How to control the ball
Ball control is one of the most essential skills in soccer – a poor first touch and the play is usually over for the attacker. There are two types of control: receiving and trapping. Receiving means directing the ball into space away from the body. Trapping usually means stopping or settling the ball at your feet.
Receiving into space
Receiving into space is useful when you are being marked. Try to make contact with the middle or top part of the ball and push in the direction that you want to go. Good footballers can settle the ball into space, even when under pressure.
When trapping the ball, the most important part is to stay on your toes. It is harder to adjust to the ball when you’re stiff or flat-footed. Keep your hips open, facing the direction from which the ball is served. Cushion the ball by withdrawing your foot just before the time of contact.
Techniques for controlling the ball
Inside of the foot
The inside of the foot is one of the most common ways of trapping the ball.
For starters, make sure that your hips are facing the teammate who is serving the ball. Keep the weight on your toes so you can react and be prepared to adjust to the pass quickly. Ideally, you want to contact the ball with the arch of your foot. Cushion the ball by retracting your foot at the time of contact.
Outside of the foot
This technique is used when receiving passes that are not directed to your feet or when the ball is coming from the side. You should contact the ball using the area on the outside part of your shoelaces.
Sole of the foot
The sole of the foot can be applied in tight situations, for example when controlling the ball while you are being marked. Make sure to use your foot that is further away from the marker. Put your foot on top of the ball with your toes raised slightly above the heel. Using the sole of the foot, you can roll the ball to transition for a shot or dribble.
This technique is useful when the ball is falling from above. Don’t just wait for the ball to arrive, instead try to remain on your toes and quickly adjust to its trajectory. Cushion the ball using the area of your shoelaces. At the moment of contact, withdraw your controlling foot by bending the knee and ankle.
The thigh is useful when you want to trap the ball when it’s falling. Make sure to position yourself properly, before you try to trap the ball. Adjust your thigh so that the ball is directed downward. If you don’t retract your thigh, the ball will just bounce off.
The chest provides the largest surface area for trapping and receiving the ball. To trap the ball with your chest, stretch out your arms and arch your back slightly. You may also have to bend your knees or jump in order to align your chest with the height of the ball.
How to practice control
If you have a training partner, ask him to throw the ball with his hands, then control and pass it back to him. If you don’t have a partner, you can practice against the wall. Stand about 3-5 meters (10-15 feet) away from the wall and kick the ball against it. Then, trap or receive the ball as it comes back. Learn to control using both feet and always check to the ball, instead of waiting for it to arrive.