Expert section: Mate Kontra – All my life, I’ve consistently played soccer at a high level. Since I play the fullback position, I’ve had my fair share of defending and attacking against very talented players, so I learned a lot about how skill moves work. Currently, I play at the MLS-Next level in California.
Skill moves in soccer are very entertaining to watch and in many cases are necessary to advance the attack.
But in the vast majority of cases showing off slows down the play of the team, and kills the opportunity to score.
Despite the flashy nature of many skill moves we see from players such as Neymar, or in the old days Ronaldinho, how do we know which moves are effective and which ones we should stay away from?
Today, we will be going over the purpose of skill moves, how they work, and skill moves that we think are an absolute must-add to your arsenal.
Don’t worry, we made sure that all of these skill moves are tailored toward players with less experience so that everyone can learn them in as little as 15 minutes.
Top 3 Most effective types of skill moves everyone should learn
As we stated above, before we dive into the list of the skill moves, it is very important to know how skill moves work, so you can replicate them.
To clarify, the purpose of a skill move in soccer is either to make a defender shift their center of gravity, or force them to attempt a tackle to make them predictable.
So if the goal is to make the defender predictable, the most important part of skill moves is to be unpredictable.
The best way to be unpredictable is to be explosive with the skill moves.
When these moves are done explosively it gives the defender the least amount of time to think and make the right decision, making you a lot less predictable.
This also applies to situations when you don’t use a skill move, but rather just advance into open space or use the momentum of the defender against them.
We highly recommend checking out one of our recent posts, “How To Beat a Defender in Soccer” which sets the foundation for skill moves, teaching you how to take defenders on in soccer.
So now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to the skill moves.
1. Body Feints
Body feints by many are not considered to be quote-on-quote “skill moves”, but whether you consider them skill moves or not, they serve the same purpose as any other skill move.
Not only do they serve the same purpose, but they are the best tool for beating a defender.
They are the most simple, which means they waste almost no time when your team is on the attack.
Additionally, they have the most variety of moves which makes them the most unpredictable because there are too many to keep track of.
Here are some of the most effective types of body feints.
The Shoulder Drop
Dropping the shoulder is the most simple and easy way to fool a defender into moving the wrong way.
For the sake of the explanation, let’s assume you want to move right, so you need to fool the defender into moving left.
This move can be done in 4 easy steps:
- Dribble at your defender with your right foot
- Shift your upper body left by slightly leaning and by lowering your left shoulder
- Push the ball past the defender with the outside of your right foot
- Use the change of pace to leave your defender in the dust
In general, the key is to not slow down below a jog and always have a very explosive change of pace after you confuse the defender.
I recommend avoiding this move from a standstill unless you are an incredibly fast player because as a defender, I can tell you that it is much easier to defend someone from a standstill than at speed.
Fake Pass/Fake Shot
The fake pass is exactly as it sounds, acting as if you are passing the ball, and then beating the defender.
To describe it most simply, you have to convince the attacker that you are about to pass to make them think they’ve got you, and then very suddenly take off.
From my personal experience at the MLS-Next level, the key to being successful when performing this move is positioning your hips so that they are facing the direction you are faking the pass.
This is because in soccer the vast majority of times players play the way they face to eliminate most of the risk of losing the ball, so opening the hips in the direction of the fake makes the move extremely believable.
The 3 easy steps to learn this move:
- Open your hips in the direction of the fake
- Scoop the ball in the opposite direction of the fake pass
- Use an explosive change of pace to pass the defender
To make it even more unpredictable, I recommend reserving this move for situations when you are stationary with no passing options, especially if you are a fast player.
The first thing that defenders expect after their opponent stops the ball is a pass, so faking the pass could be very unexpected and beneficial for your team.
And yes, I know in previous paragraphs I described how easy it is to defend stationary players, though exceptions don’t disprove the rule and this is a definite exception.
Fake Reception (Letting the ball roll)
The fake reception is a move that doesn’t require you to touch the ball at all.
