Soccer is one of those sports where height is not a requirement to play. The sport has recorded individual successes from players with varying heights.
Since soccer is all accommodating, it’s common to see smaller players play against bigger players. At first glance, the team with the bigger player may seem to have the advantage. However, over the years, we have seen that this is not always the case.
As a smaller player, a lot depends on your technical abilities and soccer IQ. There are numerous examples of smaller professional players who have performed exceptionally well in this regard.
A smaller player like Lionel Messi has and continues to beat and make a mockery of bigger defenders effortlessly. Logically, this may seem unnatural, but players like Messi use their stature to their advantage rather than stay intimidated by the size of the opponent.
How is this possible? The article focuses on how a player can successfully beat a much bigger player in soccer.
- How do you beat someone bigger than you in soccer?
How do you beat someone bigger than you in soccer?
As a youth soccer player or one with little experience, there’s no downplaying the fear or intimidation you may feel when going against a bigger player. It’s a feeling most professional soccer players felt at one time in the early stages of their careers.
Bigger players seem to have all going for them with their size and body build. Then came the likes of Maradona, Xavi, and Iniesta of this world.
Have you ever watched Xavi play? The sheer genius, skills, and spatial awareness are more than just fantastic. At just 1.7 meters in height, there was really no player bigger than him that could ever intimidate him.
To beat bigger players as the professionals do, you need to develop yourself physically and mentally.
It always begins with practice
At the professional level, soccer players tend to have one form of training daily. It’s impossible to play at that stage and achieve meaningful success if you don’t take soccer practice seriously.
Outside regular team training, you have to set aside time to work on yourself and develop your abilities. In addition, as a smaller soccer player, you have to know how to make your presence felt on the pitch.
The more playing time you get, the quicker you familiarize yourself with pitch movement. When not getting playing time in games, organize practice games with team members and attempt several 1v1 plays.
Be confident in your abilities
No matter the level of training and practice or hours put in, trusting in your abilities is the only way to excel as a soccer player. You probably must have heard of exceptionally good players losing form.
It doesn’t matter the level of their soccer career; a player who no longer believes in their ability will always perform abysmally.
There will always be players bigger than you, especially if you’re of average height. So when you stand before them on the pitch, see them as the obstacles to overcome, and then do it confidently as you have practiced.
Respect their playing ability, but don’t let it scare you — be confident. It can mess up your gameplay if you give them the upper hand.
Observe your immediate environment
Soccer is an intensely dynamic sport — gameplays are changing quickly every minute. Therefore, you have to be aware of your environment at all times. This is where your vision and spatial awareness skills come to play.
To effectively beat a bigger player, you have to have enough space to decide on your maneuvering option. Use your positioning to build space for a possible dribble.
Analyze the opposition’s weaknesses and outsmart them
While the bigger player’s weakness can be exploited to become your strength, you should have a quick, comprehensive understanding of the player. You may not always get it right, but continuous practice and soccer IQ improvement can help.
What do you know about this player? The obvious answer is that he/she is bigger than you. Proceed to quickly analyze their strengths and weaknesses to be able to utilize opportunities and eliminate the threats.
As a bigger player, there’s every tendency they’ll try to impose themselves on you, to intimidate you, or rough you up. Anticipate this and use your technical and tactical skills appropriately.
Technical and tactical skills
This skill sets apart an amateur soccer player from a top-rated professional player. Everything so far boils down to the use of these skills accurately.
There are several options to employ regarding technical and tactical skills. Depending on the situation after observing your environment and assessing the bigger player’s weaknesses, use any of these actions below.
There are numerous dribble skills to learn as a soccer player. Since most big players like to look intimidating, they’ll want to run into you or appear to do so.
You can use their speed against them by performing dribble cuts, chops, and feints. Whatever the chosen dribble move, ensure you have a good mastery of your touches.
Good ball control makes it harder for the player to gain possession of the ball as you attempt to beat them, no matter how big they are.
To achieve this, let the ball feel like an extension of your feet. The ball must be comfortably close to your feet to perform a good dribble.
In relation to the big player’s position, you can beat him by dribbling the ball past him in four ways — inside, outside, through the legs, or over the player. These aim to get the player unbalanced by making feints in the opposite direction.
Use your teammates
As a team sport, you have nine other outfield players and your goalie (if you’re closer to the goal) to help get past any big opposition player. One or more of your teammates should always be in close proximity for a pass.
If you are in an isolated situation and feel a dribble won’t work, you can buy time by guarding the ball until a teammate comes to the rescue. Beating an opponent doesn’t necessarily have to be with a dribble.
You can keep things simple and beckon on your teammate to approach you or observe their positioning and make a pass. If in a run position, move the ball to a teammate quickly to avoid losing possession.
Since the ball travels faster than a player, this move is a simple way to beat a bigger opposition player.
Be tactically smarter
Make use of quick plays to beat a big player. A good example of quick plays is the Tiki-Taka move, made popular by the Barcelona team.
It’s no surprise that midfielders like Iniesta and Xavi played in the Barcelona team. They are good examples of tactically smart soccer players.
In any defensive soccer move, the player is trying to predict the play of the offensive player. A bigger player will most likely want to charge at you to shake you off balance.
Read the game differently, and understand you do not always have to run the hardest. Do not allow their size or physicality to dictate the play or your next move.
Balance and recovery
As a smaller player, you have the advantage of balance because you have a lower center of gravity than the bigger player. So, technically, it should be hard for the bigger player to offset your balance and cause you to fall.
Although quite frustrating for the defending player, a good way to control the ball is to keep it far away from the other player’s foot. As long as you still have possession of the ball, you’re still able to beat the player.
Bigger players have longer feet. Maintain a reasonable distance from the player while you decide on the best way to beat him/her.
If the player charges towards you, move the ball to your dominant foot and use the other side of your body and arm to keep the player farther away from the ball. Do not turn your back to the player as they can easily topple you over the ball — stand sideways instead.
If you’re right-footed, keep the player on the left side of your body and lean towards him/her. For more stability, slightly bend the knees to lower your center of gravity further. With your left arm partly raised, try to keep him off as much as possible, and then decide your next play.
This position keeps you firm on the ground. In this position, any move the player makes that causes you to lose balance and fall will most likely be seen as a foul by the referee. Even if you did not beat the player, you still have possession of the ball.
You can use the arm for awareness to know the player’s body position at all times. If you are feeling overpowered, move around while still maintaining the position. Decide quickly how best to beat the player and go for it.
After successfully beating the player, you must prepare for the best recovery. A dribble is only effective if you still have the ball in your possession. Quickly regain balance and continue with your gameplay.
Getting past a bigger player can seem intimidating if you don’t know how best to go about it. Big players are just like any players on the pitch, but with more height and sometimes weight.
Unless you’re hoping to beat the player out of sheer luck, you must begin with lots of practice. Self-confidence plays a vital role and will determine how successful the move will be.
In the end, it will boil down to technical and tactical skills and how well you can employ them. Just like an obstacle, you’re either going to move the ball around, through the legs, or over the player. Using your teammates is also a viable option.
Irrespective of the chosen tactic, a good recovery is important. It ensures you retain possession of the ball and give your team the advantage.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!