Part of the technical aspects of soccer is retaining possession for a greater part of the game. Although this does not automatically guarantee a win, it helps minimize ball contact of the opposing team. With less time and contact on the ball, the opponent is less of a threat.
For this reason, knowing how to take the ball away from an opposing player is an important skill for all players, not only the team’s defenders. As a soccer player, it is a skill you should continuously strive to master.
Taking a ball from an opponent player, if not done properly, can leave you breaking some of the rules in soccer’s Law of the Game. Specifically, you’ll infringe on the laws, as spelled out in Law 12: Fouls and Misconduct.
The scope of this article is to teach the proper ways to take a ball away from someone in soccer.
- How to take the ball away from someone in soccer?
- Methods to steal a ball in soccer
- Poke tackle
- Block tackle
- Slide tackle
- Shoulder tackle
How to take the ball away from someone in soccer?
To effectively take away a ball from an opponent, several factors must be considered to avoid committing a foul. As an intense sport, the game’s dynamics are always changing. As a result, it’s easy to get carried away and make a wrong tackle.
Irrespective of your position on the field, before making a move to steal the ball, ensure you meet these conditions.
Big steps & little steps
Unless you’re currently man-marking the player, chances are you are a little distance away from him/her. It’s important you close up the player’s moveable distance to reduce the possibility of getting away
Use big steps (either running or walking) to close up the distance between you and the player. Then, reduce the big steps into little steps as you get closer. Little steps help you anticipate and strategize accordingly to the player’s movement.
Improve your body’s balance
Tackles can sometimes be aggressive and can easily take you off balance. You have to prepare for any abnormality in the tackle by bracing yourself.
An ideal way to achieve this is by lowering your body’s center of gravity. You may slightly bend the knees as you approach the player.
The player’s positioning and the situation will determine if a knee bend will be effective. The most important thing is that you are conscious of your body’s balance and prepare it for impact.
Do not stand flat-footed. It’s best to always be on your toes for quick, sudden movements. It’s harder and slower to raise the leg for a tackle when it’s flat-footed.
Anticipate and never commit
As far as you’re concerned, your job is to prevent the player from getting away with the ball. Assume the player will do what it takes to get away.
Anticipate all possible moves that can be taken. Since you’ve reduced the dribbling space, there are only a few options to take. Anticipate it all!
Learn to be patient as the attacking player figures out his or her best moves. The player is hoping you’ll commit and quickly kick the ball past you. Do not lunge for the ball too early.
Wait for the attacker to make a bad touch, then step in. They almost always make a mistake when someone is pressuring them. You would achieve more success if you learn to wait for the right opportunity to strike.
Eyes on the ball and player
One good way to stay in the match referee’s good books is to ensure your tackles go for the ball and not the player. Soccer coaches will always advise the player to play the ball and not the opposing player.
Keep your eyes on the ball as much as possible. As you anticipate the player’s movement, focus on the ball’s position. A wrong move can see you mistakenly kicking the player’s foot.
Most times, players are advised to only focus on the ball, but a lot can be benefited when combined with watching the player. Watching the ball’s movement already has your eyes on the player’s legs.
When you have to glance at the player, focus on the midsection area. This area of the body doesn’t lie.
Foot movement can be misleading and too slow to react to. Furthermore, unless an exceptionally skilled dribbler, the player’s midsection positioning gives away their intended direction.
Impose your presence
This is an intimidating way to throw the offending player off balance. Sometimes you may have to get a bit physical and aggressive, as long as you do not commit a foul. The shoulder tackle is an excellent example of this.
By imposing your presence, you can cause the player to make a mistake by sending the ball to their weak foot. Also, being intimidating helps you regain control of the situation and makes it easier to steal the ball away.
When in doubt, work as a team
Dispossessing the opponent from the ball is the primary objective. If you assess the situation and feel you may not be able to take the ball alone, you can signal for assistance to your nearby teammates.
Imagine a single player trying to steal a ball from an attacking Lionel Messi. More often than not, Messi can dribble his way out. Working collectively as a team, two or more players can impose themselves on him and cause him to make a mistake.
Methods to steal a ball in soccer
There are two major ways to take a ball from a player in soccer. The first is tackles and the other interceptions.
Just like the name implies, a poke tackle occurs when a defending player steals the ball by poking it away with the foot. It is a zero-aggressive way to take a ball.
Step 1: Maintain a calm composure
As you approach the attacker, use big steps to close any wide distance. Stay as calm and focused as you can be.
Step 2: Focus on the ball
In this method, your focus should be on the ball and its movement. As you charge towards the player, they may decide to move the ball around trying to deceive you. Keep your gaze on the ball and the player’s foot.
Step 3: Get low and closer
Improve your body’s balance by getting slightly lower. Bend the knees as you get closer to your mark. It would help if you had proper body balance to allow for the recovery and follow-up play.
Step 4: Poke the ball
As the attacking player focuses on getting past you, use the tip of your foot to kick the ball from his or her foot. Again, it’s best to wait until the ball is slightly away from the player’s feet.
A proper poke tackle has zero contact with the player’s foot. Make a quick poke before the player realizes what’s going on.
