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FIFA 13 Tips | Trophy Hunting

Football journalist and FIFA fan Darren Cross shares five advanced gameplay tips for FIFA 13’s online modes that could help you bag a cup or win a league title…

There are just a few days to go now until the FIFA 14 demo lands, so this will be the final Backpage on FIFA 13 before we switch over to cover tips and discussion on the new game.

A few days is still plenty of time to get promotion to Seasons Division 1, win a FUT cup or even a claim league title if you haven’t already, so in this week’s Backpage we’re going to focus on five gameplay tips that can really make a difference when you’re playing for silverware or battling it out in the higher divisions of the game’s online modes.

These are the things that I constantly remind myself of from kick-off through to the final whistle when I’m playing against tough opponents, where one mistake or short lapse of concentration can cost a goal or even the game. It goes without saying that many of the fundamental tips we’ve covered on the Backpage still apply here – so things like choosing the formation you’re most confident with and knowing what your players are capable of are still essential – but I feel that the following five things can really be the difference between a win or a loss.

1. Keep Your Shape
Of all the mistakes a player can make in a high-level game, losing team shape is perhaps the most costly, especially if it’s a centre-back that drifts out of position.

This tends to happen when the player is too keen to win the ball back and they do a combination of things that all contribute to destroying team shape, like chasing the ball with the same player for long distances and – more common – double-pressing constantly by holding the contain and team-mate contain buttons.

In the high divisions the opponent will quickly spot this and begin to play in the spaces being left by the other team, and it’s usually not very long until they find a route to goal once that starts happening.

The key to keeping your shape is patience and concentration. You must resist the temptation to win the ball back as quickly as possible and instead work on getting the right player between your goal and the ball, so you can slow the other team down while keeping an eye out for an opportunity to take possession back without risking too much. When I say the right player, I mean the one who should be putting pressure on the ball according to where it is on the pitch. For example, if my opponent’s left winger has the ball then – depending on my formation – I’ll be tracking him with either my right-back or right midfielder, but as soon as the ball goes infield I’ll switch to a different team-mate using the player change button and let my original marker fall back into position.

If you can do this consistently while gradually edging closer to the player in possession then you should eventually get the opportunity to use your body strength to direct the opponent away from the ball, so that you can take possession. This method of tackling is very low risk compared to a standing or sliding tackle which, if poorly timed, can again leave you out of position and vulnerable to an attack.

So take your time, change your players as the ball moves around the pitch, close the distance between you and the opponent and try to use your body to win the ball back. That way you’ll keep your shape better and be harder to beat.

2. Work Off The Ball
The second tip is very closely connected to the first in terms of defending because it’s also linked to concentration and timing, but it applies to attacking play too.

Defensively, when your opponent is in possession try not to follow the ball with your eyes all of the time. Take a second here and there to look at your players and what’s happening around them.

Watch out for things like an opposing striker dropping deep to receive the ball or a winger making an off-the-ball run against your full-back.

Doing this can really help you read your opponent’s next move, as you’ll soon be spotting passes and runs in plenty of time to counter them effectively by selecting your closest player and intercepting the ball – as long as you can do so without taking too much of a risk positionally of course. It takes a bit of getting used to at first but after a few games you will find yourself predicting attacks more frequently.

The hard work off the ball doesn’t stop once you have it back though. Now you need to be looking for the runs of your own team-mates while still concentrating enough on the player in possession to make sure that you don’t give it away too easily. Has your opponent left a gap somewhere? Do you have an extra man over in an attack? Is a lone defender too deep and playing everyone else onside? These are the things you need to look out for and take advantage of. The radar at the bottom of the screen can help with that too – I’m always checking it, with and without the ball.

3.Clear It
Now I know this doesn’t sound like an ‘advanced’ tip, but I’m including it here because it makes such a difference up in the higher divisions where the smallest mistake is quickly pounced upon.

I don’t know how many times I’ve given goals away over the years while trying to knock a ball down to a nearby team-mate in my own box, or attempting to pass it through a group of players surrounding me – I’ve lost count.

These days I take absolutely no risks at the back with any of my opponent’s passes or crosses that are heading towards my own area; my number one priority is to get the ball as far away from my goal as possible with my first touch, which I do by using the shoot button. If there’s a very safe pass on – perhaps out to a full-back with no possibility of the ball being intercepted – then I’ll go for it, but if I have any doubts at all about the risks involved then I’ll smash or head that ball away from my goal before you can say hoof it.

It’s not pretty, but it is extremely effective and I’m convinced I now concede fewer goals as a result.

I’m not saying I play a long ball game though – far from it as we’ll see in a sec. I’m talking solely about defending crosses and passes in the danger area by clearing them rather than going for a risky passing header or first touch. Once I have possession away from my goal then it is all about keeping it, which brings me nicely on to tip number four.

4. Pass, Pass, Pass
Again the name of this tip suggests that it’s not really all that advanced, doesn’t it? But what I’m getting at here is the need to be the team controlling the majority of the possession when playing in any of the higher online divisions, because it can make such a difference.

I know from plenty of first-hand experience that chasing the ball in online games for most of the match takes a lot of effort and can be frustrating, which can lead to gaps opening up like we talked about in the earlier tips here. It also saps stamina and, to some extent, confidence. When I’m up against someone that really knows how to pass and keep the ball then I know I’m in for a tough game. Personally I think a good passing player is more difficult to face than a team full of fast players or skillers, because you can spend long periods without the ball, working hard to win it back.

So when I have the ball my game plan is to move it around the pitch in my opponent’s half and try to break their team shape, creating a gap for me to play into. I’m much more focussed on building attacks and creating quality opportunities rather than rushing things with speculative lofted through balls or constant one-twos, but that’s not to say I never attack with pace. If I’ve spotted that a fast counter or through ball could be on then I’ll absolutely go for it, or I might change the pace by speeding up my passing for a short period, but most of the time I’m working on finding my team-mates with good passes while looking out for any attacking opportunities that may pop up.

5. Mix Up Your Attacks
In tip two we looked at how working off the ball can help you read your opponent’s attacks, so this one is all about making sure that doesn’t happen to you.

When I first started playing in Seasons and FUT Division 1 I couldn’t believe how easy it was for players to read what I was going to do next – they always seemed one step ahead and I eventually realised it was all because I was being far too obvious. Too predictable.

Now I try to use that in my favour by making it look like I’m going to do something obvious, before actually doing something completely different. This could be anything from shaping to play a through pass or hit a shot then stopping at the last second by holding LB or L1 – which could cause the opponent to slide, anticipating a block – through to simple things like mixing attacks between crosses, long shots and through passes, or turning back on myself a number of times before crossing the ball; basically anything to keep the opponent guessing.

Varying attacks like this is key to unlocking very tough defences, so constantly remind yourself to mix things up.

If you’ve got any more tips that could help other FIFA players bag some silverware then please share them by commenting below or tweeting me @darren_cross

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you back here in a week or so when we’ll be all about FIFA 14.