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Improve Your Moves - Soccer Skills & Drills

If you’ve learned anything on this soccer training website, it’s that your success as a soccer player depends on much more than on just how well you can kick the soccer ball. The fate of the game rests on strategy, teamwork, and decision-making.

That being said, there are several soccer skills and techniques that you’ll want to perfect, so you can tap into them when you need to. These are useful soccer skills that you can use when you're trying to get out of a tight spot on the soccer field or need to beat a defender. Afterall, while the game of soccer is much more than just your soccer skills on the ball, those skills are the foundation of your game. You'll want to master the ability to control, shield, juggle, and dribble the ball with both feet.

Ryan Giggs of Manchester United
Getty Images: The living legend Ryan Giggs of Manchester United..

Below are a few quick soccer skills and moves by some of soccer's greatest players. If you're looking for soccer practice drills, don't forget to visit our soccer drills directory. And, also check out our daily footwork drills and Coerver drills sections. These are some of the best soccer skills you'll need to master to become an elite level soccer player and enable you to play at the highest level:

Here are some classic soccer moves and fundamentals of the game that all soccer players can adopt and use in a number of situations. Again, the game of soccer is all about mastering the soccer ball - being able to control it and dribble the ball in a variety of ways so you can keep possession and create goal scoring chances. If you're skill on the ball isn't perfect, then you can't control the ball to make those killer passes or beat the last defender in a one on one situation.

Shielding the Ball

Shielding the soccer ball is an art. Shielding the soccer ball doesn't get as much attention or credit, as it should. If there's one thing a young player should learn early on it's how to shield the ball from a defender. Use your body to protect the ball from players trying to take it from you. Don't let them take. Protect the ball like your life depends upon it. Bend your knees, get your body between the defender and the ball, and force the defender to foul you, but don't let them take it. Carry the ball with the inside of your foot away from the defender, while you use your body to shield the ball.

Shielding the soccer ball doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Just ask Roy Keane, a player who earned a fair amount of respect when he played for Manchester United. In a small square, see if a defender can take the ball from you. Make it like a battle royal, where the defender does all they can to try to win the ball and you fight to keep it. Can you keep the ball from a defender for one minute?

Shoulder Feints

Dip the shoulder to one side and go in the opposite direction. Step into the direction you are faking with your shoulder and take off with the ball in the other direction, almost with a spinning motion. It's a shoulder fake to the right, then you dribble off or turn with the ball to the left . Do the reverse to go the other way: Fake to the left (lean) and dribble off by turning to the right.

If you're back is to the defender, you can also fake with your shoulder. Before turning, when you have a defender on your back, throw in a feint as if you are going to go in one direction, when you really intend to go the other way. Feint to the side by dipping your shoulder.

As a midfielder, however, you might want to have your body half turned already, and open to the field. This turn coupled with the fake with your shoulder is useful if you are marked tightly and coming back to the ball with a defender right on top of you and need to spin away. Perhaps better for a forward or winger coming back to the ball.

Watch how Lionel Messi uses not just his shoulder to beat defenders but his whole body at times.


First Touch in Soccer

When you receive the ball, use the inside or outside of the foot to steer the ball away from the pressure and give yourself space to make the next pass or take that next dribble with your next touch. Don't kill the ball right in front of you when you control the ball.

Instead, touch the ball to the side with the inside or outside of the foot a few feet away from your body so you can make the next pass or dribble the ball in the next movement. This will enable you to play the ball quicker and not get the ball caught under your feet.

It’s hard to say what the most important skill there is to have as a soccer player, but it could very well be a good first touch.

Without a good first touch there is no way to play at a high level. Why? Well, a good first touch allows you to play the ball quickly, hold the ball, beat players on the dribble, and score goals. If you’re constantly controlling the ball too close to you, and you’re on top of the ball, then you’re bound to lose the ball and not get the pass, shot or cross off in time.

Again, a good first touch is controlling the ball out in front of you, and not right under your feet so you have to take another touch before you make the pass. Also, this first touch should be away from the defender and into the space as you use your body and arms to protect the ball.

For example, if a defender is rushing towards, you can push the ball to the right or left and into the space, rather than trying to control the ball first and giving the defender a chance to win the ball. Think about separating yourself from the defense with your first touch, cutting them out of the play.

If you watch players in the English Premier League, Serie A, or La Liga, for example, they control the ball out into the open space, whether that's to the right, left or right in front of them, so they can get their head up (take a peek just with their eyes is enough) and make the next pass or take the next touch. Learn how to improve your first touch.

