In this week’s Backpage, football journalist and FIFA gamer Darren Cross looks at eight things you can do to pick up more wins online…
Following on from last week’s Backpage on the best 5* team to use when you’re playing Head 2 Head Seasons, this week I want to focus on what else you can do to increase your chances of winning.
I’ve used these tips right the way through the Divisions so – whether you’re just starting out in Division 10 or battling for a title at the very top – they should hopefully work for you too.
Let’s get straight into it…
Regardless of which star level you want to compete at, make sure you have at least a basic knowledge of a team before you kick-off with them in a H2H match.
Play a couple of exhibition matches against a mate or, if that’s not an option, have a quick game against the CPU. The result doesn’t really matter; what you’re looking to do is answer a few questions about the players. For example, are the strikers right or left-footed? Is there a free-kick specialist? Does the defence lack height or strength in the middle? Are there better players on the bench who should be in the starting XI?
It might seem a bit trivial, but the smallest bit of information could be the difference between scoring a goal and staying in a division, or missing a chance and being relegated.
When you’re confident you know enough about the players to get started, next up is…
Although I’m a huge fan of the custom 4-1-5, there isn’t a super-formation that guarantees you wins. Instead there’s a whole bunch to choose from and some of them will suit your style while others will feel awful.
The important thing is to find a couple that suit your style of play – more coming up on this in a future Backpage – and select the one that you think will work best with the players you’ve got. Over time you’ll automatically know where your players should be in almost every situation – another small advantage.
I often start out with a 4-1-2-1-2(1), which is a very balanced formation, then switch to a 4-1-5 if I feel my opponent may struggle against it, or if I’m trailing and need to score.
It’s a good idea to have formations you know well that you can quickly switch to when you need to park the bus or bust some nets.
The Five-Minute Rule
I said last week that I like to start very quickly in games and go for an early goal, but I should have added that it’s not a good idea to be too fast out of the blocks.
Bag a goal inside the first five minutes of a H2H match and there’s a strong chance your opponent will back out. Because the timer hasn’t passed five minutes they won’t be penalised, so your electric start will count for nothing and you’ll find yourself having to set up another game.
If it’s your kick-off then move the ball around your team and keep possession, forcing your opponent to chase while you gradually advance forward. If you haven’t got the ball from the start then feel free to go and get it back as soon as you can, just remember to chill out once you’ve got it until the magic 5:00 flashes by.
When you’re past the five-minute mark it’s time to step things up, and that brings me to…
Choosing the right mentality for your situation can make such a big difference online. I put a lot of effort into scoring as soon as possible after five minutes, so I start every game with an Attacking mentality that obviously commits more of my players forward than the Balanced setting.
If I do score first then, rather than back off, I’ll stick with the Attacking mentality and see if I can press my advantage. If my opponent starts putting me under consistent pressure in their search for an equaliser then I’ll drop back to Balanced, but only if I’m finding myself outnumbered. Otherwise I stay with Attacking and try to take the game to the other team.
I’ll also use Ultra Attacking if I’m desperate to score and, even with a balanced formation like 4-1-2-1-2(1), this is effectively all-out attack. Whole groups of players will play further up the pitch and the effect on the other team can be devastating. I know because I’ve been on the wrong side of a quick switch to Ultra-Attacking and found myself completely outnumbered. It gives the attacking team more options going forward and can cause the defending team to panic, which often leads to them giving the ball away again quickly if they manage to make a tackle.
I only use the Defensive or Ultra-Defensive settings as a last resort when I’m trying to hold on to a narrow lead in the last few minutes of a game, otherwise I think these settings invite pressure from the opposition.
Remember though, this is just my personal preference. I like to play attacking football as I’m much more familiar with that than a defensive approach, but it may be the other way around for you. Either way, identifying which mentality to use, and when to do so, is really going to help you out.
Predicting Your Opponent
With team, formation and mentality sorted, the next job is to work out what sort of opponent you’re facing.
