While watching the FIFA 2010 World Cup, teams and players are committing errors that they would normally not do at club level. There are moments of brilliance followed by moments of complete mental lapse and selfishness. The problem at the top level is that good teams will punish you for your errors and often times it is the smallest detail that will determine whether you win or lose. No matter your level of play, whether you’re playing in the world cup or college level, each of us can take away from this and learn not to make the same errors.

1)      Dribbling one step too many and loosing the ball: The difference between a great play and ruining the play can be a teammate dribbling one too many times. Players with great dribbling abilities often get caught up in the excitement of taking on more players than necessary. This happens at all levels of play. The key thing to remember is no matter how good you are there is no need to take on several players. In some situations you may have to quickly dribble two or three opponents (perhaps in the center midfield under a lot of pressure) but the goal should never be to start out and try to beat them. If you are double or triple teamed this means teammates of yours will be unmarked. In this situation the smart play would be to move the ball as quickly as possible to your available teammates. This could involve switching the play, a ground through ball or crossing the ball to the other side of the field. The point being, keep the ball moving and away from high pressure. When players become selfish and try to dribble too many opponents the rest of your team becomes stagnant and the flow of the game stops. This makes it harder to score and easier to defend against. The exact opposite of what you want!

2)      Don’t be caught sleeping in defense off a goal kick: This is one way to surprise defenders. When they are least expecting the ball can be headed or flicked-on resulting in an attacker running full speed down the field on a breakaway. The best way to prepare for this is to allow yourself a few extra yards away from your man and be ready in case you have to turn and immediately run back to your own end. Whether you’re defending or attacking always be on your toes and ready for the quick break through. Germany perfectly executed this versus the England defense in the 2010 World Cup. This resulted in the opening goal and paved the way for a 4-1 German victory.

3)      Thinking too much: Many players, especially strikers, will break routine and psych themselves out when the big games come. Instead, it is better to approach all games just like any other, as difficult as this may be. One of the top strikers in the world at the moment is Lionel Messi. He made a very interesting comment regarding Wayne Rooney.  “It may sound crazy but players like Rooney play at their best when they are not thinking. He should think of it as a pre-season friendly with Manchester United.” The idea is not to think and plan too much. You have trained hard and now everything must come naturally. When one starts to work too hard errors are made. Approach every game the same. This will help you get into a routine and have you performing at your best.

4)      Have several defenders back on offensive free-kicks: If there is any chance that the free-kick will strike the wall then a counter attack can occur. If the free kick is meant to be shot directly on net then there is no need to have so many players up in the attack. However, if the free kick is meant to be dangerously curled into the box for a header or quick re-direction then more players can go in the box. Furthermore, if your team is down by a goal and it is late in the game then it is alright for all players to go in the box. You are risking everything at that point. But if it is still early in the game you must leave defenders back. The reason for this is if the free kick is poorly taken and does not successfully clear the wall then there is a chance for a fast break counter attack to occur.  Germany successfully did this versus England in the 2010 World Cup. They scored off this counter attack from a poorly taken England free-kick. By being in position and properly preparing these situations can be avoided.

These are just a few points on this topic but there are many others. What uncommon errors have you seen this world cup?

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