watching and playing with better and more experienced players.
Challenging yourself by playing with experienced players will speed up your play, make you play stronger on the ball, and you'll learn from their experience - where to play the ball, when to pass, when to dribble, and where to make runs.
And it's not just about playing with experienced or older players, it's about playing with players who are better than you are. If there's one short cut to getting better it's playing with players who are better than you are.
Essentially "slowing down" means making the easy pass to the open player. It doesn't mean necessarily slowing down your speed of play, rather it's letting the ball do the work, and not forcing the play. Keep your mind moving fast and focused but play simple soccer. If there is an open player to pass to then play them the ball. Then, when they get closed down they play the ball back to you.
As a young player one of the difficult things to learn is patience. This means things like letting the ball do the work through one and two touch play. Each time you make a pass the defense changes their position and new things open up at different angles on the field - new spaces to run into, dribble, and pass are created when you move the ball. It might take five or six passes before you can find that one killer pass in behind the defense. There's no need to force it though.
As a professional soccer player, you won't have time to really think after receiving the soccer ball. Know what you are going to do with the ball before you get it. This means knowing where you're support is coming from and receiving the ball with your body blocking it from the defender.
Eventually, playing simple soccer will become automatic when you are involved in the rhythm of the game. But it's important to want and ask for the ball. If you don't ask for the ball you might not get it - they might think you don't want it or aren't open.
Again, use your body to shield the ball so a defender can't win the ball or if they do you'll earn a throw in or a free kick. To get out of pressure, play simple give and goes with your teammates. Be aware of where you can move or how you can position yourself to help out your teammates. Using your body means dribbling with your left foot when there is a defender on your right and dribbling and shielding the ball with your right foot when there is a defender on your on your left. If you don't know if you can turn or have time, keep your body between the ball and the defenfer and keep your head so you can find a teammate. You should always try to know where you are on the field by taking quick looks before you receive the ball. The key though is not to panic, if you're closed down, shield the ball and protect it.
The idea behind soccer is really simple, it's kind of like this, "Hey, hold the ball for a second while I get open or in a better position where I will have more time and can see the field better." If you watch the best teams in the world, whether it's Bareclona, Arsenal or Real Madrid, tehy move the ball around to the player with the most time and space. It's a big game of keep away in a sense. And this is one of the greatest aspects of the game of soccer, where you work with your teammates to ping the ball around the other team, and they can't even get a touch on the ball before you score a goal.
The Half Turn
If you're playing as a midfielder, turn your body at an angle when you check back to the ball so you can connect with the forwards and the defenders. You can accomplish this by not having your back entirely to the forwards. Midfielders should try to be half-turned and facing one of the sidelines. This way they can view both the back line of defenders, if they are trying to make a pass to you, and the forwards and other midfielders to see where they are making runs.
When you play on the wing or in a wide position along the touchline, open yourself to the field, so you're in a position to see the whole field and receive the ball. Again, instead of having your back facing the forwards you can turn your shoulder towards the outside touchline so you are open to the field.
If you watch players like Sergio Busquets or Xavi at Barcelona, they're constantly looking over their shoulder before they receive the ball so they know if there's a defender coming or if they can turn. They also rarely check back to the ball with their back turned towards the rest of the field. Instead, they look over their shoulder before the ball comes and come back to the ball almost half turned.
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