Bending the ball is intimidating for players to first learn because it’s so different from the other ways to pass or shoot. It’s not easy to teach to a large group, which is one reason 99% of players never learn it. It takes detailed teaching and correction, but once you learn the mechanics and parts of the foot to use the progression happens fast. Bending is very useful for all player positions. The key is being introduced to it and then if you practice you’ll get it down. There are many different ways to bend the ball so take a look below to learn.
Why is bending the ball useful in soccer?
There are many reasons bending the ball helps you. It allows you to release the ball early. You can get out of tight situations. Almost like a no look pass in basketball, you can pass/shoot where you’re not looking. It’s all about having that extra option to pass or shoot the ball.
You have to learn this on your own and that is why Global Futbol Training has been so successful. We teach 100% technical training because club coaches don’t have time, knowledge or ability. I believe skills like bending need to be introduced and worked on by age 11 or 12 at least. This way players know how to practice at home.
Players who only know how to pass or shoot the ball using a push pass or laces are missing out. This would mean you are only able to kick the ball where they are facing. Passing where you are facing is great and is what many coaches ask their players to do, but you don’t want to be predictable. Being able to kick the ball where you are not facing is next level. With this you are able to catch the other team by surprise with no look passing, which gives your teammates more time on the ball.
Disguising your pass by bending the ball
One of the main reasons you want to know how to bend the ball is to disguise your pass or shot. When using the top of the foot (laces) or inside of the foot (push pass) you face and follow through to the target. When bending the ball inside or outside the ball doesn’t go to where you follow through.
Your follow through just means where your foot and leg goes when kicking. It doesn’t mean the ball has to go where you follow through, especially when bending the ball. The advantage to this is the defenders and keepers can’t read where you’re going to kick. Once the ball has been kicked it’s too late for them to react. This means more goals and passing completions for you.
Bending ball inside of the foot
For older players ages 13+ bending with the inside needs to be up there with learning laces. Though younger ages even down to age 7 need to at least be introduced to bending. The reason why is because most kids are natural at either laces or bending. So when a kid is naturally better with the inside, they will struggle for a long time with laces. Maybe forever because that’s how hard bending and laces can be.
Bending the ball with outside of the foot
Bending the ball using the outside of your foot is very useful. Learning it takes a few minutes as you have to know what part of the foot to use, part of the ball to kick, where to follow through and how to angle your foot. Once this happens all it takes is repetition and correction. It only takes a few minutes to learn if it’s a private lesson or small group.
Watch below how high school varsity player and college recruit follows through at me, but the ball goes into the goal. The cool and useful part is defenders or keepers can’t tell that the ball is going to go where it does. The follow through confuses the opponents, allowing you to disguise passes.
Bending the ball to curve around opponents
When you think of bending the ball, you think of bending the ball around the wall into the goal. But really you will bend the ball more as a pass. Every single position will use this kicking style in soccer/football. I don’t know how I would play soccer without knowing how to bend the ball.
In youth soccer the coaches want you to first know how to strike using the laces. I agree with this order. Bending the ball is something you need to learn and practice because you can use it a lot. Another reason is players are usually more natural at striking with the top of the foot or inside to get bend. I think it’s important to become good at both, but even more important to know which one your are better at for now. Then you can practice both ways to become that multi threat.
Free kicks / set pieces
Similar to corner kicks, the higher level players bend the ball on free kick and set pieces. On free kicks you can bend the ball around the goalie to score goals. The most dangerous (best) place to take a free kick is down the middle, just outside the 18 yard box. The best pro players bury these often.
Free kicks outside towards the corner almost become more of a set piece. Free kicks can be set pieces technically, but are usually when it’s an attempted shot.
Set pieces are when it’s probably going to be a pass, but could be a shot to surprise the keeper.
Corner kicks bending the ball is best
If you watch college or pro soccer you will notice that on the corner kicks, players bend the ball 95% of the time. This makes it hard for goalkeeper and defenders to deal with. What you want to do is bend the ball away from the goalie. This way it comes towards your teammate who is making a run at the goal.
The bend from a corner kick away from the goal gives the finisher more power on the header. You can also bend it in towards the goal, so that you can accidentally or on purpose score a goal. For younger players especially, you will see them scoring goals on accident. They try to just cross the ball and end up bending it on accident into the goal.
Bending helps you have a quick release
Here’s how bending the ball allows you to disguise your pass. When the ball is in front of you and fairly close you strike the ball on the very edge with the inside of your big toe and bunion. Follow through with your leg straight, but the ball ends up redirecting. You can really see the bend on the long balls versus the shorter passes/shots. You don’t use this technique to look cool, rather to be able to have more passing options to have a quicker release.
Goalkeepers have a hard time saving bending balls for 2 main reasons. 1) The main reason keepers have a hard time with bending balls is it literally can curve around their fingers. 2) The player who shoots the ball can be facing the corner and still bend the ball towards the goal. Doing keeps the goalie from reading what’s about to happen.