Passing is the bread and butter of any soccer player. As soccer is a team sport, you must be able to pass the ball to your teammates to keep the game flowing or create goal scoring opportunities.
Some of the greatest soccer teams in the world, such as Barcelona, are famous for placing a strong emphasis on team play and sharp passing.
There are different ways to pass the ball during a soccer match including short and sharp passing, long and accurate passing, and through balls.
The style of passing used by a team during a soccer match is usually down to the tactics employed by the coach, however, as a soccer player, you must be capable of picking out the right pass when the opportunity arises.
Short passing is a skill that every player on a soccer pitch must possess. Short passes can be used to work through an opponent’s defense or maintain possession for an extended period during a match.
When making short passes, players rely on accuracy over power as the aim is to find a teammate without surrendering possession. Short passing is one of the most used skills during a soccer match.
Side Foot Pass
Also known as the push pass, the side foot pass is the most reliable and accurate way of passing a ball over short distances.
Regardless of your position on the field, every player must be able to play side foot passes regularly throughout a match. The technique for a side-footed pass includes:
The Angle of Approach. It is essential to approach the ball at the correct angle in relation to where you want to play the pass. The typical angle of approach is directly facing the intended target.
Placement of Standing Foot. The standing foot should be around 5-7 inches from the ball to the side, facing in the direction of the intended target.
Placement of Body Weight. All of your body weight should be carried on the standing foot for perfect balance.
The Position of Striking Foot. The striking foot should be at an angle of 90 degrees with the ankle and foot locked in place. The knee should be bent so that the lower part of the leg creates as large a surface area as possible.
Striking the Ball. The striking leg should be swung towards the ball, hitting it in the center with the instep of the foot. As you make contact, keep your head down to ensure the ball glides across the grass.
Follow Through. Keeping your weight on the standing foot, follow through the ball for perfect accuracy.
The best way of practicing the side foot pass is to use a training partner or a wall and pass the ball back and forth 1,000 times.
Only use the side of your foot when passing and controlling the ball to become more comfortable using the instep of your foot.
Use both feet when practicing and as you improve, try passing the ball using the side foot pass without controlling it first.
Doing this will improve your ability to make a first-time pass which can be necessary if you are under pressure during a match.
A variation of short passing which you will often see performed during a soccer match is the wall pass or the one-two pass.
A wall pass is performed when a player plays a short pass to their teammate and then receives a pass back very quickly from the same teammate.
This type of passing can be extremely effective when trying to create space, beat a defender, or get through on goal. The technique for a wall pass includes:
Angles. The angle created is the most important part of a wall pass. Typically, the angle will be around 45 degrees for the first pass and another 45 degrees for the second pass. These angles are what create the space to beat defenders and hopefully open up a goal scoring opportunity.
Accuracy and Power. Both passes in a wall pass must be extremely accurate and played with enough power to reach their intended target. The first pass must have enough power to make it easy for the receiving player to rebound the ball back to the original player in space. If the ball is hit without sufficient accuracy or power, the wall pass will fail.
Creating Space. As the first pass is played, the receiving player needs to recognize where the ball needs to be played. To do this, the original player must immediately create the desired space for the return pass. A common mistake is to run immediately into the desired space, bringing a defender along. However, a perfectly timed run will open up much more space from the second pass.
Communication. As soon as the first pass is played, the original player should indicate where they want the return pass to be made. This can be done by shouting or pointing to the position where you want the ball played. For teams who have been playing together for longer periods of time, eye-contact or instinct can be used for communication.
Practicing a wall pass takes a lot of time as it involves a number of attributes that are all required in a split second.
The best way to improve is to practice the side foot pass with a training partner or against a wall until you feel confident in your ability.
Then, practice with one or several teammates playing sharp and quick passes to one another. You can even have someone trying to get the ball from you to simulate a real soccer match.
Long passes can be used in a soccer match to split open defenses, relieve pressure, and switch possession from one flank to the other.
Mainly used by defenders and midfielders, long passing requires pin point accuracy, a high level of leg strength, and the ability to read the game and see where a pass can be made.
Playing the perfect long pass in a soccer match can create goal scoring opportunities in an instant.
The driven pass uses a combination of technique and strength to hit a ball long distances with pace and accuracy.
It is generally used if there are no players or obstacles in between the passer and the receiver and is the most effective way to get the ball from A to B.
