A long ball can catch the opposition out and cause chaos in their defence.

a footballer attempting a long ball

Over the last decade or so, football has gone through a seismic change in tactics, as we have witnessed a greater emphasis on keeping hold of the ball and building attacks with possession for long periods of the game. Source.

This style of football involved playing the ball short, with multiple passes to catch out the opponents and frustrate them by not giving them a chance to kick the ball.

While this tactic is lauded and admired by many football fans, it is difficult for most teams to play this type of football, considering the gulf in class and quality in players from big teams to small teams.

The other tactic used, mostly by teams that do not have players that possess great technical ability is long ball football. This tactic of playing the ball long allows teams to bypass the opposition’s midfield and get it straight into the opposition’s box, putting great pressure on the opposition defence.   

Players like David Beckham and Steven Gerrard used it to great effect to catch out the opposing defence and play defence-splitting balls.

Here, we teach you how to play a long ball:

Before playing the ball

Before playing the long ball, the player must visualise where he wants to hit the ball, scope the pitch to see if it would be a suitable pass, communicate to the attacker that he is passing to, and then pass the ball long.

David Beckham attempting a long ball

Remember where your striker likes the ball put in- to feet, chest or head, or even running down the channels to drag the central defenders away. Source.

You could be a great passer of the ball, but it would all be of little or no use if you cannot communicate well with your attackers.

How to play a ball long?

The positioning of your body and feet, as well as the follow-through, is key to hitting the ball to the right target.

Place your non-kicking foot beside the ball to get a firm grip, and swing your kicking leg just below the middle of the ball. Kick the ball using the laces and swing across it to generate power and accuracy.

For an accurate, well-placed pass, hit the ball with the inside of your foot, opening up your shoulders for balance and leaning back to get power into the pass. These passes are difficult to master, but once you do, they can be a deadly weapon to attack with.

To hit a drilled, low ball, hit across the ball with the outside of your foot, at the lower part of the ball. To execute this pass, kick the ball in a swiping fashion from your big toe to your little toe. These drilled passes can be difficult to clear when hit into the box, with the chance of even getting an own goal.

Before kicking the ball, land your non-kicking foot beside the ball and strike the ball with your kicking foot using your toe on the centre of the ball.

Open your chest out before kicking the ball and hit the ball with power, swinging away from the direction you want the ball to go. The outside of the foot kick will swerve the ball in the opposite direction – from left to right.

When to play a ball long?

As previously mentioned, teams that do not have technically gifted players or have a big centre-forward who can control the ball and be a menace in the air can use the long ball technique.

Whether you’re a centre back, a central midfielder, or a wide player, the long ball can be a very useful tactic to get the ball in no time to the attacking players.

a footballer trying to take a long ball

Long balls can be used to switch things up and surprise the opponents when one tactic does not work; constantly putting pressure on the opposition’s backline will yield results after a period of time. Source.

Long balls can also be used to target a player in the opposition defence who is not tall or physically strong.

Teams usually use the long ball in the dying moments of the match when they are trailing in the game.

What to do after playing the ball long

If you’re a midfielder, you could advance forward to help in attack, while a defender playing the long ball should gradually move up the pitch with the rest of the defence, ready to shut down a counter-attack from the opposition.

Conclusion:

Long balls are a great way to build attacks and put pressure on the opposition. The key to becoming a good kicker of the ball to a distance is to practice, practice, and more practice.

Ensure that you get the basics right: where to place your non-kicking foot, follow through, and balance.

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I follow football, Formula 1 and cricket pretty closely! It's more than a game!

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