Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

How Brazilian underdogs beat Liverpool

Support in attack can bring out the best in a team and create openings in even the strongest defence. Youth teams can take inspiration from watching the Final of the Club World Cup in 2005 between Sao Paulo of Brazil and Liverpool of England.

On paper it should have been an easy victory for Liverpool, but the Brazilians won against the odds. After Sao Paulo took the lead they defended deep and hit Liverpool on the counter. But the Brazilians were more than that. In defence they marked well and showed good strength on the ball and in the air. In attack they were tactically superior to Liverpool using support from the wings and through the middle.

The goal they scored to win the game summed up their style of play. Watch the clip below and see how well positioned on the pitch they are. The wingers are pulling the defence wide and the midfield is moving to create space. As the fullbacks push up Liverpool go to meet them leaving Aloisio in space in a dangerous position.

As he flicks the ball through Mineiro ghosts through the defence leaving them flat footed appealing for offside. The team pulls the Liverpool defence apart in one flowing move.

The Sao Paulo players showed how to cover each other all over the pitch and Liverpool found it hard to get any momentum going.

It goes to show that however much of an underdog you feel when you take your youth team out on to the pitch as long as you are well organized and work hard for each other you have a chance to win the game.
Watch the highlights below.

 Soccer Skills and Drills

Playing the wall pass one-two

I was looking for a good example of a one-two/give ‘n’ go/wall pass and was scanning through some Barcelona, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Brazil matches to find one. The best one-two I found was this backheel, one-two, cross for a great headed goal.

However, it came from an U12 Signature team playing in Placentia, California.

 Soccer Skills and Drills

How to do step-overs like Ronaldo and Robinho

This summer you can be sure that you will see a lot of step-overs. The 2010 World Cup will be a showcase for all the skills you coach to your players and the step-over is likely to be one of the main ones. So you can be sure they are going to want to do them when they see them in action.

Stepovers like any soccer skill need a lot of practice so if your players are going to do them make sure they go home and have a ball stuck to their foot all week.

Done properly they can send an opponent in the opposite direction, immediately producing two precious assets – space and time.

Coach your players to begin with the simplest step over. Tell them to shape as if they are going to strike the ball, but lift that foot over the top of the ball instead.

1. Make sure the ball is moving so start dribbling slowly.
2. Circle the left foot anti-clockwise by bringing the left foot across the right foot and around the ball without touching the ball.
3. Dip the left shoulder to angle the body so it looks like the player will move that way.
4. Use the outside of the right foot to take the ball past the defender on the other side.

Once you can do one then practice bringing your right foot around the ball clockwise, and build up to do two or three in a row.

Watch this video which shows in slow motion how to do the step-over with Robinho. Then watch the other clip of the step-over kings in action, Ronaldo and Robinho.

 Soccer Skills and Drills

Train like Manchester Utd the night before a big game

I’m always telling fellow coaches and my readers that you don’t have to use complicated training drills to get your players using the right techniques and tactics that can give them the edge in matches. Often simple 4v4 games and simple exercises that get players kicking the ball and passing the ball work best with young players.

You don’t have to take my word for it. I spend hours watching training sessions with professional players. In that time there may be one small thing I can use with my team or turn into something I can give to my coaches to help them make their team play better.

Watching a session with Manchester United players training the night before a match it was very interesting to note the number of balls that are being constantly used so that players are getting one and two touches as they do their fitness training. There was nothing complicated about it.

The players were constantly moving – I didn’t see anyone waiting around for their turn, the exercises were designed so that the players are on the move as they are being coached. The repetitive one and two touch movement is very controlled and done at a slow pace.

You can watch part of the session in the clip below – watch how the goalkeepers train on the ground where they can only use their hands to catch or block the ball. All of these exercises are designed to maximise a player’s ability to react to the ball in the air or on the ground.

Watch it carefully and you can see all sorts of training going on, most of which is simple ball work:

 Soccer Skills and Drills

Bergkamp flicks one way, runs the other, scores a goal

In this week’s Soccer Coach Weekly I run a session which shows you how to coach your players to flick the ball and run past a defender. Watch this video of Dennis Bergkamp showing the art at its best resulting in a brilliant goal. Click here to get hold of Soccer Coach Weekly to show your players how to do it.

