It’s that bit of magic. The ability to create the space in midfield to score a goal. It adds $15 million, $20 million to the price of a top player. It is the difference between the very good and the outstanding. But at every level we can improve our chances of scoring by making space to get a shot away. Here are some soccer techniques and training drills that are simple to practice but can improve a striker’s chances of finding the back of the net. Work on them regularly, and they become second nature whether we are an under 10 player looking to break into our academy team, a city league amateur or a top professional. Soccer practice is very important.
Soccer Practice Drills Technique
The great Portuguese, former Manchester United and Real Madrid, striker Ronaldo is the master of the stepover. As his career reaches its final days with Juventus in Italy, he shows little sign of slowing down, and remains one of the deadliest strikers in world football.
Ronaldo perfected his ability to beat the final defender when he started his career on the wing. Like another great of recent times, Thierry Henry, he began his game out wide, but soon moved infield into a more central role where he could be even more lethal.
Soccer Midfield Technique and Training Drill 1: The Stepover
The key to the step-over is that its aim is to create sufficient space for a shot. Played well, the maneuver warns defenders that they cannot get too close, or they will be beaten completely, and that space also creates room for the shot. The impact of the deflection cannot be understated here. While a crisp effort flying into the bottom corner might be aesthetically more pleasing, a deflection looping over the keeper counts as much.
The skill can be separated into several individual stages, which are explained below. However, the move needs to be carried out smoothly, and at speed.
- Run straight at a defender;
- Drop your shoulder to the direction opposite to where you want to move;
- Using the same foot as the shoulder that has been dropped, step over the ball laterally;
- Plant this foot firmly;
- Use the outside of the other foot to move the ball in the opposite direction to that taken by the non-kicking, stepover foot;
- Either shoot, or knock the ball on for a dribble.
The step-over and drop of the shoulder aims to shift the defender’s weight in the wrong direction.
The soccer training drill below is a good practice for this skill. It requires just three players, an attacker, a defender and a keeper. The attacker dribbles at speed towards the defender, completes a stepover and shoots immediately, aiming for the bottom corner.
Soccer Midfield Technique and Training Drill 2: The Feint
Sir Stanley Matthews, English legend and star of the 1950s, was the master of the feint. A sort of foreshortened step-over, the feint employs several stages which see the defender get ever more lost before sufficient space is created for the striker to go past and get away a shot. As above, the skill can be broken down into different elements, but needs to be delivered fluidly and at speed.
- Run with pace towards the defender, using the laces to knock the ball forward;
- As the space between attacker and defender shortens, drop the pace slightly and keep the ball closer to feet, without changing technique;
- Drop one shoulder, then the other, changing the direction of the ball slightly in the direction of the shoulder drop each time;
- If the defender does not change direction to cover the feint, then go past;
- Otherwise, keep alternating the dropping of the shoulder until the defender loses balance;
- Knock the ball forward and accelerate past, getting away a shot or cross.
The soccer training drill below requires a minimum of three players. The cones, marked in black, are approached at speed, the dribbler feints one way then the other as he or she passes through them, then lays the ball forward to a team mate who dribbles back the other way.
Soccer Technique and Training Drill 3: The Draw
For this move to work, the attacker needs to know that they can at least match the defender for pace, at least over a short distance. There also needs to be space to run into behind the defender as the ball will be knocked a little way forward.
- Receive a pass, standing at approximately 45 degrees to the pass;
- Let it run across the body, drawing the defender forward;
- Knock the ball straight forward with the furthest foot;
- Sometimes it can be useful to lift the ball slightly when doing this, as many defenders will be drawn into sliding for the ball – if they can be beaten by lifting it over them, then they are even more out of the game;
- Accelerate away;
- In a shooting sense, either run on and shoot, or dribble at the keeper and finish this way.
For the soccer training drill, a passer, attacker, defender and keeper are needed. The defender must attempt a tackle, as that is the drill being practiced. The attacker beats the defender using the skill above, and then attempts to score by either shooting or dribbling round the keeper.
Soccer Midfield Technique and Training Drill 4: The Turn and Half Turn
The principle skills here are the same, although the direction the ball travels is different. There are certain prerequisites.
- The ball is played into feet for the striker;
- He receives the ball between 90 degrees (i.e. shoulder facing) and 45 degrees, (i.e.) chest half facing;
- It is essential that he feels the defender tight to him. Therefore, his rear arm is out;
- Weight is over the ball, but the body makes sure that the ball is protected from the defender, maximizing the distance between him and the ball;
- For the turn, the ball will be touched with the outside of the leading foot, the pass on the pass taking it beyond and wide of the defender. For the half turn, the ball comes onto the rear most foot, and is moved at around 30 degrees with the instep. Again, the striker spins after the ball;
- Having gained a little space, because the defender cannot turn as quickly, a shot is taken.
As can be imagined, this move often draws a foul. It is risky, although effective when it works, and is therefore very much an attacking maneuver in midfield and offense.
For the drill, we require a feeder or passer, striker, defender and keeper. Play the ball in to the attacker, draw the defender in and, the striker turns or half turns and shoots. For the drill to be more effective to real match situations, the passer moves onto the ball after passing. If the defender does not close for the turn, then he lays the ball back to the passer and the striker then spins away, creating a two v one overload.
To get us in the mood, check out these goals created with step-overs by the aforementioned Ronaldo:
If you like this post on creating space in midfield, you’ll love our post on goalkeeper training.
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