Step 5: Recovery and follow up
While the ball may be away from the opponent’s foot, it’s still traveling away unattended. Dispossessing the opponent is the first step, regaining possession becomes the next step.
Immediately run towards the direction of the moving ball and control it. Then, play it safely to your closest teammate.
It is best performed in a loose ball situation where both the attacking and defending player has an equal chance of getting the ball. Ensure to focus on hitting the ball and not the leg of the player. A wrong strike could result in a foul.
Step 1: Run towards the ball
Make a run towards the direction of the moving ball. The aim is to try to reach the loose ball before the opponent.
Step 2: Plant your support foot
As you approach the ball, place your support foot by the side of the ball. Keep it firm on the ground as it supports your body. Also, bend your knees to increase the body’s balance.
Step 3: Make contact with the ball
Strike the center of the ball with your dominant foot as hard as possible. There’s a high chance the opponent is trying to kick the ball away from you. This block tackle gives you the advantage of stopping that from happening.
Step 4: Follow through
Make a quick recovery from this foot collision and run towards the moving ball. As a result of the deflective block tackle, expect the ball to run off with speed.
It’s a tackle commonly used by defenders to take the ball away from attacking players. If not done correctly, it can lead to a major foul.
Since it falls within the spheres of rough tackles, it should be used when other tackle methods will not be effective.
Step 1: Charge towards the opponent
This is an intimidating move to throw the attacking player off balance. Make a run towards the player and stop abruptly just before you get closer.
Step 2: Slide with your foot
Get low on the ground with your leg stretched out towards the ball. Remember, you are trying to steal the ball from the player’s foot and not cause a dangerous foul.
As you slide on one side of your body, bend the knees of your supporting leg. This helps you focus more on stretching the dominant foot to reach the ball. It also avoids unnecessary collisions with the player’s body.
To avoid a dangerous tackle, your foot should be positioned with your ankle facing the ground. Kick the ball away with the lace area of your cleat.
Sliding with your foot raised (toes pointed upwards) can cause the attacking player to trip and fall. The match referee is more likely to blow for a punishable foul.
Step 3: Follow through
Depending on the impact of the slide tackle, the ball may run further away from you. You can hope it reaches your teammate.
A better way to perform this tackle and retain possession is to use the foot’s instep to pin the ball to the ground, as you take it away from the attacking player. Your follow-through would be to regain control of the ball by standing up quickly.
The use of the shoulders for defensive plays is allowed in soccer. It’s acceptable as long as it doesn’t cause harm to a player or intentionally impedes the player’s movement.
When done wrongly, it can result in a foul. However, it is an effective way to take a ball from the opponent.
Step 1: Move close the player
The idea is to be shoulder to shoulder with the player. Do not make any tackle move until you’re certain your shoulders are in close contact.
You can try to get between the player and the ball. This will help bait the player into trying to charge at you with the shoulder.
Step 2: Maintain your balance
Things could go south quickly and see you struggling to find your balance. The attacking player is most likely going to try to knock you off.
Stay prepared by firmly planting your feet on the group during the tackle. You can also lower your body by bending the knees for improved balance.
Step 3: Make the tackle
Using only your shoulder, knock the player off his/her balance by targeting their shoulder. It’ll knock them off but not in a way that seems aggressive.
It’s also all about getting the perfect timing. Do not shove a player that isn’t well-balanced.
Step 4: Recover the ball
With the player out of the way, move in quickly to regain possession. Done properly, you shouldn’t hear the whistle of the match referee.
This is different from tackles because there is no contact with the attacking player. A foul cannot be awarded as long as it is done properly.
You can only use your legs and body to make a ball interception as an outfield player. Any contact with your hand will result in an indirect free-kick foul.
Step 1: Watch the ball
The only thing that matters the most is the ball. The player cannot hold on to it forever, so you must watch and anticipate the play. Since interceptions are used when there’s a reasonable distance between you and the player, watch the ball closely to determine its intended direction.
Step 2: Watch nearby opponents
Unless the player hopes to use a volley to send the ball across the field, a pass is almost inevitable. A good way to retain possession is making short passes.
Observe your present environment and locate the positions of your opponent’s teammates. Then, depending on the available number of the players to make a pass to, try to anticipate his most convenient option.
Do not immediately run towards that option. This could spook the attacking player and make him/her change the play.
Step 3: Make the intercept
As the player makes your predicted pass, run into the traveling path of the ball and intercept it. You can slide if your foot is slightly out of the travel path.
If within a stoppable distance, use the inner side of your dominant foot to stop the pass. To avoid deflections from a high speedball, you can use the cleat’s studs to trap the ball and bring it to a halt.
Step 4: Regain control
Interceptions often happen quickly and can take the opponent by surprise. To avoid getting a dose of your medicine, make a quick play before the offending player realizes his/her mistake and recovers to intercept or tackle you for the ball.
Although much emphasis is placed on offensive play, the key to winning soccer games is having control of the ball. One of the ways to achieve this is by ensuring the opponent has less contact with the ball.
There are two major methods to steal a ball from opponents in soccer. Each of the methods can deliver success when done properly.
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!