Spinning with the Inside of the Foot

Use the inside of your foot to spin around with the ball. Use the inside of your foot for control and pull the ball around to open up into the new direction you want to go in. That way, you are immediately open to the entire field and can make a pass with the inside of your foot on your next step. Watch soccer players like Xavi or Iniesta at Barcelona, both are experts at this inside of the foot turn. They check back to the ball but take a look behind their shoulder to see if they're under pressure. If no defenders are close by they'll use this spin turn to open up to the whole field.

If the defender is too close though, you can flick the ball around the defender and get the ball back again, as Xavi does here.


The Self Pass

The self pass is a way to give yourself space if a defender is closing you down. If a pass comes into you and you feel a defender closing you down, control the ball a little bit further out in front of you than you normally would so you can turn and face the defender.

The key is taking the bigger touch that's bigger than a normal control, cushion or trap. And then after doing the self pass you can do a step over turn or a pull back, that opens you up to face the defender and the whole field. This is really a simple but great move that all players should incorporate into their game. See a video of the self pass here.

Cut the Ball Behind You

This is another turn where you cut the ball behind your standing foot to go in the other direction or avoid pressure. As the ball comes to you cut the ball behind you with the inside of your foot. It's much like the Cruyff turn except this is done when a pass is played into you and not while you're dribbling, but the concept is the same.

Sometimes you'll see players do this move as a pass. They'll let the ball come into them and then lay the ball off with the inside of their foot and spin in the other direction.

Checking Back to Receive the Ball

There's an art to checking back to receive the ball. It's subtle but it's an art. The best players make it look like nothing, but the truth is it is something they have perfected after years of playing. Part of checking back to the ball is finding and creating space. The best players create their own space but dragging the defender who's marking them away from the space they want to check into. It could just be a little five-yard jog away from where they want the ball. And then darting back to receive the ball.

The Dummy Turn

If the ball is played at the right pace and you think the defender is too close to you, you can let the ball run through your legs and turn and beat your opponent to the ball. Also, if you know your teammate is behind you and open, you can let the ball run through your legs and go through to your teammate, and they then can play the ball to back to you - much like a give and go.

This is very effective for forwards to learn. The ball can be played to the forward who's checking back, who lets it run through his or her legs or just lets the ball go by them and quickly turns to get the ball back from the deeper forward who is posting up.

When the two forwards are lined up, one should always be closer to the midfield. The forwards should try to work in tandem and stay ten or fifteen yards from one another, one stretching the defense the other closer to the midfield. The forwards can rotate and switch these positions through the course of the game, but often the taller forward posts up high to win head balls, while the other forward tries to win the knock downs or anticipate a flick (off of a goal kick or punt, for instance).

Forwards can also clip the ball into the other forward’s path and work a give and go. Instead of a dummy and letting the ball go past them completely, they can get a touch on the ball or flick the ball on to the forward, using the pace of the ball to spin the ball into the other forward, perhaps around a defender.  Watch how this is done by Juventus and Trezeguet, he does the dummy run and then turns to receive the ball back perfectly.

In the video below, check out Fabian Espindola's goal off a dummy run. Set plays don't only happen from dead balls in soccer, but Real Salt Lake proved that training ground exercises can pay off in big games.


The Blind Pass

This pass is not exactly blind of course, just deceptive. This is the pass you make in the opposite direction in which you're facing or dribbling. To pull it off you dribble or even just face one direction and then play the back in the other direction.

For instance, you could be dribbling from the center of the field to the right side and play a diagonal ball to the left sided midfielder. As everyone moves towards the right you try to surprise them by playing this blind pass. The key is that you’ve taken a picture of the field already. You know you're teammate is there and waiting for the pass. Xabi Alonso likes to do this. He doesn’t necessarily whip the ball completely to the other side of the field but he'll move in one direction and then play these long through ball the other way. Guti too, his former teammate at Real Madrid, likes to do this. Ryan Giggs from time to time will play a ball like this. Again, sometimes all it takes is a little shift of the body or the way you’re facing, like you're going to play the ball one way and then clip the ball in the other direction. It's a great way to catch the other team off guard.


Listen to your teammates, especially if they say turn or time or man on – take their advice. They can make things a lot easier for you. It’s really important to communicate on the field and let your teammates know when they have time or when there is pressure coming. It’s a good habit to get into. If you play the ball pass along a message. Give your teammate some direction, as in – man on, you’ve got time, go at them, get stuck in, push up, and so forth.

And ask for the ball. This might seem like a simple common sense thing, but many players don't call for or ask for the ball, so they don't get as much. If you ask for the ball and show you want to play, you're more apt to get the ball. So, seek the ball out and call for it. Try to get into the game and don't end up on the edges of the game, not touching the ball for long stretches.

Learn more at Strategy, Patterns, Crossing, Tricks and Juggling

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