This is an excerpt from Soccer: STS-4E by Joseph Luxbacher.
Receiving Flighted Balls
Four body surfaces—the instep, thigh, chest, and head—are commonly used for receiving and controlling balls arriving through the air. The choice of surface depends on the flight trajectory of the ball and the position of nearby opponents. In all situations you must be able to receive and control the ball skillfully and, if an opponent is nearby, protect the ball as you do so. As is the case when receiving ground passes, your first touch of the ball is critical. You can put yourself at an immediate disadvantage with a poor first touch, or gain a decided edge on your opponent with a great first touch.
Receiving With the Instep
A ball dropping from above can be collected on the instep surface of the foot (shoelaces) (figure 3.3). Anticipate where the ball will drop and move quickly to that spot. Square your shoulders and hips to the ball and raise the receiving foot approximately 12 inches (30.5 cm) off the ground. At the same time, extend and position the receiving foot parallel to the ground. As the ball arrives, withdraw your foot downward. This action cushions the impact and drops the ball at your feet.
The ball bounces up and away from your control.
This error probably occurred because you elevated your foot as the ball arrived. Raise your receiving foot early, position it parallel to the ground, and then withdraw it downward the instant the ball contacts the instep. This action will cushion the impact and drop the ball within your range of control.
The ball spins back into your body.
This likely occurred because the receiving foot was angled back and improperly positioned, and you were probably leaning back. Extend your receiving foot so that it is parallel to the ground as the ball arrives. Receive the ball on the full instep, with your head down, vision focused on the ball, and upper body erect.
Figure 3.3 Receiving With the Instep
- Move into position to receive ball.
- Raise receiving foot approximately 6 to 12 inches (15.2 to 30.5 cm) off ground.
- Firmly position receiving foot parallel to ground.
- Flex knee of supporting leg.
- Extend arms out to sides for balance.
- Keep head steady with vision on ball.
- Collect ball on flat surface of instep.
- Withdraw receiving foot downward as ball arrives.
- Drop ball to ground.
- Maintain close control.
- Push ball into open space.
- Position head up with vision on field.
Receiving With the Thigh
The mid-thigh area can also be used to receive and control a ball dropping from above, or a ball traveling directly at you at approximately waist height (figure 3.4). Anticipate the flight path of the ball and move to intercept it. If you are tightly marked by an opponent, position your body between the defender and the ball as the ball arrives. Raise your receiving leg so that your thigh is nearly parallel to the ground prior to the ball's arrival. Flex the supporting leg at the knee with arms out to the sides for balance. Receive the ball on the large surface of your mid-thigh. To cushion the impact, withdraw the receiving surface downward as the ball arrives. This action will drop the ball to the ground within your range of control.
Figure 3.4 Receiving With the Thigh
- Move into position to intercept ball's flight path.
- Raise receiving leg with thigh almost parallel to ground.
- Bend supporting leg at knee.
- Keep arms out to sides for balance.
- Watch ball.
- Receive ball on mid-thigh.
- Withdraw thigh downward.
- Drop ball at feet within range of control.
- Control ball into space away from challenging opponent.
- Keep head up for good field vision.
The ball bounces upward off your thigh.
Raise your receiving leg and thigh into the proper receiving position just prior to the arrival of the ball. Withdraw your leg downward as the ball contacts your thigh.
An opponent tackles the ball away from you as it drops to the ground.
Position your body to protect the ball from opponents as it arrives. Your first touch should guide the ball into the space away from a challenging defender.
Read more from Soccer: Steps to Success by Joseph Luxbacher.