Football is the most popular sport in the world for good reason: it's simple enough to learn in an afternoon and complex enough to require an athlete to spend a lifetime improving. Improving as a football player depends a lot on your intentions on the field, but having good ball control and making smart game decisions is essential for any footballer. Once you have the unique feeling of scoring a goal, making a decisive pass or being a “wall” in defense, you will be in love with football for the rest of your life.
Method 1 of 3: Improving Foot Skill
Step 1. Perfect the first hit of the ball by getting ready to pass, kick or carry the ball without delay
The first touch is essential; It is through this technique that it is possible to separate professionals from amateurs, as it is essential to be able to stop the ball with your feet, whether it is coming from the air or the ground, leaving it right in front of you so that the next touch can continue to the move immediately. It is important to learn to "stick" the ball using the whole body, training the following fundamentals:
- Give first passes to a teammate, who must be nearby. If the first touch is a precise pass, the defenders will have a hard time stealing the ball. This foundation can also be trained with a wall.
- Ask a teammate to throw or cross an aerial ball. You can only tap the ball twice: one to dominate it and one to hit it back.
- Pass and kick at speed. Someone must pass the ball while you are at speed, making the first touch a precise mastery, allowing a pass or kick on the second touch without having to correct the stride.
Step 2. Practice the basics of ball play and close control
The objective of the following exercises is not just to be faster, but to be more precise, learning to control the ball with your whole foot and becoming a better passer, as well as mastering and carrying the ball without losing it. Practice the following exercises, trying to do 100 strokes with each foot and in each exercise:
- With the insides of your feet, touch the ball between them, preventing it from getting out of control while trotting back and forth as fast as possible.
- Tap the ball quickly with your toes in order to make the movement as fast as possible. As you improve, try to make the ball roll a little forward using the sole of the boot in the toe area, concentrating on this quick touch, but it must be precise.
- Pass your foot over the ball. Use the sole of your right foot to roll it to the right. Do this as far as you can to the right. Then use your instep and pass the ball to your right foot. Master the ball with the left sole and roll it to the left, repeating the exercise with both feet, going back and forth.
Step 3. Train speed kicks and crosses
More experienced players already know how to cross and finish on goal when the ball is stationary, but it is also important to learn the main fundamentals of playing with the ball in motion, especially as this will put you above others. Luckily, it's an easy skill to practice both alone and with a teammate. Just catch the pass at speed, dominate the ball, run a little faster and kick it into goal.
- As you improve, try to run faster. When a player is able to catch the ball and dominate it at speed, finishing in the goal or making a precise cross, he will leave the defenders in torment!
- The approach must be made from various angles, finishing in the goal from the center of the field and also making crosses from the end line.
- It's also important to know the correct placement. A defender, for example, needs to be in the right place at the right time to hit the ball into the attacking field at a time when he is under pressure from the opponent.
Step 4. Another fundamental to be developed is the use of “bad foot”, that is, what the player does not use to pass and kick
It doesn't matter what quality you have in your right foot when the markers force you to use your left foot, and vice versa. Great players are dangerous with both feet, forcing defenders to take away all options from the attacker. Don't “ignore” half of your body; he's also an important part of a footballer's arsenal, so work with both feet.
Step 5. Learn to carry the ball accurately and with control
The ball should be an “extension” of your foot. Take it to a defined location (such as the penalty area) and control the ball without letting it pass the lines, ranging from runs to sudden stops. Learn some dribbling and use both feet, training until you get tired. The goal is to make the ball “stick” to your foot, regardless of its speed and whenever possible. This makes life very difficult for defenders, and you can further develop these skills by training in the following ways:
- With little flags, cones or even old shirts, make a training camp. Carry the ball between objects (zigzag), quickly changing direction as fast as you can, but without losing the ball.
- Embassadas may seem useless in a football match, but it's the easiest way to improve touch and control the ball by keeping it close to the body. Use both feet and the force applied to the ball, alternating soft and strong touches that gain little height (easier to control) and a lot of height (harder to master).
- Try to learn advanced techniques and dribbling as they require a lot of ball control and allow you to have new offensive tools for matches.
Step 6. Learn to hit the ball in different places so that it takes effect
The way to finish and the right place of the ball change its path a lot; great players have a lot of knowledge about this technique. Regardless of whether you are in attack or defense, it is essential to learn how to hit all parts of the ball to gain more options for passing and finishing anywhere on the field.
- Short, precise passes are usually made with the inside of the foot (plate). Even good and medium height crosses can be done this way.
- Hitting the ball with the instep will give it a lot of effect. Try to concentrate on hitting the bottom of the ball, as if hitting it from a diagonal angle.