 Soccer Skills and Drills

Why I want Cesc Fabregas in my team

There are certain players that I watch and wonder whether I could create for my youth team. These are special players that magically appear on my TV screen and I can be absorbed watching them. The way they play the game leaves others mesmerized in their wake.

Everyone talks about the strikers who can light up the game with one change of pace and in an instant give their team the advantage, but the special players I would like in my team play in midfield and come from Spain. Xavi and Andres Iniesta of Barcelona are outstanding hard working skilful players, but the one I see most of all is Cesc Fabregas.

Fabregas can run a game for the full 90 minutes. At the age of 22 he already has the ability to orchestrate the play of his team-mates. He can force them to change the direction of a run by his own clever pass that exploits space his team mates didn’t even see.

In the same way that Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard runs around doing everything better than anyone else in the team through sheer determination, Fabregas does it with his outstanding understanding of geometrical space.

And I want him in every single one of my teams because that is how I want my teams to play.

Space and vision is something you can coach your team to understand better. They may not be players who impose their own sense of space on their team mates but you can give them a better understanding of how to use space which will benefit your team in the long run. To do this I use a lot of small-sided games which are great to coach young players in how to use space and passing.

Fabregas’s ability was demonstrated by one pass in the 1-0 defeat of Liverpool earlier this month which was over 30 yards and at an angle through a crowd of Liverpool players to the feet of Diaby which showed his awareness and sense of space – Diaby failed to control it otherwise the scoreline would have been greater.

In this clip you can see some of the incredible passes he makes that look so simple but show his amazing vision:

 Soccer Skills and Drills

Perfect technique for shooting

This is Louis’ technique in the U7s aged 6 after a couple of seasons being coached and trained for his first season in competitive soccer. Look at how balanced he is with his arms out for balance, eyes looking at the ball, plant leg next to the ball and knee bent over the ball.

By the time he was in the U10s he was averaging 25 goals a season. His direction and power was outstanding – but that is all down to his technique to shoot the ball.

It also meant he could experiment with different angles of his body and the angle over the ball.

This is the balance you need to get your players to practise and try to do it when they are as young as this. Louis will always have this ability to kick a ball with power and accuracy because he learnt it so young.

Tips to brush up on shooting technique:

Look for the following soccer skills:

Non-kicking foot alongside the ball.

Head down, eyes on the ball when striking.

Body over the ball.

Contact with the middle to top half of the ball.


Players like England’s Wayne Rooney and USA’s Landon Donovan have this balance and technique and use it to perfection. Watch them below.

Watch this compilation of goals by Wayne Rooney to see how he uses his body and arms for balance and the angles for power and lift:

And this one from Landon Donovan, all balance and technique:

Soccer shooting drills

 Soccer Skills and Drills

Why coaches are key to sport selection

As we develop as coaches we should be constantly aware of what is going on in our sport around the world. In some countries parents are now deciding which sport their children should participate in on the quality of the coaching they will get.

This is catching on in a lot of countries and you can expect it to happen in your neighbourhood soon. Not necessarily the sport they choose but the team they choose. If the coach isn’t up to leading the ‘people’ side of the sport then they will go somewhere else.

Bo Hanson is a four-time Olympian and a sports consultant for Athlete Assessments. He has just returned from a 2-month tour of the USA and Australia. According to him one recurring theme kept popping up…there is a growing war for talent across sports, vying for the best athletes, coaches and referees.

“Only those sports focused on attracting, engaging and retaining their talent grow and prosper. Sport is no longer just about technique and fitness. Progressive sports are those that can manage and lead the ‘people side’ effectively and that parents will choose for their children.” Hanson says.

Australian Football has over 720 000 participants and recruiting and retaining not only coaches, but also referees has become another major challenge. The demand for referee appointments is growing at 89% pa yet the number of actual referees is only increasing by 13% pa. Around one quarter of referees drop out each year due to abuse from players, coaches, parents and fans. Without referees and umpires, sport cannot be played and cannot grow.

Hanson says, “The AFL is promoting the fact that coaches are a key selection criteria for young athletes in choosing which sport to play.”

If a sport is to grow, a large part of that growth relies on the skills and characteristics of their coaches.

Here at Better Soccer Coaching we are educating our coaches in skills and techniques but we are also helping to improve their non-technical skills to enable them to be better leaders and people managers. In my own Soccer Coach Weekly publication I write two columns designed to help this – The Art of Coaching Children and Touchline Tales.

