Soccer Player Skill Development

Passing Fundamentals: Bend it Like Pirlo…and that guy named Beckham

Football is a simple game based on the giving and taking of passes, of controlling the ball and of making yourself available to receive a pass. It is terribly simple.

Bill Shankly

AC Milan’s Andrea Pirlo is currently the one of the most creative passers in the world. His highlights found all over the internet are a testament to this. One forgets that his teammate, a cultural soccer icon, David Beckham lifted the term “to bend the ball” into the everyday lexicon because of his great passing skills. There’s been movies written about it. Together, they represent the past and the future of passing.

Before we learn to “bend”, let’s start with the simpler passes.


This pass is the easiest and most accurate. The main reason is that it uses the inside of your foot, which is the largest point of contact you have.

  1. Approach the ball head on.
  2. The non-kicking foot should be slightly behind the ball and pointing towards the target.
  3. The kicking foot should be pointed outward at a right angle with the toe upwards.
  4. Aim the kick for the midline of the ball (to keep the ball rolling along the ground).
  5. Bend your kicking knee. Use your arms for balance.
  6. Kick and follow through in the direction of the ball.

Common faults:

  • Approaching the ball from the side.
  • Kicking across the body.
  • Not kicking with the foot at a right angle


INSTEP DRIVE (or Laces Kick)

This pass is best used to get the most powerful kick possible. Often chosen when trying to score on goal but also very good for sending a long pass down the field. The kick is made with the laces of your shoes.

  1. Approach the ball at a slight angle.
  2. Like the push pass, your non-kicking foot should be pointing towards the target.
  3. The kicking foot’s knee should be bent during the backswing.
  4. Look at your target until right before you kick the ball.
  5. Your kicking foot should be pointed down so you contact the ball with your laces. The more forward your body is over the ball at point of contact, the lower the shot will be.
  6. Follow through and land on your kicking foot.

Common faults:

  • Head not looking up at the target
  • Player’s toe comes up


This versatile pass is often used to clear out the ball from danger areas, corner kicks, or free kicks. And it can be one of your best friends on the field when you need to get out of a sticky situation.

  1. Approach the ball at an angle.
  2. Lean away and back from the ball to get lift.
  3. The non-kicking foot should be no more than ten inches from the ball.
  4. The kicking foot should be pointing away from the body with your ankle locked.
  5. Strike mostly the bottom half of the ball with your instep.
  6. Follow through the middle part of the ball to avoid pulling or slicing it.

Common faults:

  • Kicking with the wrong foot surface
  • Non-kicking foot too far away
  • Approaching the ball straight on


A short pass to lift the ball over and behind a defender when there are no direct passing options open. Often your “last resort” pass.

  1. Approach the ball straight on.
  2. Lean over the ball.
  3. Kick it with a sharp jab with your toe below the ball.
  4. Very little or no follow through.

Common faults:

  • Kicking the ground
  • Long follow through
  • Toe punting

SWERVE KICK (The “Bend”)

Alright, we’ve covered four basic passes. How about we get to the fun stuff like learning how to “bend” the ball? There are three main moves where bending a ball would become necessary:

  • to bend the ball around an opponent to a teammate.
  • to bend the ball away from your teammate into a space to run onto.
  • to bend the ball while shooting on goal.
  1. Approach the ball straight on.
  2. Your non-kicking foot should be no more than ten inches from the ball.
  3. Your kicking foot should be pointed down and turned towards the inside of your body with your ankle locked.
  4. Strike the ball off-center with the outside of your foot. This will produce a spin on the ball causing it to “bend”.
  5. Follow through the body so that the kicking leg comes across the body.

Common faults:

  • Ankle not locked
  • Wrong approach angle
  • Non-kicking foot too far away from ball

Now, you too can bend it like Pirlo…and that old guy named Beckham.

What do you think?