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You’re new to the beautiful game, and you’re getting yourself acclimated with the lingo, the star players, and the plays. What does the commentator mean when he says that Trent Alexander-Arnold “swung one in”? You’re about to find out.
In soccer, a cross, or cross-field pass, is a long pass along the ground, or in the air, that cuts across the play on the field. Crosses are utilized by players in wide or central positions either to gain space or to set-up goal-scoring opportunities for teammates. There are a variety of iterations both in open play and on set-pieces.
Every “footie” fan loves a good ball in, and today you’re going to find out why. We explore this play, how to execute it, and how to improve your crossing to give your team the edge.
What is a cross in soccer?
A cross, or cross-field pass, is a long pass (usually 20+ yards) ACROSS the play on the field to a teammate or zone. These passes are often played from wide positions on the field, but not always. It is one of the more basic plays in the game, and often one of the most effective.
There are many iterations, depending on the nature of the cross itself and the part of the field in which it is executed. Tactically, a soccer field is divided into a defensive third (most of your team’s half of the field), a middle third (the center circle and some of both halves), and an offensive or “final” third (the rest of your opponent’s half). Generally, crosses played in the first two-thirds are referred to as “cross-field passes” because they are more about space creation and helping your team move up the field.
In the final third though, cross-field passes are simply referred to as “crosses”. In this area of the field, these passes are mostly used to create direct scoring chances for attackers.
Bending it like Beckham. Whipping it like Bale. There’s Di Maria’s deadly drop balls, Özil’s perfect pullbacks, and De Bruyne’s guided-missile low crosses. The aforementioned gentlemen are just a deadly few among the game’s best crossers. The ladies are also represented here. And how. Special mention has to go to U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) star Charlie Press, a high-octane wing wizardess who effortlessly skips past heaving defenders before arrowing in juicy crosses for her ravenous teammates.
How do you kick a cross in soccer?
There are many ways to execute a cross. Your foot has several strike zones that (with practice) enable you to launch different types of crosses and cross-field passes. The best place to start is with your instep, just like Press and De Bruyne. Both players have their own twists to this method, but the principle is the same. Delivering a cross with the instep is the best way to exercise as much control of the ball as you can.
If the instep gets a little too boring, you can try crossing with the outside of your foot. Flashy Portuguese duo Cristiano Ronaldo and Ricardo Quaresma are the poster boys of this wicked move. Careful not to make a fool of yourself though.
You can also cross with the top of your foot. This is known as a driven cross, and it emphasizes crossing the ball in with power. Check out Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic or Liverpool’s Mohammed Salah for clinics in zippy deliveries.
Some various twists and techniques can be applied to add variety and unpredictability to your crossing game. There’s the rabona, a highlight reel-ready trick that helps you cross from your weaker flank. You can also learn how to apply spin on the ball to make it curve through the air or bounce unpredictably across the surface.
Why is crossing important in soccer?
The crossing is important in soccer because it is one of the quickest ways to get the ball to teammates in better positions. Soccer is a very tactical game so you need to catch your opponent unawares or before they get themselves in position.
Offensively, the crossing is one of the more common methods of creating goalscoring opportunities for teammates. Playing straight through a defense can be difficult because of the number of defenders in the middle, so many teams try to attack from the flanks, which tend to be less protected. From these wide positions, crosses of varying angles, heights, and speed can be delivered for attackers to score.
No single player exemplifies the importance of crossing more than legendary England winger David Beckham. Another instep crossing champion, Beckham was a beacon of classic wing play during his heyday in the 1990s and early 2000s. While he was a great dribbler and fairly consistent goal threat, it was his incredible crossing ability that saw Alex Ferguson’s swashbuckling Manchester United sides romp to glory. Beckham’s golden crosses ultimately proved decisive as he and United achieved soccer immortality by winning an unprecedented treble of English and European titles in 1999.
How can you improve your crossing in soccer?
Practice, practice, practice. There’s no way around it. For you to be a great crosser, you must be able to deliver the ball when and where it is needed consistently.
You can make use of various training drills to work on your game. Work on your early crosses, high crosses, low crosses. One particularly deadly cross you need to have in your locker is the pullback. This is a cross that is played across the face of the goal at a backward angle. It is most commonly played from the by-line, just before the ball goes out of play. Arsenal star Mesut Özil is one of the best at ghosting into these dangerous wide spaces and setting teammates up with pullbacks that leave defenders in no man’s land.
When practicing crosses, make sure that you recreate game scenarios as much as possible. Work on crossing the ball while in active play and from dead-balls. The ability to cross with both feet is also invaluable. If you want to earn a starting position on a highly competitive squad, this ability could make all the difference for you.