Rather than pushing the ball past an opponent once you have received the ball, this move relies on the speed of the pass to fool the defender.
The 4 Steps to perform this move:
- Start moving in the direction of the ball as it rolls to you
- Quickly slow down and prepare to suddenly change directions
- Let the ball roll past you or through your legs
- As fast as you can, change directions and go after the ball
The reason I recommend that you have this in your arsenal of moves despite the risky nature of it is that personally, it is one of my go-to moves when I am being pressed by an opponent, and I can tell you it works.
A lot of times opponents like to come in hot to a tackle, expecting you to try to push the ball past them, so by letting the ball roll past you can use their momentum against them.
This is also a great move when you are not being pressed at all because it eliminates any time wasted by taking extra touches to set up for a pass, so it speeds up the play.
However, be careful when performing this move on the field because it’s easy to lose the ball by misjudging the speed of the ball and not being able to keep up with it.
2. Cruyff Turn
One of the most iconic and effective moves in soccer is the Cruyff turn.
The Cruyff Turn is essentially the combination of a fake pass and a drag back.
The Cruyff Turn can be done in 3 Steps:
- Start by opening your hips as if you were going to pass the ball
- Instead of passing the ball scoop the ball behind yourself
- Turn your body and use an explosive change of pace to get away from the defender
Although this move isn’t the most effective at fully getting away from a defender, it is very effective in other ways which makes it an absolute must-have in your arsenal.
First of all, this move is very effective at turning your body around and creating space for a cross or a shot.
Second, the Cruyff Turn can also be used to move the ball from your weak foot to your strong foot or vice versa.
This can be very helpful when setting up for a cross or a shot to increase your chances of scoring a goal or giving a goal pass.
3. La Croqueta
The La Croqueta skill move is another combination of two moves which makes it very effective.
The 4 Steps to learn the La Croqueta:
- Start with a shoulder drop in the direction that the ball is relative to your body
- Continue by pushing the ball across your body to your opposite foot
- Now push the ball past the defender’s foot
- Use an explosive change of pace to get away from the defender
One of the benefits of this move is that it transfers the ball from one foot to the other.
This makes it perfect in scenarios where the ball is on your weak foot and you want to set up for a shot, which is a common situation for attacking players.
I have been fooled by this move many times because when the ball is pushed to the opposite foot, it becomes very difficult for me to tackle my opponent, and at that point, they have pretty much already beaten me.
Although it is not one of my go-to moves, I recommend that you practice it, because it is one of the most difficult moves to defend.
In this article we have listed the most effective skill moves that every soccer player should learn, especially beginners.
We went over 3 types of body feints, the Cruyff Turn and the La Croqueta.
Body feints are moves in which a player must use their body movement to fool their opponents into going in the wrong direction.
On the other hand, the Cruyff Turn and La Croqueta rely on your dribbling, and ball control skills to move the ball in a way that makes it difficult for defenders to tackle you.
I highly recommend mastering body feints before moving on to other types of skill moves because they are the quickest, easiest, and most effective of their kind.
Lastly, if I had to pick a skill move to master first, I would pick the shoulder drop because it is absolutely one of my go-to moves due to how effective and easy it is to perform.
So whose ankles are you taking next?
Image Attribution & Licensing
Featured Image: ‘Fast Attacker Beating Defender’ by Omar Ram (Licensed via Unsplash)
#1: ‘Soccer Player Setting Up For Practice’ by Colin Lloyd (Licensed via Unsplash)
#2: ‘Georgetown Player Beating Defender’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)
#3: ‘Player Performing The Shoulder Drop’ by Marcel Strauss (Licensed via Unsplash)
#4: ‘Player Performing Fake Pass’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)
#5: ‘Player Performing Fake Reception’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)
#6: ‘Player Performing Cruyff Turn’ by Jeffrey F Lin (Licensed via Unsplash)
#7: ‘Similar Skill to La Croqueta’ by Omar Ram (Licensed via Unsplash)