A driven pass can be effective when switching play from one side of the field to the other or when playing a ball from defense or midfield into a player further up the pitch. The techniques for a driven pass include:
- Once you have selected your target, keep your head down
- Plant your supporting foot beside the ball, facing in the direction of the intended target
- Keep the striking leg and foot flexed throughout the movement
- Strike the ball in the center with the laces of your boot
- Point your toes towards the ground when striking the ball
- Follow through
To practice and improve your driven pass technique, set up cones at varying points around a field. Have a training partner pass you the ball at a variety of heights and speeds.
Control the ball with one touch and then play a driven pass towards a selected cone. Keep the ball as low as you can, as driven passes are easier to receive when directed at the feet.
If you are practicing alone, start with your back to the cone and quickly turn as hit the driven pass. Be sure to practice with both feet.
A lofted pass is another type of long passing which you will often see executed during a soccer match.
It is played when a player wants to pass to a teammate over opposing defenders and is generally used to switch the play and change the angle of attack.
You will often see a lofted pass used when a winger is crossing the ball or from a free kick that is just outside of shooting range.
- Accuracy is more important than power when playing a lofted pass as you are seeking out a teammates head or trying to weight the pass for a teammate to run on to. The techniques used in a lofted pass include:
- Perfecting the ability to hit a lifted pass from a variety of angles. The pass may be hit from outside the box or on the by-line during a match, so it is important to have your angles right
- The standing foot should be placed behind the ball and to the side to achieve a perfect loft
- Strike the underside of the ball so it will rise into the air
- Use the top of your foot and not the toe when striking the ball
- Follow through, keeping your weight on your standing leg
To practice your ability to make a lofted pass, you can use a cone or a training partner. If using a training partner, stand varying distances from each other and pass the ball back and forth while trying to achieve the correct loft on the ball.
Alternatively, place a cone on a field and try to hit the cone from different angles and distances with a lofted pass.
The best way to practice is to constantly change the angle and swing of lofted passes to recreate positions you may find yourself in during a soccer match.
One of the most spectacular and exciting forms of passing in soccer is the through ball.
A through ball is a pass which is played between the opposition’s defensive line for a teammate to run onto and hopefully get a one on one opportunity with the goalkeeper.
Through balls have huge variation and can be long driven passes or short passes such as the wall pass.
They can be played as a straight pass or at an angle depending on the run on the player you are aiming for.
Midfielders are generally the players who will excel at through balls, creating excellent goal scoring opportunities for their team. The techniques involved for through balls include:
The Angle of the Pass. Choosing the correct angle for a through ball is what makes it work. If you play the ball in between the opposition’s defenders at the correct angle, you give your teammate the best chance of collecting the ball and creating a one on one opportunity.
The Strength/Pace/Weight of the Pass. This is the most difficult part of playing a through ball. Not only must you judge the pace of the defenders you are trying to play the ball in between, but also the pace of the receiving player and the condition of the playing surface. Play the ball too quickly or softly and the defenders will get there first, play it too late and the receiving player will be offside.
The Height of the Pass. In a split second, you will need to decide hat height you want to play the through ball at and adjust your body accordingly.
Communication. Remember the receiving player must understand what you are attempting for the through ball to work. There’s nothing worse than playing a perfect through ball only to look up and see your teammate looking at the pass and wondering who is supposed to run on to it!
To become a master of through balls, you must possess the ability to play every single variation of short and long passes.
Through balls require the ability to quickly judge which type of pass is the best to play and therefore require a high level of skill in all variations of passing.
It is possible to practice through balls with a training partner, a full-size goal, and some cones.
- Place four cones along the edge of the penalty area to represent defenders
- Place two cones 2.5 yards from each post on the goal line
- One player act as the receiver (Player A) and one as the player making a through ball (Player B)
- Player A passes the ball to Player B and continues their run between the cones representing defenders
- Player B plays a through ball between the cones, ensuring Player A isn’t offside
- Player A runs onto the ball and tries to shoot in the 2.5-yard section between the cone and the post
- Take turns in playing the through ball and shooting
- Vary the type of through ball including height, distance, and angle
The techniques listed above are key to learning how to pass a soccer ball. The best players in the world practice these techniques for hours every single day to improve their ability to find the perfect pass.
If you want to become a master at passing a soccer ball you will need to put in hours of training and practice like the professionals!