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The Feint and the Dribble

"Play Football with Pele"

5 - The Feint and the Dribble


The feint and the dribble are tactics which every player must be able to do. The difference between the two is that the feint is a movement executed without the ball and the dribble is with the ball.

For example: when a defender is retreating in the face of an advancing attacker with the ball suddenly makes a lunge, thus forcing his opponent to change direction; or when an attacker who is being marked pretends to run towards the goal and then turns suddenly to receive the ball, completely free. These are both ways of feinting and are executed without the ball. You should never feint or dribble just to show the spectators or the other players how good you are at football. Your real talent is shown by keeping possession of the ball longer than your opponent. It is also important to remember that dribbling is never justified if there is an unmarked team-mate waiting for a pass. Never forget that a safe pass is always better than unnecessary dribbling.

You can feint with your foot, leg, body, arms, head and even your eyes!

Another piece of advice: the movements of the player without the ball are just as important as those of the player in possession of the ball. This may seem incredible, but playing without the ball is an art! In the defense a feint or tackle can enable you to gain possession of the ball and while attacking you can ensure your team keeps possession of the ball. Nearly all the players have to feint during a game. As you learned in the chapter on kicking, even the goalkeeper uses this tactic when trying to mislead the attacker. It is a method of deceiving your opponent, thereby diverting his attention from the move you are really going to make. This applies to both feinting and dribbling.

Pele - The Feint and the Dribble - Learn To Play Soccer - Edson Arantes do Nascimento
Pele – The Feint and the Dribble – Learn To Play Soccer

Dribbling is altering the speed and direction of the ball by sudden movements in various directions with the right or left foot. First a tap . . . then stop . . . balance . . . turn . . . a lightning swing and . . . an explosive spurt – these are some of the ingredients of dribbling. In a dribble you have an advantage over your opponent – he doesn’t know what you are going to do next! You always have the initiative. Your opponent is always kept guessing which way you intend to go. Your main objective is to try and make him lose his balance while he is trying to get the ball, at the same time, of course, maintaining your own balance! Many soccer players just ‘play’ with the ball and therefore fail to make ground. The player who tries to dribble must be sure that it is he who must always take the initiative. Sometimes the opponent will offer you a way out – watch out for this as it might be his way of taking the ball from you. To be good at dribbling you need to have a lot of confidence in yourself, a great deal of practice and a good sense of balance. Keeping your balance will become easier if you are able to understand the basic laws of equilibrium. I’ll try to explain to you very simply what I have learned. Every solid body has a center of gravity. In the human body it is situated in the middle of your torso at about your navel. Whenever an imaginary line from the center of gravity falls in the middle of the support area it is said that the body is in equilibrium. In the human body the support area is the space between the two feet.

If your feet are together your equilibrium will be less because the center of gravity can ‘fall’ outside the area made by your feet. If you stand with your feet apart the support area will be larger. Try a simple experiment. Stand with your feet together and ask someone to give you a little push. You’ll discover that you will fall over much more easily than you would if you had your feet apart, because you maintain your balance when the imaginary line from the center of gravity does not fall outside the larger space between your feet.

If you squat down with your feet well apart, leaning forward a little and lightly flexing your legs, you’ll feel that it is even easier to keep your balance. You have now learned something else about the law of equilibrium: the nearer the center of gravity is, in relation to the ground, the more stable you are. So it is easier to lose your balance when you are standing than when you are sitting or lying down.

So to begin dribbling keep your feet apart, your body leaning forward a little, your legs flexed, your haunches down and your arms relaxed and hardly moving by your side. You are now learning something else important about balance. Every movement, no matter how small, changes the center of gravity – up and down, to either side and even forwards and backwards. You can prove this yourself by getting on a large weighing machine like they have in a chemist’s shop. Wait until the indicator stops and then start moving your arms. You will see that the indicator swings up or down. The quicker you move your arms the faster the indicator will swing. So we have discovered another important aspect of dribbling: RHYTHM! You have to make rapid decisions and reactions when dribbling, but the movement must have a certain rhythm.

Every opponent has a weaker side. This is usually the side of what is called the weak leg. If he is left handed, his right leg will be the weak one, and vice versa. He will have more difficulty in intercepting the ball with what is called his weak leg, but even more if that is his support leg.

Pele - The Feint and the Dribble - Learn To Play Soccer - Edson Arantes do Nascimento
Pele – Dribble Protecting the Ball – Learn To Play Soccer

It would be impossible to give you a list of all the different ways of feinting, tackling and dribbling because the possibilities are endless. But there are still a few more rules to observe. For example, when you are dribbling your opponent may be in front of you, behind you or by your side. Whatever his position, you always have to protect the ball, keeping it close to you. When your opponent is by your side, whether you’re running or standing still, keep your body between him and the ball. Thus it will be more difficult for him to get the ball without fouling you. Mostly use the outside or inside of the foot, just behind the ankle bone and your tap on the ball must be smooth and gentle. For this, the ankle should flexible.

During my many years playing soccer I have seen countless styles of dribbling. I’ll give you a few examples’. There is one called ‘the hat’: with a light tap you send the ball over your opponent’s head and run round to collect the ball on the other side without letting it touch the ground. There is one which in Brazil we call ‘the cow’. You run with the ball straight at your opponent without slowing down and then quickly knock the ball to one side, run round the other and collect the ball behind him. Or there is the ‘through – the – legs’ dribble: you have to be quick, looking for the right moment when the opponent in front of you has his legs apart. Then you can gently knock the ball between his legs and run round to receive it when it comes clear the other side. The last example is the ‘off-the-legs’ dribble: with a bit of luck you can tap the ball onto your opponent’s legs and then receive it on the rebound! Attackers can feint and dribble many times in a match, the mid-field players a little less and the defenders should only try these tactics in exceptional cases. I’ve seen many players in defense prejudice the safety of their goal by trying to dribble from a defensive position. Finally, don’t forget, to make a good pass to an unmarked team-mate is much more efficient than unnecessary dribbling.