Close control refers to the skill of keeping the ball firmly under control and close to your body – usually when running with the ball but also controlling the first touch of the ball. This is important in a match situation as it keeps possession, for example if your first touch when receiving the football is poor, the other team will be more likely to regain possession and break down any attack. It also creates space and allows you to beat defenders.
If your close control is not up to scratch, defenders will easily be able to cut across your path and win the ball back. There is nothing more frustrating than watching a midfielder play a stunning pass towards a forward in the box, creating a possible goal-scoring opportunity, only for the forward to employ a poor first touch and force the ball out for a goal kick to the opposite team.
To improve your close control, there are several techniques to help:
- 1. Create an obstacle course with obstructions at various distances and angles. Run with the ball as fast as you can, keeping the ball close to your body and coming to a complete stop at each obstruction.
- 2. Simply run in a straight line with the ball as fast as you can, ensuring that the ball does not stray more than 50cm away from your foot.
- 3. Run with the ball but move it from foot to foot using both the inside and the outside of the foot – lowering your centre of gravity for this drill will make it easier.
Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo was voted Player of the Season last year and arguably the most important part of his game is close control and his ability to beat defenders, even in tight situations. The following is a video showing how important close control is to his game