If they’ve popped out three Advanced Rainbows and a bunch of Fake Rabonas in the opening few minutes then it’s a safe bet that you’re up against a skiller. Keep this is mind when you’re defending, because chances are they will chuck a few moves into their attacks and that can actually make them quite predictable. For example, if they’ve turned away from your centre-back and put their body between you and the ball, they may be waiting for you to press so they can spin you with a Scoop Turn.
Or if you’ve got a right-footed player charging into your penalty area with the ball on his left side, you can be fairly confident that your opponent will attempt a Heel Chop or Berba Spin move to get the ball back on to their strong side. In fact, talking of dominant feet, almost all FIFA players will attempt to shoot with their strongest foot so that’s definitely something you should keep in mind when you’re trying to predict their movement.
If your opponent seems to be constantly hunting you down with packs of players when you’re in possession then you’re up against a presser. The game plan here is to patiently move the ball around your team while looking out for spaces, which will open up over time because the other player will slowly be pulling their team shape all over the place.
There are lots of different styles of play, but what I’m really getting at is the importance of being able to identify opponents and recognise the players they’re using so that you’ve got a better chance of predicting what they’re going to do with the ball.
On the other hand, when you’re in possession you need to be as unpredictable as possible so you can…
Keep Them Guessing
If you’re hard to read then you’re hard to stop so, when you’re attacking, try to think like a defender.
Ask yourself what your opponent is expecting you to do then go for something different. This could be a simple thing like suddenly stopping your run by pressing LB or L1 while you’re sprinting at full speed – in the second it takes your opponent to register what you’ve done, you’ve created some space and found a team-mate with a pass.
Or maybe you’re bombing down the right wing with a left-footed player. In this situation you’d be expected to turn back on to your strong foot – and you’d be right to – but this is easy to read. So instead, turn back on to your left, go back to your right, then turn back to your left again. Next time, slow down like you’re going to turn then nudge the right stick away to sprint off.
You might have your back to your marker while receiving the ball at your feet. Here the other player will be expecting you to go off to the left or right once you’ve controlled it, so they’ll have a 50-50 chance of predicting correctly and tackling you. But if you take a few steps in the direction the ball came from before you turn, you’ll probably have opened up enough of a gap to safely pass to a team-mate without being dispossessed.
There are hundreds of situations like this in every game of FIFA. The point is to be as unpredictable as you can in all of them, so that you’re constantly making the other player really work to stop you.
Protect The BallKeep possession as much as possible.
It sounds obvious, but I’m constantly surprised by the number of online opponents who give the ball away because they’re trying to force passes, crosses or shots that aren’t really on.
When you give the ball away needlessly you invite more pressure on to your team and, perhaps just as significantly, boost your opponent’s confidence. On the other hand, keep the ball and you’ll reduce the pressure on your defence, apply attacking pressure on the other team and frustrate your opponent, who will most likely begin to press wildly in an effort to quickly regain possession.
Possession alone won’t win you games – and I’ve certainly lost my fair share of matches despite having more of the ball – but it does give you lots of advantages once you start using it effectively.
Keeping possession is also a really good tactic if you’re struggling in a game. On the days when nothing seems to be going right for me on the pitch, I go right back to basics and put all of my effort into getting the ball and keeping it. Then, as my confidence grows, I can start to put better attacks together.
If you want to read more about using possession in FIFA 12 and why it’s so important, have a look at this article I wrote on it a while ago: http://www.ea.com/au/news/backpage-fifa12-back-to-basics
Learn From Your Losses
Some of the best gameplay tips I’ve picked up have come from watching an opponent take me apart.
Never quit a match, even if your team is being completely destroyed. Instead, see the game through and pay attention to the things the other player is doing that are working.
Don’t just accept that they’re winning because they’re better, or because they have a stronger team. There will be a reason – or reasons – and if you can identify them then you’re a small step closer to improving your own game.
Okay, that’s all for now. Hopefully this week’s Backpage will help you bag a few more points online, especially if you combine the tips above with the Brazil set up we looked at last time here: http://www.ea.com/au/news/the-backpage--fifa-12-win-a-5-title
Thanks for reading, and let me know how you’re getting on in your H2H Season by tweeting me @Darren_Cross
As always, thanks for reading the Backpage.
See you next week.