What do great players like Messi, Ronaldo, and Neymar all have in common? They all have the ability to get past defenders in 1v1 situations. This valuable skill gives their teams a huge advantage in attack and allows them to wreak havoc on opposing defenses.
More often than not, the team that wins the majority of the individual match ups on the field ends up being victorious in the end. That’s why developing 1v1 skills is extremely valuable for players.
In this article we will break down everything coaches and players need to know to become masters of attacking in 1v1 situations. From the basics to keep in mind, to example moves that work great, and even our favorite 1v1 drills to practice- get settled in and we’ll give you all the necessary information to allow players to out-think and outperform their opponents.
Remember These 4 Easy Steps
We recently met up with YouTuber and professional player Will John and asked him to share his top tips for succeeding in 1v1 situations. He breaks it down in this video, and at its core it is surprisingly simple. Do these four things well and you’re well on your way to beating defenders in your individual duals.
1. First touch
A good first touch is the key to starting things off on the right foot (no pun intended). Before the ball comes to you, have a look around and over your shoulder to know what’s around you. This will give you the awareness to know where your teammates and opponents are. As the ball is coming towards you, don’t be flat footed. Be on your toes ready to take the ball in the direction you want. Then once the ball gets there, get it under control and set yourself up to take on the defender or do something positive with it.
2. Pick up speed
In this step you want to gain ground on the defender. By dribbling towards the defender with speed you can make the defender commit to you which opens up space for your teammates around you. If the defender doesn’t commit to you, that makes it easier to dribble past them.
3. Do your move
Sometimes a quick burst of speed is all that’s required to get past a defender. In other cases, you might need to do a move to get by. Every take on artist has at least one or two go-to moves for when they get into head on 1v1 situations. There are three main types of moves that are great here: feints, change of direction moves, and change of pace moves, but we will go into more detail on each of these categories further down. The important thing is executing these moves perfectly, that’s why practicing in 1v1 situations is so important. The best 1v1 players in the world have practiced so much that they can perform moves instinctually based off of a defender’s movements and reactions without even thinking about it themselves.
This last step is arguably the most important as accelerating is key to getting past your marker. In step three, hopefully you were able to sell the fake using your body movements or skill to get the defender slightly off balance. This is the precis moment when the defender is most vulnerable and the most opportune time to try to get by. Explode to blow past the defender and give yourself the space that you worked hard to earn.
In pretty much every step of succeeding in 1v1s, maintaining control of the ball is vital. Before going deeper in to the types of moves one can perform, it’s often valuable to practice overall ball mastery so that you can keep things under control in any situation. Here’s a quick ball mastery routine with some exercises to help you tighten up your touches and stay sharp. Even doing these exercises for just 10 minutes a day can make a huge difference.
3 Main Types of Moves For 1v1 Situations
Feints are a great way to throw a defender off balance by using a body movement when they are in front or behind you. By faking with your body that you’re going to go in one direction, you can get the defender to hesitate and create space on either side.
Examples: lunge, scissor, step-over
2. Change of direction
With change of direction moves, instead of using the body to fake out an opponent, you simply change the direction you’re going with the ball quickly to throw the defender off. Some keys to pulling change of direction moves off are to change direction sharply and keep the ball protected from defenders by keeping your body between them and the ball. Once you’ve created some space, don’t forget to accelerate away.
Examples: inside of the foot cut, outside of the foot cut
Stop-starts involve a change of pace either from slow to fast or fast to slow. These moves can easily be combined with other types of moves. One easy stop-start move is to simply stop and hesitate over the ball to get the defender to slow down, then speed past them when they least expect it.
Examples: The step on, stop and go, pull-push
1v1 Practice Drills & Variations
Straight Up 1v1 To Goal
This is perhaps the simplest and purist form of 1v1 out there. A defender plays a ball out to an attacker who then takes them on and tries to score on goal. This can be played with a large goal and goal keeper or with a mini-goal instead.
1v1 Pick A Side
In this 1v1 variation, set up two mini goals for an attacker to choose from. This is a great drill for players to work on dribbling towards defenders at speed and then decisively going in one direction.
1v1 Battle For The Ball
In a match it’s not always clear cut who has the ball and who doesn’t. That’s why it’s also important for players to win those 50-50 balls to take control. In this competitive 1v1 drill, two players have an equal shot at winning it before trying to score on goal.