David Beckham is one of the greatest crossers of all time. “His crossing was unparalleled regardless of variables: hooked, lobbed, whipped, chipped, driven, lifted or curled, bouncing or dead, looped or flat, and from any conceivable body position,” wrote Daniel Harris in his book Manchester United’s Treble.
Being able to cross a soccer ball into the box is an important skill to have in your skillset. Right now, in world soccer, there is an average of 15-18 crosses in one match from one team. That does not mean there are 15 – 18 goals as we typically see 0-1 crosses converted into a goal in a game.
A rare instance in one international game, Italy crossed the ball 51 times into the box versus Sweden. And they converted zero goals from those crosses! Crossing into the box is not the most effective way to score a goal in world soccer right now, but it is one of the most dangerous ways to get the ball into a dangerous area and let your teammates take it from there.
What is a Cross?
A cross is a medium to long-range pass from a wide area. Usually, the wide areas on the field are outside the 18-yard box, on the left and right sides of the field. When we get into these wide spaces, we are looking to serve the ball into the box because it is very difficult for the defenders and goalkeeper to deal with a ball that is getting swung in with speed and force. The ball looks like it is going to the goalie, but then peels away and lands in a dangerous area for our teammates to make a play off.
Wingers cross the ball more than any other position on the field. So, if you are a winger, you need to know how to quickly and accurately cross into the box. You need to cross while running to be effective and you should be able to beat the defender and cross the ball quickly, so it is not blocked.
A majority of crosses are sent to the far post – the post that is farthest away from the crosser. If the ball drops too soon, it can cause issues for your teammates to collect and score. A ball that meets your teammate near the far post can send it back into the goal while the goalkeeper is off-guard.
Most crosses are floated, or in the air, so that the ball clears the nearby defenders. But a ball can also be drilled, or hit on the ground, with force. Again, crossing is a medium to long-range pass from the wide area into the box that gives our teammates a chance on goal.
Three Elements of Crossing into the Box
Before we discuss the three elements of crossing into the box, watch the video clip of Real Madrid versus Barcelona provided by Blayze Pro Coach Mike Semenza. Sergio Ramos demonstrates a perfect cross into the box that leads to a goal.
Ramos is a center back and finds himself in a wide area – which does not happen often for center backs. He does a fantastic job of identifying elements on the field that ultimately assists in a goal for his team. This goal comes out of nowhere, in a split-second, Ramos crosses the ball quickly. This is why our decision-making process has to happen quickly!
Let us break down how he accomplishes his cross. Ramos is in the wide area and has a defender right in front of him. He uses his 1v1 dribbling skills (like we discussed before in another lesson) to beat the defender.
Ramos dips his shoulder and sprints from the defender. At the moment of separation, three things are going through his head. He takes a quick peek up and identifies the three elements he needs to assess to make a cross.
- Defenders and Goalkeepers
- What is their positioning?
- Who are they marking?
- Are they in a dangerous spot?
- How can I keep the ball away from those defenders?
- Where are my teammates?
- Where are the runners?
- Who is marked up?
- Identify the space that your teammates are going to converge, attack, or get into quickly to make a play on the cross.
Of course, Ramos makes this process look easy. It takes years of practice to be able to glance up and locate all three elements for a cross and to make that decision within a split second.
Ramos chooses a driven ball to the PK spot. Ultimately it ends with a header into the goal. It does take practice to perfect this skill so try and get in as many crosses as possible when you can. In a future lesson, we will break down the steps needed to make the perfect cross.
Best Soccer Crosses – the Pros!
David Beckham is amazing at crossing into the box. You can find many clips of his past successes. But other pros to watch include Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City, Gareth Bale from Tottenham Hotspurs F.C., and Angel Di Maria out of Paris Saint-Germain F.C.
Within the MLS, left back Gudi Thorarinsson of New York City FC, leads the MLS with a 45.24% accuracy rate on his crosses. Completing 19 of 42 open crosses – a full 10% higher than Brooks Lennon of Atlanta United. Lennon, a right back, has 32 successful crosses on 89 attempts for a 35.96% accuracy rate. That is a lot of crossing!
Learn More With Blaze!
The secret to mastering any skill is practice! A great way to increase your mastery is through one-on-one coaching sessions. Are you looking to become a stronger player? Could you use direct feedback from a professional coach on how to improve your passing skills or vision on the field?
At Blayze we give you a personalized coaching session from the very best coaches in the world. For a truly unique and personalized feedback experience, submit your performance video to one of Blayze’s highly qualified coaches. The custom-developed coaching session can help you improve your on-field skills, like vision and passing, so you are performing at your very best in every game. One easy click here will take you to more details on our coaching sessions.