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Football Techniques: Ball Control

Broadly defined, control is the ability to manipulate the ball and prepare it for a following touch. It is one of the most essential skills in football. A bad first touch and the play is usually over for the attacker. Nearly all top players are known for having good control over the ball.

How to control the ball
There are two types of control, receiving and trapping. Receiving means directing the ball into space away from the body. Trapping is stopping the ball right at your feet.

Receiving is useful When running into space. Try to make contact with the middle or top part of the ball. Tap it lightly in the direction that you want to go. Good footballers can settle the ball into open space, even when under pressure. This often provides an extra step over the defender.

Trapping is typically used when the ball is going too fast to redirect with your first touch. The most important part here is staying loose and on your toes. You can't adjust to the ball when you're stiff or flat-footed. Try keeping your hips open, facing the direction from where the ball is coming. Put you foot in the path of the ball and cushion it. To cushion the ball, gently withdraw your foot just before the time of contact.

How to practice control
The easiest way to practice control is with a partner. Your partner throws you the ball with his hands. After settling it with a single, clean touch you pass it back to him.
If you lack a partner, you can use a wall. Simply stand at about 3-5 meters (10-15 feet) away from the wall and knock the ball against it. You then trap or receive the ball as it comes back to you. This exercise gives you the chance to work on both your kicking and control. As you get comfortable, start applying both feet. Eventually, try lofting the ball and incorporate speed by running to meet the oncoming ball.

Different methods of control

Inside of the foot
Your supporting foot must be planted 45-90 degrees in relation to the path of the ball. Don't plant it flat, instead keep your your weight on your toes. You should intercept the ball with the arch of your free foot. At the time of contact, cushion the ball by moving your foot along the ball's original path.
Instead of trapping the ball you may wish to redirect it. To do so, simply turn your receiving foot in the desired direction.
Outside of the foot

This technique is useful when the ball is coming in from the side. Rather than turning your body into its path, you can control it using the outside of the foot. Simply reach forward into the ball's path and intercept it with the outside of your instep. That should settle it nicely considering that the outside of your foot provides a lot of contact surface.
Sole of the foot

Simply put your foot on the ball with your toes raised slightly above your heel. Because of the modern game's speed, trapping with the sole of the foot is rarely applied to control passes. It can be useful in dribbling. Some players use it to stop right before changing direction or incorporate it in more elaborate combos.

This technique is useful when the ball is falling from a steep angle. Don't just wait for the ball to arrive, stay on your toes and lock your eyes on it. Quickly adjust to its trajectory so that you don't have to reach out too far. Before the ball arrives, stretch the ankle of your controlling foot. Try to cushion the ball using the area around your shoelaces. At the moment of contact, withdraw your controlling foot by bending the knee and ankle. This should settle the ball right in front of you.
The thigh is especially useful in football when you want to trap the ball. Redirecting it into space is somewhat harder when you're using the thigh. Cushioning the ball with the thigh can be done for both rising and dropping balls. Make sure you position yourself properly, before you try to trap the ball. Once you have aligned yourself well, put your thigh in the path of the ball and angle it so that it's redirected downward. If you don't retract, the ball will just bounce off of you. The contact surface you should use is the area above the knee, about halfway on your thigh. The inside of your thigh is good for stopping balls that are flying straight at you.

The chest provides the largest surface area for trapping or receiving the ball. When using it for control, stretch out your arms and flex your muscles. To cushion the ball, you'll need to 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.

Set up your body just as if you're about to head the ball. Instead of heading it, simply intercept its path using the surface area on your forehead, just below the hairline. Just before making contact, turn your head in whatever direction you want the ball to go (receiving).
If you just want to bring the ball to your feet (trapping) do not turn your head, instead bend your knees and lean forward with you upper body.

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