There's a certain art to controlling the soccer ball. If you watch the best players in the world, they don't just control the soccer ball but beat players or surprise players with their first controlling touch. Their first touch is perfect and puts them in a position to dribble, pass or shoot right away.
first touch of elite players enables them to move past the defender or give them time and space to make a pass or take a shot. Controlling or trapping the soccer ball is a crucial skill that all soccer players should master. But again, the key is to control the ball so you can make that next play. In other words, it's about controlling the ball away from your body, so the ball isn't stuck under your feet.
Thigh: Top of your thigh used to deaden the ball. Used when the ball is hit high in the air. Try to control the soccer ball to the side, as if a defender is trying to win the ball or even make a quick pass with your thigh when a ball is played to you in the air.
Chest: Use the upper chest region to deaden the ball. Bend your legs and lean back to sort of catch the ball on your chest. Try to control the ball to the side away from the defender or control the ball up and out in front of you if you have space, so you can make the next pass immediately - you don't necessarily kill the ball in front of you but control it out in space a bit. Or, if you're trying to score off a bicycle kick like the amazing Rivaldo, then pop the ball up in their with your chest.
Head: At times used to control the ball to yourself - bringing your head to the ball to deaden it. Use the upper forehead area where the hairline just starts to take the air out of the ball - use it as a cushion to take the pace off the ball. But the head is more often used to flick or re-direct the ball to a teammate.
Inside of the foot: The most common surface area used to control the soccer ball; largest surface area to control the ball. Try to control the ball out in front of you, don't kill the ball under your feet. Control the ball to the open space.
Outside of the foot: Often used when coming back to receive a ball so as to have your body between you and the defender. Often forwards like to check back to the ball and use the outside of their foot to control the ball.
Top of the foot: To deaden the ball from a high pass, goal kick, or punt. See if you can re-direct the ball to yourself to the side and move with the ball.
Sole of the foot: You see this a lot as a way to control the ball in indoor soccer, futsal or when a team is playing on turf. But the bottom of the foot is a good way to control a hard pass when you want to quickly take a shot or make another pass.
Controlling the Ball to the Side
Once again you want to make use of your body to protect the ball when receiving a pass from a teammate. Turn your body to the side, so your hips are not open to the person who is playing you the ball but to the side you want to receive the ball. Receive the ball at an angle with the outside of your foot.
Using the outside of your foot to control the ball is rare, most often used when you are tightly marked and checking back to the ball. Forwards sometimes check back to the ball at an angle so they can turn their defender. Normally you want to use the inside of your foot to control the ball so you can make a quick return pass. And, with the inside of your foot, you have the most surface area of your foot to control the ball.
Spin or turn to the right if you are going to control the ball and make a pass with your right foot and the opposite for your left. This way your body is always between you and the defender. Be conscious of controlling the ball a little bit in front of you so you can make a pass or take a shot with your next step. This is knowing what you want to do with the ball before you receive it.
Control the Ball Out in Front of You
Using your body to protect the ball, make use of the space given to you by controlling the ball out in front of you. When you have space, control the ball ahead of yourself to a degree so you can get your head up and make a play with your next few steps.
This is controlling the ball into the open space. If you are a defender and you receive a pass with loads of time and open space in front of you, say just after someone has switch the ball from the other side of the field, you can even control the ball five or six yards out in front of you so you are ready to attack the space and make your next pass. By doing this you can get your head up and see the entire field. You are not back on your heels but pushing the ball forward when you receive the ball.
Whether you control the ball to the right or to the left or straight ahead, when you have time and space, controlling the ball a few feet in front of you gives you a chance to play the ball quickly since your next step can be a pass or a shot, and the ball is not tangled up at your feet.
When you control the ball too close to your body you will have to take another touch to set yourself up to make a pass. This extra touch gives the defense another chance to adjust and close you down and you will miss seeing a teammate making a run since you are busy trying to get the ball out in front of you to make a pass.
First touch is the key here. Make it sharp and a little bit out in front of you so you can see the field and make the next play. Of course, there are exceptions, as sometimes you want to control the ball close to you if you have a defender right on top of you. This is where shielding the ball and using your body to protect the ball comes into play..
See how the top players in the world control the soccer ball in this amazing video: