There are multiple crosses that can be executed from multiple positions on the field.  One of the most difficult crosses to execute – and to deal with as a defender and goalie – is the curving cross to the near post.

Whenever crosses or freekicks are mentioned, David Beckham’s name is usually mentioned in the same breath.  He has established himself as a great freekick taker, but also as a pin-point crosser.  In order to develop the ability to cross the ball like Beckham and many other effective crossers, there are a few techniques that need to be understood, practiced and eventually mastered.

There are multiple factors that attribute to an effective near post cross.  There are also responsibilities that need to be carried out by the crosser and the target (usually a forward) in order to create proper execution.

Here are 3 tips to properly crossing to the near post:

1.      As you run up the line, or setup for a freekick, make sure to look up and locate your target.  There needs to be an understanding that you will near post.  A good way to do this is for the target man to either signal to the near post, or make a move towards it.  Once the crosser and the target have a mutual agreement, begin to set your cross up.  Whether in stride, or from a dead ball, these tips apply.

2.      When winding up, make sure to keep your planting foot close to the ball.  Keeping your planting foot close to the ball assures accuracy.  When you step too far back from the ball, or too far away from the ball, your shooting foot will sway and the accuracy will be lost.  This can be proven when players place their planting foot too far away from the ball, it requires them to lean back and reach for the ball, the common result is a ball heading for the airplanes.

3.      As you begin to swing, use the inside of your foot to cross.  Hitting the ball will involve hitting the outside of the ball for the curving effect.  Bring your foot through the side of the ball and slightly around it with good power.  The mistake many crossers make is not hitting the ball with pace and floating the ball in.  Understand that the harder you hit the ball into the box, the easier it for the target man to generate force on his header/volley/shot.  When balls are floated in, considerable body strength is required in order to generate good enough power to beat a goalkeeper.  Alternatively, if you hit it with pace, many times the target needs to just direct the ball.

Some of the main reasons you aim near post as both a striker and a crosser is because:

  • The goalie will have a difficult time coming out to catch the ball as it is too risky to leave the goal line in that situation.  As a result, the goalie will rarely ever come out to challenge that type of cross
  • Defenders guarding the target man must track back and often cannot gain position in front of the player and the ball.  As the target man makes a swooping run to the near post, defenders are often left wrong footed and out of positions
  • If the ball is missed at the near post by the target man, the flight of the ball will carry it directly into the penalty area and we all know how dangerous balls are that trickle through the penalty area.  Even if the ball cannot be properly hit, players often flick the ball on to the remaining players in the box.  Flicking the ball on can instigate a handball, a foul, and most importantly, a goal
  • Even if the defender does get a head to the ball, he/she will be tracking backwards and the momentum will force them to hit the ball out for a corner kick

Click here for a Eufa training video on this skill.

So, realize that all crosses do not have to be put directly in the middle of the box.  In fact, putting the ball directly in the middle of the box is not necessarily the best decision in most situations.  Practice the cross and make sure not to let it get away from you and sore over the box.  Communicate with your target man and you will create goals.

What has worked best for you when crossing?

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