In the period between August 2022 and August 2023, Caicedo not only starred for her country at both the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2022™ and the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup India 2022™, but she also started all five of Colombia’s matches at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™, where she weighed in with two goals as Las Cafeteras made it through to the last eight. The Real Madrid forward is renowned for her lightning speed, mesmerising close ball control, as well as an innate ability to ghost past defenders and create space when it appears that there is none. During her maiden FIFA Women’s World Cup™ campaign, the fresh-faced 18-year-old demonstrated her ability to dazzle on the greatest stage in the women’s game as she strutted her stuff against some of the finest players on the planet.
As illustrated in the clips below, Caicedo’s ability to shift the ball using different parts of both feet to deceive defenders is a signature skill that makes her a truly exceptional forward player.
Running with the ball at speed requires the player to be able to take deft touches with the front part of the foot (toes pointing down) to keep the ball close to them, without the need to break their stride. The player should also be capable of doing this while keeping their head up to see the game ahead of, and around, them.
Running at a defender with the ball using the front part of the foot makes the player unpredictable, especially when they are able to perform sharp directional changes with the inside or outside of the same foot. Using the front of the foot makes it hard for the defender to read where the attacker is going. If the defender commits to showing the attacking player in one direction, the player can quickly move in the opposite direction.
When a player has the ability to use the inside and outside of both feet with speed, control and accuracy, they can move the defender in one direction, forcing them to plant their feet and body shape. The attacking player can then shift the ball to their opposite foot to advance into the space created by overcoming or committing the defender. Using the inside or outside of their foot in the secondary action determines how much space the attacking player is able to create.
When Caicedo runs with the ball, she nudges and guides it forward using the front of her right foot, with her toes pointing down towards the ground. By using this technique, she is able to advance at speed without having to break her stride after making contact with the ball, which makes it very difficult for defenders to keep pace with her when she accelerates with the ball. She also keeps her head up to allow her to see and evaluate the bigger picture, enabling her to consider and decide on her next action.
In the example below, we see Caicedo deploy this front-foot technique as she approaches an England defender. Given that she is advancing straight towards the defender and is using the front part of her foot, the defender is unable to predict in which direction she will go. As soon as the defender’s feet are planted square-on, it presents Caicedo with the opportunity to change direction and dart into space.
These three movements take place in the space of a second and require great strength and agility in the hips, knees and ankles. These skilful, athletic actions can be seen in full effect in the clips below, in which Caicedo demonstrates her ability to run with the ball and beat defenders.
Front of foot to outside of foot when running towards a defender
Another tactic that Caicedo commonly uses to deceive defenders when running at them with the ball is to perform sudden directional changes, in which she switches from moving the ball with the front of her foot to the outside of her foot. This requires great ankle strength and agility and is extremely difficult to defend against.
When Caicedo sees that a defender has both feet planted, or that they are committed to moving in one direction, she quickly shifts the ball into space by cutting outwards with the outside of her foot.
Inside foot cut when running alongside a defender
Caicedo’s technical excellence also allows her to cut inside a defender, sending them the wrong way and giving them no chance to adjust their body shape to halt her progress. As illustrated in the examples below, she is capable of overcoming defenders who stay with her as she runs alongside, instead of towards, them. In these situations, the defender is fully committed to running in the same direction as Caicedo. By using the inside of her foot to cut back into the space the defender has just vacated, she is able to eliminate opposition players from her pathway.
The clips below offer some examples of how Caicedo uses this technique with both her right and left foot. Because the defender is running at speed, it is virtually impossible for them to stop and change direction quickly enough to keep pace with her.
Switching between both feet to commit defenders
As we have seen, Caicedo has the ability to use either foot to deceive defenders. However, she is also capable of using both feet in quick succession to eliminate opponents, demonstrating her fine technical balance. This technique is particularly effective when she is inside the opposition’s penalty area, as it allows her to bypass more than one defender and create the space to make an unopposed attempt on goal. Again, ankle strength and agility are key physical components in the execution of this complex technique, which requires huge amounts of practice to master.
The two clips below provide us with examples of Caicedo using this skill to beat defenders inside the opposition’s penalty area and create opportunities to make an attempt on goal. In the second example, taken from the group-stage meeting against Germany, Caicedo eliminates two defending players before scoring one of the best goals at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™.
When up against organised and structured defences, space is often at a premium for attacking players in the final third. Having a player who possesses the ability to deceive and eliminate defenders can prove to be game-changing. The technical footwork skills that Caicedo has mastered make her a difference-maker for both Real Madrid and Colombia. Her ability to run with the ball at great speed and to use different parts of both feet to commit defenders and change direction allows her to create time and space in situations in which there is none. Her strength, agility, vision and speed of decision-making give her the capacity to create moments of real magic that excite her team-mates and fans alike.