- When kicking the ball with the instep and reaching a little below the center of the ball, without continuing the movement, it will not spin and may suddenly “dive”. Although it looks like the ball will go over the goal, it loses height quickly and will be very dangerous.
- With the instep, hit the bottom of the ball for it to take effect, a great technique for precise crosses that shouldn't “fall” but gain height.
Method 2 of 3: Improving “Game IQ”
Step 1. Learn to defend “one on one”, something useful anywhere on the field
From attackers to defenders, everyone needs to know how to defend individually. Get help from a teammate and play a “one-on-one” game, developing the ability to tag him and always be on his tail. When defending individually, remember to:
- Squatting slightly and balancing with the part of your foot that serves as a “bridge” between your toes and the sole of your foot. The knees need to be slightly bent, allowing for a quick reaction.
- The body should be at the right angle, with one foot in front of the other, practically encouraging the attacker to step out on one side. Force him to go to the side of the field or where there are teammates in defense instead of standing still and allowing him to choose the most appropriate direction.
- Keep an eye on the attacker's hips so you don't get fooled. The hips are the players' center of gravity, often “telegraphing” where they're going, unless he's a Neymar or Lionel Messi. It is practically impossible to change the direction of the hips with speed; take advantage of this when scoring.
Step 2. Keep your head up during the game, especially when in possession of the ball
Senior players will always be looking for someone to give a good pass, especially when they have the ball. It's something that requires training, as it's hard not to lose control of her while looking for someone to pass. However, learning to use the lower part of your vision – and seeing where the ball is – while looking for the best passing option is an essential skill in becoming a smarter and therefore better footballer.
Use drills to learn to play with your head up. It's okay to lose the ball during practice so it doesn't happen in important matches. This way you will quickly see the improvements
Step 3. Communication in the field is important, always talking to guide the team
Great players are always talking during a game: “I'm free”, “pass to the left”, “someone needs to help me” and many other phrases are constantly heard to guide teammates on the field, which is something absolutely normal. Football is a team game; smart athletes know the team and need to be “in sync” for the entire 90 minutes to be able to develop the best football. Be a leader on the field and talk a lot, both in games and in practice. Communicate to get the following things right in the field:
- Marking: the team needs to know who you will cover, if you will try to steal the ball or if there is an opponent's player who is unmarked.
- Guide players who are in possession of the ball: It's no use telling him a lot of things, but give him some quick advice. If there is an opponent coming from behind to steal his ball, yell “thief”, for example.
- overtaking: Tell the teammate who has the ball and is marked that you are passing him to receive the ball. If there is cover, tell him to return the ball to you (don't overtake). Whenever you do this, don't always assume that you'll get the ball, as your teammate may have their head down and not see you or they'll think this isn't the best move.
Step 4. Watch professional games at least once a week, learning from the best
Note where players stand, not only when they have the ball, but also without it. How are athletes in the position you play moving? When do they launch themselves on the attack and when do they keep their position in defense? Don't be afraid to be a critic; use games to learn new ideas and give up on methods and options that didn't work. How can you change your game and how would you like to “imitate” your favorite players?
- Young people who want to play football can also watch videos that teach new skills and moves, as well as the best moments of matches on YouTube so that they “fill in” the gaps they have if they are unsure of the techniques used by professionals in passing and finishing.
- Cheer for a team or follow a league closely. The more games you watch, the better player you will become.
Step 5. Learn the basics of team play, becoming a team leader both offensively and defensively
A big part of “game IQ” in football comes down to learning how to work as a team. Although each team has specific strategies that must be developed with all athletes, there are tactics that apply to everyone:
- Press on defense and expand on offense: is the basis of all strategies. In defense, it is essential to take the opponent's space, while in the attack it is necessary to create spaces. This way, on the defensive field, there must be a base to compact and take the spaces of the other team; in attack, you have to find a way to infiltrate this base, which the opponent will also mount, requiring the defensive line to keep players away from each other and allowing your teammates to invade the area.
- Always be ready to touch the ball, forcing the defense to react: even shots that aren't going in the direction of the goal can turn into good opportunities if attacking players pay attention to crosses and submissions. This type of pressure can bring down the opposing defense, since in rebounds, for example, the defenders will be facing their own goal and, due to the pressure exerted on them, they will have a lot of difficulty in getting the ball out of there without danger.
- Always be defensively watchful: even when not making the offside line, the defense must play in line and not leave this formation. If not, holes and spaces are created between the back players, allowing for opposing infiltrations. Defending athletes must always look both ways to keep the defense in line, guiding them if the positioning is wrong.
Method 3 of 3: Developing Your Talent As Much As Possible
Step 1. Test and play for the best teams that give you a chance
There are no shortcuts to becoming a better footballer other than getting on the field and training as much as possible. That said, a player gains “cancha” and experience more quickly when playing against higher-ability opponents. Test out at a club that demands a lot from you; if this is not possible, create challenges for yourself by going to the park to play (take your boots and go straight into the game), ask your teammates to train with you during the holidays and continue practicing even alone.
