#Speed of the game

Part 1: Introduction

Tony Colbert, 08 Nov 2021


This series of articles is about highlighting and discussing in detail the individual qualities underpinning the art of ball reception to distribution.

High-tempo football fluidity is something all lovers of the game crave, be it the speed of a player powering forward with athletic dynamism, eluding challenges while demonstrating exquisite technique with the ball glued to their feet, the visual poetry of a devastating, rapid-fire counter-attack, or the simplicity of the ball zipping across the playing surface as a team being pinged from one player to another with purpose and intent.

One key denominator that facilitates all that is speed, is player time on the ball, reception to distribution. In this regard, a poor receiving position, unawareness, hesitancy and bad decision-making can slow down the game, while clever movement, awareness, decisiveness and appropriate decision-making can speed it up. Conversely, sometimes the deliberate slowing of the game can have the outcome of speeding it up. Taking an extra touch to delay the timing of a pass for a run in behind is a simple illustration of this concept.

A game tempo necessity that cannot be compromised on is a player's technical ability when receiving the ball, making it possible to control and manipulate high-tempo passes in an instant, absorb or reflect the weight of the pass, and dictate the ball’s path to optimise game advantage. 

If you cannot control a fast ball, your team will not play the ball fast.

FIFA technical observer Hesterine de Reus, referring to Japan's quality at speed during the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup™

Reus' comment is linked to one of the many ball reception attributes required for footballers' "quality skill set".

: Fuka Nagano (L) of Japan is challenged by Jaelin Howell of the United States during the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup France 2018 group C match between USA and Japan at Stade Guy-Piriou on August 6, 2018 in Concarneau, France.
Japan managed to oust the USA at the 2018 edition of the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup™

This series of articles is about highlighting and discussing in detail the quality underpinning the art of ball reception to distribution and key aspects (within the overall quality) that have a major impact on the speed of the game. Using footage from recent FIFA tournaments, we will show some exceptional examples and highlight the complexity behind a player's ball reception to distribution skill set.

We will emphasise how this set of key technical and tactical attributes promotes quick and decisive decision-making, efficiency, creativity and unpredictability. Such attributes can give rise to commanding technical authority and have an incredible influence on game tempo and the carving out of technical and tactical opportunities, even in some of the most obscure in-match situations, while making the complexity of these look simplistic.

Each article within the series of four will focus on emphasising and bringing to life one of the many attributes that comprise a great ball reception to distribution skill set. The video footage will show many qualities involved in a sequence of decisive action. Our aim is to shine a spotlight on one specific quality within the action, discussing its contribution in a thought-provoking way and trying to reinforce some takeaway points for the readers.

We will explore the following individual qualities that have a major impact on the art of ball reception to distribution:

Alertness and anticipation
The spark to be one step ahead of the game (article 2)

Spatial, positional and peripheral awareness (SPPA)
The basic framework for game understanding and tactical application (article 3)

Technical awareness and coordination
The quality of technique, the foundation of all that is football (article 4)

The complete skill set
Embodied by the minimalistic art form of one-touch football (article 5)

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