Football managers crave for team chemistry. They usually encourage the flawless execution of their perfectly designed game plans. And they’re not wrong.
With eleven players on the pitch, the squad needs to dominate all the fundamentals of the game (passing, shooting, protecting the ball) and work together in an organized manner in order to come out on top. But when the puzzle seems unsolvable and tactics just don’t cut it anymore, how to make a breakthrough? In those situations, technically gifted players tend to show what the team’s missing – a slight touch of football magic. Dribbling.
Of course there is an associated risk of losing possession, of course a poor dribble may be a mistake and set you and your teammates up for failure. But that’s a beautiful aspect about us crazy human beings, isn’t it? Forever chasing perfection but still so proud to be flawed. Filled with incongruences. We take risks, we try things outside of textbooks, and when we succeed, we innovate. Some say that in football, everything has already been invented by now – and I partially agree. Except, perhaps, in the case of dribbling. Those particular skills are our sole chance of seeing something new to the game every now and again.
We have previously dipped into the concept and roots of dribbles like the Step Over, the Elastico or the Roulette. Today, five more beauties are in order. Please keep in mind that, as in Part I of this article, this is not a Best Skills or a Top Dribblers List – just a set of skillful moves (in no particular order) that showcase the marvels of dribbling and some of its greatest exponents.
- Hocus Pocus: Not that different from an Elastico in the sense that you push the ball in one direction, right before interrupting that half-dribble and sprinting the other way. The difference is that, you drag the ball behind your support leg, turning it virtually invisible for the opponent to guess what’s going to happen next. Frequently used in street soccer, Brazilian striker Ronaldo, virtuoso winger Ronaldinho Gaúcho and midfielder Rodrigo Taddei successfully performed it a few times (all from Brazil, those playful rascals). Lately, Alexis Sánchez has used it a couple of times as well.
- La Croqueta: Increasingly common in modern football, this short two-step move can get more than one opponent out of the way in a fraction of a second. It has proven itself extremely useful for midfielders that operate in tight spaces. Basically, you shift the control of the ball between the inside of both your feet – first touch to get the defender’s leg out of the way, second to put the ball in front of you, so you can carry on with the play. Real nifty, real quick. After legendary Danish midfielder Michael Laudrup made it his signature move, La Croqueta became a rarity in football fields, until Barcelona’s maestro Andrés Iniesta brought it back to TV screens all over the world. Nowadays, many superstars like Isco Alarcón and Lionel Messi also resource to it often, able to perform it at supersonic speed.
- The Seal: Extremely rare, cheeky, but annoyingly effective. The name is a nice metaphor – by juggling the ball up onto your forehead, you can then bounce it around past defenders, like a seal performing that funny ball trick at the zoo. The ball is kept at a certain height, which makes it hard for defenders to challenge without committing a foul. Marco Nappi, an Italian forward, popularized the Seal Dribble in the late 80’s. Recently, Brazil’s Kerlon became known as Foquinha (little seal in Portuguese) due to that dribble.
- Rabona Fake: While the Rabona is not conceptually a dribble (usually applied to perform through balls or crosses into the box, not going past an opponent), it makes sense to admire the Rabona Fake as a powerful dribbling move. In the Rabona, you hit the ball with your strong foot going behind your support leg – in the Rabona Fake, it seems like you’ll do just that, but a deceiving touch brings the ball back to your control. Ricardo Infante is the alleged creator of both moves, while numerous stars like Roberto Baggio, Ronaldinho Gaúcho, Matías Fernández and Ricardo Quaresma have used it often throughout the last few decades.
- Heel Chop: Recommended when you are running along the sideline and want to cut inwards, rapidly touching the ball behind the support leg is a clever element of surprise and makes you change your direction in a swift manner. The biggest perk is how effective the Chop can be even at full speed, because the defender’s body weight is all charging in one direction and it usually takes a lot of agility to switch it. Feeding off talented examples from Latin America, Cristiano Ronaldo spread the legacy and nowadays, many wingers have added it to their repertoire.
The One-Foot Roulette, La Cuauhtemiña, not to mention Nutmegs, a subculture of its own…the list could go on and on and we would forever be talking about tricks and skill. That’s goes to show that dribbling truly is the white canvas in which technically gifted players unleash their creativity, sometimes with real benefit to their teams, sometimes getting on everyone’s nerves. Like in high school, where guys envy the biker bad boy that every girl wants to hang out with. So annoying…but so cool at the same time.
Now, if your body lets you, go outside and practice a few of those. It makes you feel like you’re a football genius, even if you’re just blowing past street lamps.
You can find part 1 here