How to Cross a Soccer Ball

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Crossing the ball in soccer is an essential skill, and not just for a winger to possess. All positions on the field need to be able to cross a soccer ball properly, and there is a technique to doing it well.

​Why is Crossing the Soccer Ball Important

​A recent analysis of every goal scored in the Premier League during a season showed that almost 26% of goals came from penalties, set pieces, corners, with another 16% of goals came from crosses made in the outer wing positions.

This means that over 40% of goals scored were generated from some form of cross or in-ball. Learning how to properly cross the ball is a tremendously valuable skill set, and essential to scoring goals in today’s football climate.

Front view of a football field with a white soccer ball in the middle

​How to Cross a Soccer Ball

​MYTH: Only wingers need to learn how to cross the ball properly.

Although wingers should deliver a cross properly, they shouldn’t be the only position that can whip a ball in effectively. All soccer positions may have a shot at crossing—except for maybe center backs. You’re never too far into your soccer career to learn how to cross a soccer ball properly.

First and foremost, a cross will look different every time. There is no “perfect way” to cross a ball—it’ll change depending on the situation in the game. However, to learn how to cross a basic ball, just follow these steps.

​1. Approach the Ball at a Curve

​Crossing the ball involves putting the ball into the center area of the field (the box) from an outside position. As such, you need to kick the ball in a perpendicular manner across the field.

Sometimes, you’ll be wanting to cross the ball completely perpendicular, such as when you’re in the corner of the field. The most obvious example of this is when taking a corner kick. Obviously, you don’t want to kick the ball any more forward down the field when crossing it – the ball would be out of bounds at that point!

At other times, you’ll want to cross the ball at less than a 90 degree angle. An example of this would be when you’re bringing the ball down the pitch, and are still a decent ways out from the corner flag. You might see a streaking striker and want to put the ball into them in the box.

In either circumstance, though, you will need to be kicking the ball across the field. As such, when going to cross the ball, approach it at a curve. This curved approach will help you create the perpendicular angle and “whip” to your cross.

Let’s say you are on the right side of the field and want to cross the ball to your left. You should curve your run outward—to the right of the ball. This approach will give you the proper angle to strike the ball at just the right spot. When struck with enough power, the ball will swing to the left.

A man in a white soccer jersey is preparing to do a cross with the soccer ball

​2. Locate Your Target

​It’s crucial that before your high quality soccer cleats for flat feet makes contact with the ball, look up and point out where you want the ball to go. Looking up and spotting your intended target is key to accurate delivery of your cross.

A lot is happening in the build up to crossing a ball. Chances are you are barrelling down the field at full speed, and you might have an opposing defender close by covering you. You might be trying to hit a running teammate in full stride.

All of these things factor in to where your cross is going to need to end up. By looking up and taking note of where you want the ball to go, you will be a lot more accurate.

Don’t fall victim to doing what you see on TV with some of the superstars. While it can seem easy for them to cross the ball without looking, there is a lot going on behind the scenes.

​3. Pinpoint Parts of the Ball

​A soccer ball is divided into separate parts. Making contact with a certain part of the ball will dictate the way it leaves your foot. These are the same techniques you use when passing a soccer ball.

If you want to drive the ball into the box on the ground, you’ll need to make contact right in the middle of the ball. This is a cross that needs power to work its way into the feet of your teammate.

Close up of a white soccer ball in the middle of the field

If you want to pick the ball up in the air, aim for the bottom of the ball. This is often the most popular and common way to cross a soccer ball.

Putting air under your cross will allow it go to travel further. You can also work the ball into spaces that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to. And, it gives your teammate the chance of heading the ball into goal.

If you want it to curve in, meet the ball at an angle on the side closest to you. You’ll still need to add air if you want the ball to travel with lift. In this case, hit the ball at angle while also striking the bottom of it.

​4. Send the Cross and Follow Through

​Just like when you are shooting the ball, you should place your standing foot (the one not crossing the ball) near the ball and approach the ball with your kicking foot.

If you want the cross to be in the air, leave your kicking leg high up in the air to follow through.