 Soccer Skills and Drills

Winning or losing – it’s a learning experience

Guest Blog

By Mark Bickerdike, Battyeford under 11s

The Battyeford U11s squad

I’ve been reading Dave’s recent comments on respecting your opponents when you are winning by a big score.

Having recently been on the wrong end of a heavy defeat (albeit in an adult match) the worst feeling was when the other team changed their style to accommodate our ineptitude, it felt like they were just taking the mickey.

By telling them to pass and pass and pass before shooting or shooting with your wrong foot I feel it shows at best pity and at worst disrespect to the other team.

Our team recently got beaten 7-0 (and we were lucky to get nil) but the thing that I wanted out of my under 11’s was the ability to keep playing, not to let their heads go down, to keep their positional shape and above all realise that some teams are better than us, lose with grace, take the positives out of the game and move on, all of which they did.

The week after we drew one each with the team at the top of the table and the week after we won a game 15-0.

Now I know losing 15-0 hurts (I know because I’ve been there) but the last thing I wanted to do is to disrespect their team or coach by somehow telling my boys to ‘hold back’. I wanted them to do exactly what I told them to do when we were losing 7- 0 and that is to keep trying their best, keep their positional shape and to do all the things we worked on in practice, but above all not to get ‘cocky’, to win with grace and not to show disrespect, to enjoy the win but realise that not all games will be so one sided, take the positives out of the game and move on.

The fact of the matter is that winning or losing, whether by one goal or 15, is all part of football and all aspects need to be experienced in order to gain a full knowledge of what the game is about.

Nobody likes to lose and everybody likes to win, the trick is to learn from both experiences.

The next time we played the team who beat us 7-0, we started really well and went 1-0 up with only ten men against 11. We were completely bossing the game but were pegged back to 1-1 at half time. Second half whether through tiredness or a bad half-time team talk we completely capitulated and lost 10-1.

I’m sure we’ve all had games like that, but it did give me a chance to let the guys compare how they felt after winning well to losing badly. We’ve gone on to win all our league games since and are up to third in the league.

It’s also worth remembering that the boys and girls probably don’t beat themselves up over a defeat like the coaches do, many a time after a loss I’ll be walking miserably back to the car dissecting the game and wondering what we could have done differently and my son will look at me with a smile on his face and say “Can I have a chocolate bar?”, like nothing matters in the world.

It is, as they say, only a game.

 Soccer Skills and Drills

It’s not just the goal scorer that wins the game

By David Clarke
Motivation was in the forefront of my mind this month. Watching a player from a lower league who has attracted the attentions of a number of high profile Premier League clubs made me wonder what motivated him.

The English leagues have a transfer window during January. It just so happened that the club he plays for was drawn against one of the top Premier League teams and he was going to be in the shop window on TV. During that game the player excelled scoring the winning goal and pulling the Premier League defence all over the pitch.

The national press picked up on this and highlighted why this player would make it in the Premier League. They have never seen him play week in and week out when he doesn’t fancy the pitch or the team or there’s no one watching in the stands.

He is motivated by the challenge of playing at a higher level with a higher profile and a higher salary. When the transfer window closed again he played against a team from the Premier League but this time there was no winning goal in fact no goal at all, and hardly a shot.

One of the reasons he gets so many chances to score goals is that behind him supporting him he has a quartet of excellent players. One who can win the ball, hold it up, knock it down and take the defenders away from him. Then there is the clever winger who can beat players get into the penalty area and cross the ball. Finally there are two midfielders who can play long or short passes to put the attacker in space.

He gets the goals and the kudos that goes with it hence the motivation from a higher challenge. So how do you motivate the players that comprise the engine room of the team who create but don’t score the goals what kudos do they get?

Here are my tips for motivating all your players, you need to think about:

The way you communicate – with the right approach and by using positive language you’ll get enthusiasm and positive action – from yourself and those you coach. 

Various coaching methods enhance the motivation levels within soccer training sessions and during matches, including goal setting, rewarding positive outcomes and involving players in the planning process.

Allowing and encouraging players to take responsibility for their own behaviour and performance outcomes has a significant impact. 

Involving players in the design of soccer training sessions and programmes is a key step to increasing loyalty, commitment and ownership.

Remember it’s not just the goal scorer that wins the game.

Listen to this clip from Michael Jordan about winning and losing:

And watch Manchester United lose to a lower league team:

 Soccer Skills and Drills


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