If you had to ask any soccer player around, they’d probably say the most used skill in the game is passing. That’s true because if you know how to play the ball after receiving it (not just simply receiving it), then you’ve basically just mastered the game. Every simple play boils down to a pass, any way you look at it…but it’s not that simple, or we’d all be professionals. Someone still has to do all of the running in between those passes.
In general, the players run up when in possession and run back when defending. But there’s a gray area in between, because the ball isn’t exactly lost unless the opposing defenders pass correctly. If the offense can maintain sufficient pressure, the ball can be re-claimed and the upfield running continues (as you will see below).
That’s the danger in counter-attacks: luring the opposing team in to one mistimed pass, suddenly catching them out of position, and capitalizing to celebratory condensations.
The following plays will serve as examples to precisely demonstrate the connection between passing and (of utmost importance) running. (If it’s blocked, click the Watch On YouTube link.)
In case the video gets taken down, make sure to contact me. While that’s getting resolved, attempt to find a recorded version of the game: Real Madrid vs Atlético Madrid 1-1 (2nd Half) April 8, 2017.
47:15 Notice Modric had actually run back to the defensive third, when his position is in attacking midfield. He’s actually providing the defense with support. Remember: it’s okay to not always score, but it’s never okay to get scored on. Safety comes before activity.
Even more surprising is how he makes the longer run back for the ball. Why didn’t the LB just pass the ball to the CDM, then back to Modric?
The run Casemiro would have made would have left him out of position (his main responsibility is defending). Soccer’s not just about running: it’s about making the right runs, properly.
47:30 Perhaps the most important play of them all. The beautiful football played here actually prompted me to write this post. I even turned on the commentary for the game here to confirm my thoughts, but I digress…
The RF does a quick give-and-go to the midfielder, who then crosses into the box.
But notice not three, but FOUR! defenders have to track the RF.
When the midfielder makes the cross (actually a sneaky pass), the LF heads it to the RF. Now it’s all his for the taking, but the goalkeeper made a phenomenal play on that.
He’s not out of the woods after that save, though – Carvajal (the RB) maintains pressure on the defense, and one minor fuck-up could spell disaster if it’s not handled. The theme of who debatably maintains possession is highlighted here.
If there’s one play you must focus on, it’s that one. Solely appreciate it before proceeding further.
47:54 Marcelo makes a beautiful interception! He gives up his position in order to make it, a risky affair. The video quality doesn’t do it must justice, but you can faintly see him signaling to the CB to actually cover for him in case the opponent decides to not pass the ball.
48:37 Some dives really are worth it, and not in the short-term sense of the game. Had Ronaldo actually stayed on his legs, the torque – the twisting force – his body would have placed on his knee could have ended his career. Thankfully he instinctively dove at the last second, and now we get to see some more beautiful football placed for another decade (hopefully).
49:01 You always have to be one step ahead of the game. Oblak did that virginally: as the ball was in the air, he went from “re-position” mode to “HOLY SHIT Benzema’s going for it!” mode. You can tell because he’s switched his movement from shuffling to dashing. His anticipation was pivotal into knocking some sense into his CB, who quite conspicuously fell asleep. (Or does he need some more running to do? That’s up for his manager to talk with him about.)
49:13 Zidane is a tactical genius. It all begins with this speck of a failure:
The RF makes a forward run, opening up space for the CAM to run to on the right. The RB passes a long ball to the RF, but is clearly marked by the CB…or is he? The CB failed to make an adequate clearance, allowing a pass to the CAM into the space the opposing, sleeping midfielder should have been in. Those are some of the calculated risks that foresight involves, and the team brazenly displays it here.
Still, the pass is a little awkward and gives the opposing DM the opportunity to make a clean tackle.
50:30 Even though the LF doesn’t make the cross happen, he preys for a mistake from the CB – which does happen and quite awkwardly. A clear demonstration of when possession is lost to the untrained eye. The theme of who maintains possession, once again, trivially pops up.
As a side remark, I’d like to add that this only takes place within five minutes of professional football. That’s the difference here, gents (and fems): How much foresight and running are you willing to invest in your play?
Let’s face it. No one likes to run, but we all have to if we want to stay in shape. You can lift a barbell all the way, pass to a wall for days, and have the networking ability of Bill Gates – but if you can’t sprint to save your life, you have no business in football.
Anyone remember this unforgettable play? (If it’s blocked, click the Watch On YouTube link.)
With the ball chasing us, it’s a thin, fine line to tread if you decide to skip those thousand meter runs before practice.