What is a nutmeg in soccer? A nutmeg is when you put the ball through a defenders' legs on the dribble or with a pass. Let's learn how to nutmeg...or put the soccer ball through the defenders' legs.
A successful nutmeg in soccer elicits cheers and oohs and ahhs from the crowd, but when it’s unsuccessful, it’s often a big let down to one’s team in general and can lead to a counter attack or even change the momentum of the soccer game.
A nutmeg is demoralizing to the player who’s the victim of the nutmeg, but can revitalize a team that’s successful megged a player. It is the move of a showoff or a genius. The nutmeg could be the most crowd-pleasing move besides a goal, and sometimes animates people more than a goal itself. It is right up there in terms of excitement level with the diving header, the bicycle kick and the first time volley.
If you are going to try to nutmeg someone in soccer it better work, it’s as simple as that. There are ways to hedge the nutmeg, though. One way is to try for the nutmeg when you are along the sidelines, so if the soccer ball doesn’t go through the opponent’s legs then it will go out of bounds and you’ll win a throw-in or a corner. You’ll see a lot of soccer players do this as the game is winding down and they’re trying to kill off the game down in the corners of the field. What’s frustrating though is if someone goes for the meg and it doesn’t work and they just as easily could have played the ball back to a teammate and maintained possession.
While Cristiano Ronaldo nutmegs Carlos Puyol in the picture above, Dani Alves gets the best of Ronaldo when he tries to play defense and Alves puts the ball through Ronaldo's legs:
When it works, the nutmeg is a beautiful part of the beautiful game.
Lead the defender away from where you want to go
Catch them off balance or diving in
See if they are coming in too fast and will over commit
Setup the player by beating them a certain way a few times before
Don’t get predictable and try the meg all the time
Act like you're racing down the line to cross the ball and cut the ball through the defenders legs
Of course, the best time to nutmeg someone is when the defender least expects it. And the situation where this most often arises is when a defender over commits. When they’re so eager to win the ball they dive in. They come charging at you or stretch their legs and reach to block a cross or shot.
Messi and Neymar nutmeg show versus Manchester City:
A nutmeg is really like a very wise cut back. To accomplish a nutmeg you have to lead the defender one way when you really want to go the other direction. Give the impression that the defender can reach and win the ball. When the defender reaches to tackle or win the ball, that's when you slip the ball through their legs.
So you might be able to pull off a nutmeg if you're racing down the wing and the defender thinks you're going to cross the ball, but instead you slip the ball through the defender's legs when they reach to block the cross.
Unbalanced defender, reaching or diving to block a pass or shot
To make a pass when the defenders legs are open
When the goalkeeper is charging out in a one versus one situation and their legs are open
The Best Nutmeg Artists In The Game: Messi, Robinho, Ronaldinho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Arjen Robben, Isco and of course Neymar.
The nutmeg can also be done to make a pass or score a goal. I’m sure you’ve seen a ton of goals scored where the ball goes through the keeper’s legs. More often than not though this is an accident and not the intention of the scorer – they just hit the ball low and hard and they’re just happy the ball went in the back of the net. The keeper can't really do anything about it.
Watch Jose Antonio Reyes nutmeg Gary Neville not once but twice:
Warning: Too many players try to nutmeg players when they should just dribble by them. It’s very frustrating for your team if you lose the soccer ball trying something that's difficult and doesn't always come off successfully.
The nutmeg is something that's done when there’s no chance of failure, or if there is, the ball will go out of bounds for a corner or a throw-in. So don’t try for a meg when you can just go by the player or keep possession of the ball – take what the game gives you and don’t make it more difficult than it is.
Really, you should only try to nutmeg someone in the attacking third of the field. You certainly don't want your goalkeeper trying to nutmeg a forward who's closing them down, although that sure would be amazing to see!
Finally, here's a fun video about nutmeg on the streets of LA! Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne prank strangers on Venice Beach in Los Angeles. That's the thing about a nutmeg, you need to surprise the other person, put it through their legs when they least expect it.