When there's no one to train with you, develop submissions by kicking against a wall, practice passing (touching and getting back) or simply go out into the yard and do embaixadas to perfect ball control and skill
Step 2. Get in shape by playing from your stance to get the most out of your workout
Even though all football players need to train to be able to take advantage of all the ability they have, they need to perform different fundamentals according to position, for example. By thinking about their specific needs, it is possible to improve their football as much as possible and be indispensable for the team.
- goalkeepers: Concentrate on strength, great reaction time and always be in shape to be able to jump and save.
- Defenders: They need to be physically strong – both in the upper and lower parts of the body – to be able to win disputes and splits. They also need to be in excellent shape and have a good start.
- midfielders: need to run the entire game. It is essential to make decisions quickly, in addition to having the ability to pass and touch the ball with speed.
- attackers: must be quick and able to dispute the ball using the body against defenders who will also be strong. In addition, forwards tend to run the entire game without losing power, looking for spaces to score and win at the speed of the defenders.
Step 3. Keep moving without the ball, not just when you receive it
Great football players rarely stand still. Defenders must be constantly filling spaces and reacting to the opponent's movements, while midfielders are always aware of the players' positioning, providing mobility and opening space in the middle. Strikers will always be trying to stray from the defender, passing them with an individual play or moving well without the ball. The important thing is to always be moving, making spaces are created and the opponent is always “running behind”; standing still makes you a useless player and easy to be tagged or beaten.
- Ask for the ball, even if it is not passed. Once you get a space, ask for the ball, but try to find another space if you don't get it. A defender will always be following an attacking player, making room for other teammates to attack.
- When playing for ends, stand wide open. A quick counterattack from the wings is, in most cases, the best way to find space and reach the opponent's goal with speed.
- If you don't have any opponents to score, fill in a space that a forward from the other team can take advantage of. Try to find the most dangerous passing lines for your own goal and mess them up so that the other team has a hard time breaking in and making good passes.
Step 4. Take every workout seriously and work on your weaknesses
Training time is when weaknesses must be minimized; don't think about impressing fellows or just practicing what you already have mastered.Each practice should be treated as a “warm-up” for an important game, putting your best effort into each foundation and exercise, as well as trying out new moves to incorporate into your arsenal and using them “automatically” in the match.
- Play in multiple positions. Improve as both a finisher and a defender.
- Know how to play with both feet. Losing the ball in practice is not a problem, but in the game it is a mistake that can be costly.
- Play with speed, especially in training. Don't slow down or play lazily, even if the defenders are pushing with less intensity than in a match.
Step 5. Play and make decisions as quickly as possible
Scouts and coaches pay attention to the rhythm of the game that you imprint: the speed with which you receive the ball, look ahead and kick, pass or carry it. Don't hold the ball too long and train in decision making, which must be agile and accurate, playing with urgency. To do this correctly:
- Pass the ball and keep moving. A few quick touches are, in most cases, enough due to the ball speed being greater than the players' running. The longer you are in the same area, the longer the defense will need to reduce spaces and organize itself.
- When carrying the ball, be quick. Leave the defenders in the dust.
- Try to make crosses, especially those that force defenders to face their own goal. Good passes require the defense to take new positions quickly, opening new “holes”.
Step 6. Look for advice and guidance on your weaknesses
No matter how much you improve as a player, it's impossible to be perfect. Football is a team game, which requires 11 players to compete with the mentality of always prioritizing an open teammate, in addition to having rapport so that the game flows naturally. Always be on the lookout for tips and guidance from mentors and coaches; each player has specific weaknesses that can be worked on. Don't ignore them.
- A few times a season, ask the coach what can be done to improve your game. What do you need to accomplish to become a more skillful player outside of training?
- Another option is to hire a private coach to help you develop the points you don't have time to work on during training. If you want to really stand out, especially in championships where the technical level is not very high, it is important that you have a private coach.
- The more you train, the better you will become. There are no shortcuts; just a lot of training and effort will make a player's technical skills improve.
- Find a wall and start using it for practice: aim for a spot and kick, in addition to passing and receiving the ball with both feet. It is important not to get static with this exercise, because the more the body moves, the more skill the athlete will acquire.
- Pick up cones and try to carry the ball through them in a zigzag pattern. This increases skill and ball control.
- Football is a game of “illusion”; try to fool your opponent and be as unpredictable as possible.
- Train every day. Do not be lazy! Learn how to finish well, learn more about game positions and basic dribbling like reels and body tricks. Over time, you will get better!
- Keep an eye on the ball at all times.