Football journalist and FIFA fan Darren Cross looks at how you can stop skilful players from tricking their way through your defence…
A FIFA player that knows how and when to bust out the best skill moves is a dangerous opponent. With a flew flicks of the stick they can make your defenders look daft before finishing off with a worldy that even you don’t mind watching three replays of.
They offer a completely different challenge to facing players that know how to use pace effectively – which we looked at countering in last week’s Backpage here: http://www.ea.com/uk/news/fifa-13-defend-against-pace
A skill player doesn’t usually want to play a ball over your defence for a striker to run on to. They would rather tempt you in close then roll you with a roulette, spin you with a sombrero or fool you with a rainbow flick.
It’s very hard to predict what a skill player will do next, and that’s one of the main reasons why it can be difficult to stop them.
Difficult, but not impossible.
In this week’s Backpage we’re going to look at a bunch of things you can do when you find yourself up against an opponent that’s got serious skills.
Don't Dive In
To be beaten by a skill move you’ve got to be close to the attacker, and if you’re charging into a poorly-timed standing tackle or lunging into a slide then you’re just making it easy.
So my number one rule when up against a skilful opponent is never to dive in and try to win the ball back unless you’re as sure as you can be that you’ll succeed.
That sounds like a simple rule to stick to, but you only need to forget it for a couple of seconds to find yourself on the wrong side of a skill move and picking the ball out of your net. I know this because it’s happened to me hundreds of times over the years.
The thing is that it’s so tempting to try to win the ball back as soon as you can, and the longer your opponent keeps possession – which skilful players are generally very good at – the more impatient you get. This can lead to you going for a rushed tackle with a slim chance of success, and that’s when a skill player has you right where they want you.
Instead, be patient and concentrate on maintaining your team shape and protecting the areas of the pitch that you want to keep your opponent out of. You can do this by using the player change button to keep your defenders close to where they should be, then the jockey function to apply some ball pressure without going so close that you’re open to a skill move.
Jockey Your Opponent
Hold left trigger or L2 to jockey, which will make your player face the opponent while you control the direction and distance with the left stick. This gives you greater control over your movement, so you can effectively block areas you want to protect, and you’ll also be in a good position to react if you spot a chance to win the ball back with a tackle.
Remember though, you have to be certain you’re going to get the ball when you go for the tackle and not just play into the hands of your opponent, who could be ready to execute a skill move and take your defender temporarily out of the game.
Because tackles really are so risky against skilful players, I prefer to jockey and gradually reduce the space until my player wins the ball back without me having to commit to a tackle – either by almost letting the opponent run into him so he can use his body strength to take control of the ball, or until the game recognises a good opportunity to win the ball back and sort of tackles for me. This is sometimes referred to as an auto tackle but don’t let the name fool you – you’ve still got to get your positioning and movement exactly right yourself, which is why jockeying is so important.
Fake A Tackle
This is one of my favourite ways to stop a skilful player. As soon as I realise I’m playing a tricky opponent I’ll try faking a few tackles to see what happens.
To fake a tackle I select a player and move him directly towards my opponent as quickly as possible, so that I look like I’m about to launch into a standing or sliding tackle. Then, just before I get too close – about the distance of a roulette skill move away – I’ll hold left trigger to jockey and push the left stick back in the opposite direction.
Often the opponent thinks that I’m going to tackle and goes for a skill move, only to spin or turn into the path of my defender, who has retreated and is already jockeying. Then it’s just a case of making contact and hopefully winning the ball back.
It’s a really effective tactic, and you’ll only need to make it work a handful of times before your opponent starts going for fewer skill moves.
Block The Exits
Another effective way to counter skill moves is to call an AI-controlled teammate in to help, which you can do by holding RB or R1.
Let the AI player contain the opponent while you control the next closest defender and hang around to block any routes past your teammate. For example, let’s say your opponent has the ball on the touchline while under pressure from your AI pal. Try to spot the most dangerous areas – which will probably be the space behind your teammate or diagonally to one side of them in the direction of your goal – then cover them with the player you’re controlling. This will make it very difficult for an attacker to beat you with a skill move and advance into a more dangerous position.
They may have the option to turn and go back towards their own goal of course, keeping possession, but that’s okay; your defenders have done their job for now.
I often block the exits in this way against skill players, but I’m always careful not to overuse teammate contain. Constantly holding the button will eventually ruin your team shape and leave gaps everywhere, so use it wisely and keep reminding yourself to be patient.
Learn Some Tricks Of Your Own
After seeing my defence destroyed by some brilliant skill players in the thousands of matches of FIFA I must have played, I decided to go away and practise some of the moves myself.
This was one of the most useful things I did when learning to defend against skills, because I began to recognise good opportunities to go for certain skill moves when I was attacking, which in turn helped me to avoid giving those same opportunities to my opponents.
For example, I used the roulette move to spin past defenders who rushed in head-on, the chop to quickly change direction in the box and get the ball on to my strong foot for a shot, and the turn and spin move to get past a marker running parallel to me.
It’s definitely a good idea to learn a few simple but effective skill moves like these and start bringing them into your game, so you’ll have a better chance of reading tricks when it’s your turn to defend them.
So that’s how I try to defend against skilful players. Of course, I still slip up against tricksters now and then when that unpredictability catches me out but I don’t concede as many goals as I used to, thanks to the tips above.
Thanks for reading, and if you have any other tips for defending against skill then please share them with the community by commenting below or tweeting me @darren_cross
See you next week.
FIFA 13 is availble to buy now on Origin for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC.