In this week’s Backpage, football journalist and FIFA fan Darren Cross looks at how you can increase your chances of scoring from free-kicks…

In this week’s Backpage, football journalist and FIFA fan Darren Cross looks at how you can increase your chances of scoring from free-kicks…

Question... how many free-kicks have you ballooned over the bar in FIFA 12?

If you play every day, like me, then I'm pretty confident your answer will be hundreds. Again, like me.

That's because, even if you're striking the ball with a free-kick expert like Ronaldo or Sneijder, the chances of you scoring from a dead ball are pretty slim, just like they are in the real world. So it's a big tick for realism, but that's probably not the first thing that goes through your head after your potentially game-saving free-kick in the 90th minute has just been sent hurtling into orbit somewhere over a virtual Wembley.

It doesn't have to be this way, because there is one free-kick method that I believe dramatically increases your chances of either scoring directly, or creating a goal scoring chance via a clever pass or a rebound off the keeper - the lay-off free-kick.

Now I'm sure most of you reading this already know about the lay-off and how to do it. If you're one of those people, please read on because we're going to look at some things you can tweak to boost the possibility of finding the net from your lay-off, either directly or indirectly.

And if you're a FIFA player who doesn't have a clue what a lay-off free-kick is or how to do one, you should definitely read on because I'm confident it’ll prove to be worth your while.

Okay, let's start with what a lay-off is and how to do it.

When you choose to try a lay-off free-kick you bring two extra players into the move. One stands over the ball, close to the player who was originally taking the kick, and one stands a few yards to the side, ready to strike the ball once you have played it to them.

You initiate the move by holding LT on 360 or L2 on PS3 once a free-kick has been awarded.

Now keep hold of LT or L2 and press the pass button to lay the ball off to the third player. Note that the length of time you hold the pass button will influence the speed of the pass, not as much as it does in open play, but enough to affect your chances of scoring. Put too much power on the lay-off and you can force the player striking the ball to come around it slightly, rather than hit through it. But play a soft pass and there’s an increased chance of an opposition defender charging you down to either block the shot or intercept completely. The latter option can be particularly bad, as you’ll have a number of players committed forward so you’re open to a counter. To avoid this, I always make sure I get the power of the pass around the middle of the bar, the theory being that an over-hit pass is a situation that can be rescued as you’ll at least still have possession.

Next comes the strike. Power up the shot as you would a long shot in open play, but be aware of the position you’re attempting the shot from. If you’re anywhere around the D then keep the power below the middle zone of the bar, otherwise you’re likely to score a conversion rather than a goal. Increase the power as your distance increases, but if you’re any further than 25-30 yards out then the chances of a first-time shot going in are very small, so you need to choose another option. More on that in a minute.

The other thing to consider when going for the first time shot is who will be doing the shooting. You can actually find this out before you lay the ball off, simply by moving your aim across the screen. Scroll in the direction the lay-off will be going and you’ll eventually spot a team-mate lurking nearby – that’s the player who’ll be receiving the pass. If the free-kick is to the left of the D then you don’t want a left footer to be the player receiving the ball if you’re planning a first-time shot, and vice versa for free-kicks to the right of the D. That’s because they’ll be taking the ball with their weak foot, which again hugely reduces the chance of you scoring.

If the player the CPU has picked to receive the lay-off isn’t the one you want to shoot with, you can change him. Occasionally the game will allow you to do this by going into Team Management and swapping him with someone more suitable, but this method doesn’t always work and actually appears quite random; I still haven’t been able to get it to do what I want consistently. Instead, move him out of the way by selecting him as the initial free-kick taker, via the on screen menu. Now, hopefully, his replacement will be more suitable.

Right, if the shot itself pea rolls across the ground then there’s a fairly good chance you’ve either under hit it, or the player you’re attempting to shoot with has a poor Long Shot rating. Obviously the higher the Long Shot rating the more accurate your effort will be, and it’s even better if you can select someone with the Distance Shooter trait. If you’re not sure if the player you’ve selected has either of those two things, you can find out by viewing his profile. Go to the Team Management screen, select the player and press the right stick in to view their attributes, which you can then cycle through with RT or R2. Anyone with a Long Shot above the mid 70s stands a good chance of testing the keeper.

I mentioned earlier that there are options available to you other than shooting first time from a lay-off, and my favourite is the bluff.

This is when you call the two players in, as with the original lay-off, so that you now have three involved. Then instead of passing the ball, the second player standing over it takes a shot. I find that this works especially well if you’ve already tried a lay-off or two and your opponent is anticipating it. Not only does the variety surprise the opposition player, but it also keeps them guessing as to what you will do next time, so you’re much harder to read.

You need the player who will shoot to be good at free-kicks though, otherwise it’s obviously going to be a waste. Again, you may find that the second player you’ve called in to stand over the ball isn’t the one you want to shoot with, but you can change this in a similar way to the method above. This time, select him as the main free-kick taker using the menu and you should find that your free-kick expert becomes the second man, once you set up the lay-off again by holding LT or L2.

But that’s not all, you of course have the option to take a touch on the ball with the receiving player then choose to either dribble, pass or shoot. I know, I know, it sounds obvious, but I hardly ever see players doing this online; it’s always either a direct shot with the original taker, or a lay-off and first-time effort. By taking a touch you give yourself a second to see what’s happening ahead of you, so you can make a quick, informed decision on what to do next. Maybe you’ll spot a player unmarked in the box who you can pass to, maybe you’ll take a shot at goal after changing your angle of approach slightly, or maybe you’ll just pass it on and keep possession.

Either way, by laying the ball off first you’re in a strong position and you stand a better chance of scoring a goal or creating a chance than if you were to take a direct pop at goal with no other players around the ball.

I’m currently working on a detailed video for MATCH Magazine that will show exactly how to do all of the above. Add me on Twitter @Darren_Cross and I’ll point you in its direction when it goes live.

Thanks for reading, and have fun with the lay-off.

@t: darren_cross







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