If you want the cross low and driven, point your toe downward and follow through with your foot in the intended direction.

​Crossing Tips

​It’s one thing to know how to cross a ball; its an entirely different thing to do it well. Just because you know the steps to take, it will take awhile to get good at crossing. As with all things in soccer, practicing your crosses is vital.

The great thing about practicing your crosses is that you don’t need anyone else to be able to practice. As opposed to passing and even shooting, crossing practice can be done all by yourself.

Here are a few tips to get better at crossing a soccer ball.

​Begin Practicing with a Stopped Ball

​When you’re first beginning, you should practice on a ball that is stationary or one that you’ve slightly tapped away from you. You should be able to master this stationary ball or self-set-up situation before you move on to crossing from an incoming pass or a rolling through ball.

The great thing about practicing with a stopped ball is that you’ll simultaneously be working on free kicks. So many elements of taking a free kick are similar to a cross, and this will allow you to work on your skills with a stopped ball.

Girl in a red jersey with a white soccer ball in a field

In many ways, kicking a stopped ball is harder than a ball that is moving. You have to generate all of the power for the ball movement yourself, without benefiting from its existing movement at all. Either way, though, practicing with a stopped ball will allow you to work on the fundamentals first.

​Make it Realistic

​Once you feel confident in crossing a ball that is stopped, you can elevate the practicing a bit. Set up a drill where you have to beat some defenders before you cross.

Make the drill as realistic and as challenging as possible. Make one move or dribble through cones before having to cross the ball “under pressure,” just like in a real game.

Being able to cross the ball while on the run is a tough skill to master, but one that you can do with practice. Its rare in a game situation to be able to cross the ball from a standing position, so eventually you’re going to have to get good at crossing on the run.

​Aim and Fire

​Although the runs of your teammates are pretty predictable (one will probably run near post, one will hit the penalty mark, and another will go far post), your cross doesn’t have to be.

Practice aiming to different locations in the box to work on your accuracy so when the real-game situation comes, you can get the ball to your teammate running in.

​Pick Out the Proper Teammate

​A very important detail in crossing is to think before you kick. If you see a few players running in the box, you need to be able to read the situation in a matter of seconds. Who will you kick it to, and where will they be when the cross arrives? This is the exact spot you need to kick the ball to.

Pick out the players that are strong in the air, good with a ball drilled at them, or in the best position to score.

A man just kicked a ball and skid on the ground while his teammate and opponents are running behind him

Put the ball in a position where they can do something with it. If you kick the ball too close to the goal, chances are the goalie will grab the ball before your teammate can. If you kick it too far away from the goal, your teammate will have a much harder time of scoring.

As your accuracy improves while playing, single out the player who is most likely to score (whether it’s based on skill-level or situational play) and get the ball to them through a cross. Practice putting the right soccer ball in the right spot, timed to their run.

​Follow Through and Keep Playing

​Don’t think your job is done just because you’ve whipped the ball into the box. You should be ready for the rebound or if the ball comes back at you. You should also be ready to dash back and transition to defense just in case your team loses the ball in the crossing situation.

Soccer is about moves, countermoves, anticipating, and acting before the play has actually happened. Even though you might have played the perfect cross, it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. You are still part of the team and should help your team get the ball in the back of the net.

​Learn How to Cross with Both Feet

​It’s already hard enough to play the perfect cross with pressure on you. However, if you are able to use both feet, you can broaden your horizons a bit and make the entire task much easier.

Let’s say you’re right-footed and play on the left side of the field. With practice, you can improve your crossing skills with both feet. This will help you immensely with versatility in your position and with being a deadly force on the attack.

Man preparing to kick the soccer ball

You’ll also become quite unpredictable since you can play the ball in with both feet. This versatility gives you more of a chance to get through the defender and get the cross off.

​Conclusion

​Learning how to cross the ball is an essential basic in learning how to play soccer—especially if your position calls for it during the game. Learning how to perfect this skill will not only help you perform better as a player, it will also help you get more assists.

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