Whilst it doesn’t get all the same glory as other parts of the game, tackling is one of the most essential skills that every player should know about.
Regardless of whether you’re a defender or forward, you’ll find yourself needing to make multiple tackles on your opponent throughout a match.
That’s why we’ve compiled this handy guide to go over the basics of tackling, explain the different varieties, and leave you a much more effective defensive player in your team!
Table of Contents
What is a tackle in soccer?
It will probably seem obvious for those that know a lot about soccer but it’s worth going over exactly what a tackle is to avoid making fouls on the field.
The basic aim of a tackle is to kick the ball away from the feet of an attacking player, without making contact with the player.
The main way a defender will make a foul in a soccer match is by missing the ball and accidentally kicking the attacking player’s leg.
What punishments are there for a bad tackle?
You’re probably aware of the yellow and red card system that exists in soccer. Well, there are specific classifications for how these should be given out based on bad tackles that result in a foul.
These classifications will vary depending on the league rules and level of competition but the overall rules set out by FIFA’s ‘Laws Of The Game’ state this:
- A careless challenge will result in a free kick or penalty kick and nothing more.
- A reckless challenge will result in a caution (yellow card) for the offender and nothing more.
- The use of excessive force in a challenge will result in a dismissal (red card) for the offender.
Here, you can see how important it is to remain in control of your body while making a soccer tackle and to only use an appropriate amount of force to avoid repercussions from the referee.
Standing tackle vs sliding tackle
These are the two basic categories you can use to define a soccer tackle and they’re both used frequently throughout a match.
Standing tackles are much more common and require significantly less risk. A standing tackle is simply made while the defender is stood up, by sticking a leg out to where the ball is.
The main benefit of a standing tackle is that you can recover quickly when one fails because you’ll still be on your feet, ready to try again. The only downside is that you can only cover a small circle of the area around you with a standing tackle.
Sliding tackles are pretty much exactly what they sound like. A defender will stretch their tackling leg out as far as they can to make contact with the ball.
They’ll use their momentum from running to slide their whole body across the ground to allow them to stretch their leg even further than normal.
Of course, this is great for catching an opposition player who might be trying to sprint past you. If you don’t think you can outrun them, a sliding tackle might do the trick.
The main disadvantage of a sliding tackle is the risk of getting it wrong. Not only will a missed sliding tackle leave you on the floor, unable to try again, but you’ll also be at a greater risk of committing a serious foul if you get it wrong.
This is a type of standing tackle that you’ll definitely see several times in any professional soccer match.
As the name suggests, your aim with this type of tackle is to poke the ball quickly away from the attacker’s feet.
This requires a quick, single movement of your tackling foot to make contact with the ball using your toe.
It’s important to bring your foot back quickly after making the tackle so that you won’t risk tripping your opponent if you miss the ball.
This is a pretty effective type of tackle because there isn’t a lot of risk involved and the movement can be done very quickly, even before the attacker realizes they’re being tackled!
This is the last main type of tackle you’ll see in every soccer match. With this method, you won’t try to take the ball away from your opponent, rather you’ll pretty much wait for your opponent to dribble the ball to you.
Basically, instead of sticking your leg out towards the ball, you’ll try to put your leg or foot in a place where you think the ball will go.
This works particularly well when an attacker is dribbling towards you to try and get past. They’ll almost always try to go left or right around you so you’ll need to predict which way they’ll go and stick your leg out in that direction.
The best defenders will wait for the attacker to make their move in either direction and act quickly in response, creating a barrier with their body that the opponent can’t dribble past.
Dos and don’ts of tackling in soccer
Like we said before, there are plenty of ways you can get a tackle wrong and end up committing a foul so here are a few things to bear in mind while making a tackle:
- Work out where your teammates are – If there are no teammates behind you to help out if you miss your tackle, you should avoid doing anything risky like a sliding tackle and try to stay on your feet.
- Read your opponent’s body language – This is a skill that will come with practice. You want to be able to work out how your opponent will try to dribble past you so that you can position your body appropriately to make the tackle.
- Stay strong – There’s no point in making a tackle if your opponent can just muscle their way through you anyway. This type of behavior won’t always be called as a foul so you’re better off keeping yourself solid and strong whenever you make a tackle.
- Shadow the attacker – This is something you should do whenever an attacking player is running straight at you, towards your own goal. Try to run backwards, always keeping an eye on the attacker, and move in the same direction they do. This way, you’ll be like their shadow and they won’t be able to get past you. Then, you can choose the perfect time to make your tackle.
- Tackle with both feet off the ground – Remember, you need to be in control of your body at all times to safely make a tackle. You can’t do this with both feet off the ground so the ref will call a foul against you for doing this.
- Tackle from behind – If the attacking player has their body in between you and the ball, it can be a clever way to draw in a foul. Don’t fall for it by trying to tackle through them but get your body or just your foot around the opponent.
- Tackle with studs showing – What this basically means is tackling with the bottom of your foot (where the studs on your cleats are) pointing towards your opponent’s leg. This can result in a serious injury if you get it wrong so you should always keep your studs pointed towards the ground while making a tackle.
Best tacklers in world soccer
If you want some visual examples of what great tackling looks like, you should definitely try to watch some videos of these professional soccer players:
- Virgil Van Dijk – This big Dutch defender is well-known for staying cool and calm under pressure. He always shadows the attacking player well and waits for the perfect time to strike.
- Radja Nainggolan – The Belgian midfielder is famous for developing his own style of sliding tackle. Instead of using the sliding tackle to kick the ball away from the attacker, Nainggolan bends his leg around the ball to take it away from his opponent and keep it under his control. It really is incredible!
- Phillipp Lahm – This iconic German defender was one of the best players in the world at one point in his career. He is well-known for going over a year without committing a single foul between 2014 and 2015. He is a great example of how to tackle effectively and without ever endangering an opponent or risking giving away a free kick or penalty.
Those are all the basic types of tackle that every good soccer player should know about.
Of course, just like any other skill in the game, getting these tackles right will take a whole lot of training and practice.
However, once you’ve pulled them off enough times, you’ll spend less time focusing on your technique during a match and more time focusing on reading your opponent and being an even better defender!