You read the buzz regarding FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer (PES). Then you started to wake up early on Saturday mornings to check out English Premier League games. Slowly but surely the beautiful game dug its claws into you.
If that is the case for you, now is a great time to take advantage of sales and ply your trade on the pitch. But before you do that, it’s best to have a solid understanding of what will incur over the next 90 virtual minutes.
For simplicity's sake, I will separate this article into two areas:
- Before the match
- During the match
Before you even kick the ball, it’s important to understand the basics. When starting a game up, one of your first decisions will center on what formation to utilize. In a nutshell, a formation is how your players will line up on the field.
The great thing about this game is there is no right or wrong answer as to which formation you utilize. To familiarize yourself with formations, take a peek at this handy guide as it will set you off down the right path.
Once you finalize what formation to use, it’s vital to know your players' strengths and weaknesses. Emphasizing their strong points while minimizing their weaknesses is a sound strategy for any sport, especially soccer. Real-life knowledge definitely helps in this area, but with such a large player database available it’s nearly impossible to know everyone.
Instead, take some time to research clubs you already like -- even checking out YouTube videos or live matches will help you understand your squad. If that does not help, the game boasts numerous ratings that can generally tell you how those players will perform if correctly utilized.
Scouting the opposition is just as important to your success as knowing your own players. Identifying dangerous players and where they line up will go a long way towards finding success. In a game where form (recent performances) means everything, it’s helpful to check out the opposition's most recent results to see if you’re going to be playing a team performing at its best.
Now that you’ve set your squad up while peeking at your opponent's team sheet, it’s time to take the pitch.
The basics in soccer have not changed much in the past 100 years. While the implementation of the basics have been tweaked to a certain extent, the game is still about attempting to put the ball into the back of the other team’s net while preventing them from doing the same on your goal. How you achieve that is the essence of the beautiful game.
Like many American sports, soccer is not a rigid game. The flow of the game changes as you progress. Managers must react to these changes. Do you stick to your game plan (also referred to as tactics), or do you mix things up a little bit? Part of your decision will depend on what has transpired so far in the game, but the ability to inject change could completely alter the match.
Conversely, sticking to your guns could also prove fruitful if your initial tactics were correct. In other words, there is a complicated or simple way to look at solutions, and you are the key variable who must decide what direction to go.
Do not be ashamed to use the game’s features to your advantage. Both FIFA and PES offer helpful elements. Both games include a radar, an interactive map detailing your player’s movements. There are also a ton of assistance levels (passing and shooting to name a few) to help you acclimate to the game’s controls.
If that’s not enough, both titles feature tutorials to help build your skills and comfort level. The sport’s action can be quite fast at times, so “stick skills” and the ability to think “one second ahead” can be the key to unlocking success. Time and practice will help with these areas.
When all things fail going forward, you can always rely on a stout defense to help you avoid defeat. A major way to prevent the opposition from scoring is to not chase the ball. As often is the case with youth soccer, your natural inclination will be to blindly chase the ball in an attempt to win it back. At the professional level, this strategy will leave your players vulnerable and fatigued.
Instead of wildly chasing the ball, stick to your formation and close down on players with the ball when they enter your zone. Much like in the NFL, when your defense is stretched, space and holes emerge. Both are deadly in soccer where one chance could determine the outcome of the match.
Another key piece of advice would be to choose your tackles wisely. Constantly mashing the tackle buttons (standing and sliding) could lead to an accumulation of fouls, resulting in either a player being sent off or giving up a free kick in a dangerous area. While there are certain instances where a "professional foul" is wise, it’s generally a good strategy to avoid pounding the tackle buttons as a mistimed tackle could also lead to your defender getting beaten. All-in-all, a sound strategy is to mix up your aggressive play with periods of containment (zone-based principles).
For some of the more die-hard fans out there, what general strategies would you recommend to those wanting to become a better FIFA or PES player?