In soccer, you can’t wait for the soccer ball to come to you. If you do wait, the defender will beat you to the ball and take it. Soccer is a game about attacking the ball, going to the ball and using your body to protect the ball from a defender. What’s key is being aware and having your head up when playing so you can anticipate both what the defense is going to do and your teammates.
The keys to attacking the soccer ball are: don’t wait for the ball, use your body to shield the ball from the defender, and have a good first touch on the ball, out of your feet, or away from you, so you can play the ball with your next touch. Know what you’re going to do with the ball before you get it.
Go to the Soccer Ball
To work on attacking the ball, have a teammate pass the ball to you at a slower pace than normal so you have to check back to the ball to receive it. Sprint towards the ball as if you’re trying to beat a defender to the ball. Take a few touches on the dribble when you get to the ball, as if you are keeping the ball from the opposition.
This can also be done up against a wall. Find a wall to play the ball against, without windows hopefully, and smack the ball against the wall and rush to control it. Try playing the ball at the right pace so you have to go towards the wall get the ball.
Good First Touch on the Ball
Next, have your teammate play the ball with a lot of pace from 10 or 15 yards away and go to the ball to control it. First have them play the ball on the ground at a normal pace, then have them pass the ball as hard as they can, sort of over striking the ball. This will help you sharpen up your first touch and control, since if you can control a ball that’s drilled at you then you control a pass at a normal pace out in front of you with a good first touch. You’re having your teammate exaggerate the pace of the pass to practice attacking the ball and to work on your control or first touch.
When you’re controlling the ball, see if you can control the ball at an angle, say to the inside or outside, as if you’re covered and have to escape pressure. Dribble off at speed at various angles, working on controlling the ball with both feet. Make this all one movement–do not stop and start but make it a fluid run with the ball at your feet.
Soccer Ball in the Air
Then try to do this in the air. Have your teammate play you a ball in the air, this time from a distance of 30 or 40 yards away. Rush to the ball before it hits the ground and control it out in front of you, into the space, and dribble off for ten yards or so.
Use your first touch to get the soccer ball on the ground, either by cushioning with the laces of your foot to take the pace out of it or with the inside of the foot to control the ball out in front of you.
When you have mastered this, try to control the ball in the air out in front of you, as if you are juggling the ball. Bring the ball down after a few juggles, maybe you even try juggling the ball over a defender’s head if they are closing you down too fast, for example.
Open Up Into Space
Practice opening yourself to the soccer field at different angles. Make angled runs or diagonal runs and have your teammate play the ball into you. Control the ball out in front of you a few feet away as you come back to the ball – control the soccer ball in other words into the space that’s available. Again, don’t kill the ball right in front of you so you have to stop and start again. Instead, control the ball out in front of you (away from your body) and open yourself to as much of the field as possible. This means turning your shoulder so you face the whole field and not just one side while shielding the soccer ball from any defenders.
Always try to get a touch on the soccer ball before it bounces or hits the ground, whether from a goalkeeper’s punt, a goal kick, or a long pass, try to get that first touch to deaden the ball and take the ball out of the air or take the pace out of the ball.
Winning the ball first, and not letting the ball bounce is crucial and can lead to a goal scoring chance. For instance, if you’re a forward posting up and the keepers punting the ball, if you beat the defender to the ball you can flick the ball on to a teammate running through.
All of this, of course, depends upon how much time and space you have and if there are defenders near you, but try to go to the ball and get a controlling touch on it before it bounces.
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