Cross (association football)

Last updated
Steven Gerrard crossing the ball in a Premier League match. Stevie G.jpg
Steven Gerrard crossing the ball in a Premier League match.

In association football, a cross is a medium- to-long-range pass from a wide area of the field towards the centre of the field near the opponent's goal. Specifically, the intention of a cross is to directly bring the ball into the box from an angle that allows the attacking forwards to more easily aim for goal with their head or feet. Crosses are generally airborne (floated) to clear nearby defenders, but can also be hit with force along the ground (drilled). It is a quick and effective move.



Crosses are primarily used to create goal-scoring efforts, and form an important repertoire of counter-attacking tactics and wing-play. Players in wide positions, usually wingers, wingbacks and fullbacks, deliver the ball into the penalty box, close to the opponent's goal. Team-mates in the central positions, typically forwards, attempt to volley or deflect the delivered ball with their head or feet, depending on the height of the delivery, towards the goal and hopefully scoring.

As an attacking move, the cross is typically seen when the player is running towards their opponents, so it is easier to use the insole of the "outside" foot (i.e. the right foot if on the right side of the field and vice versa) to deliver the cross. For this reason, it is more common to see crosses from players playing on the same side of the field as their dominant foot (conventional wingers), although it is not uncommon to see talented wingers on opposite wings (inverted wingers) carry out feints and manoeuvres to get into a position where they can cross with the other foot (see Cruijff turn).

Types of crosses

Depending on the intention and skill of the crosser, a cross can be a speculative way to create a half-chance by playing the ball into a dangerous area, or an accurate way to find a team-mate in a more central position, or something in between. In terms of tactics, the crosser can choose whether to initiate a cross from a deeper position (sacrificing angle for a quicker attack), or from a forward position (when the team-mate is more likely to be facing the goal, but may have more defenders around them). Similarly, the crosser can vary the height, speed and curl on the ball to evade defences. Attributes like pace, kicking technique and positional awareness are valuable when looking for good crossers. Similarly, good positioning, heading and volleying attributes and a physical presence allows the target of the cross to stave off defenders and react well to the cross.

Chipped cross

Wade Elliott practicing a chipped cross before the start of a match Wade training cross.jpg
Wade Elliott practicing a chipped cross before the start of a match

In congested spaces inside the penalty box, the ball can be chipped above the defenders towards a teammate, typically by slicing the bottom of the ball with the insole, or striking it against the ground to make it bounce. While the chipped cross takes the ball away from nearby defenders, it sacrifices momentum and results in slower delivery, allowing the defense to respond better, or for the goalkeeper to rush out and gather or smother the ball with their hands.

Normally, this type of cross is implemented when the team has tall players who can win the aerial battle, or when the crosser is near the targeted team-mate, where curving the ball may be impractical.

Inswinging cross

In the "inswinging cross" or "inswinger" (not to be confused with the cricketing term) the player applies curl to the ball when hitting it in-field, causing it to curve towards the goal.

Inswinging crosses usually arise when a player who is right-footed is on the left side of the pitch (or one who is left-footed and is on the right side of the pitch) and prefers to cross with the inside of the dominant foot. Commonly seen among set-plays (where the player can orient himself to kick with his dominant foot on the opposite flank), inswingers are typically aimed at a heading level, in the hope of creating a headed deflection. The curve imparts a momentum towards the goal, with more favorable chances for deflections to result in a goal. On the other hand, the curl may also bring the ball closer to the goalkeeper, allowing them to more easily rush out and gather (or clear) the ball.

Outswinging cross

With "conventional" wingers (that is, wingers playing on the side of their dominant foot), this is the most commonly encountered cross. When directed infield with the insole of the dominant foot, the ball curves slightly away from the goal.

This is a versatile weapon, as the curve can be used to take the ball away from defences and allow the attacker to run onto the ball, or it can be used as an aerial weapon, allowing for more accurately headed shots towards goal.

Grounded cross

The "grounded cross" or "drilled cross" or "cutback" is a cross along the ground, and is one of the easiest ways to deliver the ball into the centre, especially when the attacking side is more adept technically and does not have a physical or aerial presence upfront. Typical tactics may involve pacy wingers capable of cutting in and outrunning the defence, with the intention of delivering accurate crosses into the box from the goal line. Ground crosses can be riskier tactically.

Grounded crosses may also unintentionally arise from poor technique, when the crosser fails to get sufficient elevation from their kick.


As one of the most direct, basic ways of attacking the goal, the cross forms an integral part of wide-play, and allows the attacker to probe for positional weaknesses, stretch out the defence and initiate aerial duels in front of the goal. However, by virtue of it being a medium-to-long-range pass into a (frequently) heavily defended area, crosses can be erratic and can result in loss of possession.

Since the emergence of statistical analysis and strategic ideas like possession-based football and attacking fullbacks, crossing as a tactic has been slowly superseded, [1] with questions on its inefficiency of possession and waning chance conversion ratio at the highest level. While still used occasionally at the highest level, [2] tactics relying on crossing as a "Plan A" tend to be described as "boring" (see Long ball), "naive" or "primitive" [3] (and are contrasted with intricate passing and dribbling technique). Nevertheless, the cross remains a viable tactical option (especially when the attackers are superior in the air) and managers like Sam Allardyce and Tony Pulis have used it as a primary tactic frequently.

In modern football, there currently appear to be fewer players who are adept at crossing the ball as, unlike "traditional wingers", "modern wingers", such as Alexis Sánchez, Lorenzo Insigne or Eden Hazard, tend to play the ball on the ground in order to retain possession, and are typically quick, technically gifted, creative and agile, thus bearing similarities with players who were formerly deployed as supporting strikers or attacking midfielders. [4] Formations that make use of wingers, such as the 4–3–3 and the 4–2–3–1, now often use "inverted wingers" or outside forwards so that players are able to cut into the middle and shoot on goal with their stronger foot, rather than using it predominantly to cross balls into the area for increasingly less-common traditional centre-forwards; when crossing tactics are used, they are usually left to the attacking full-backs or overlapping wing-backs. [5] Traditional wingers, such as Garrincha and David Beckham, have become less common, as a greater emphasis has been placed on dribbling techniques, creativity and "tricks" in modern wingers, rather than crossing. In contemporary 3–5–2 formations and their variants, the wide midfielders are once again replaced by wing-backs to provide width to the team. [6] [7]

Related Research Articles

Field hockey Team sport version of hockey played on grass or artificial turf with sticks and a round ball

Field hockey is a team sport of the hockey family. Each team plays with ten field players and a goalkeeper, and must carry a round, hard, plastic hockey ball with a hockey stick to the rival goal.

Handball Team sport with two teams of seven players each

Handball is a team sport in which two teams of seven players each pass a ball using their hands with the aim of throwing it into the goal of the other team. A standard match consists of two periods of 30 minutes, and the team that scores more goals wins.

Canoe polo, also known as kayak polo, is one of the competitive disciplines of kayaking, known simply as "polo" by its aficionados.

Forward (association football) Association football position played near the opponents goal as known as front striker

Forwards are the players on an association football team who play nearest to the opposing team's goal, and are therefore most responsible for scoring goals.

Midfielder Association football position played on both ends of the field

midfielder is an association football position. Midfielders are generally positioned on the field between their team's defenders and forwards. Some midfielders play a strictly-defined defensive role, breaking up attacks, and are otherwise known as defensive midfielders. Others blur the boundaries, being more mobile and efficient in passing: they are commonly referred to as deep-lying midfielders, play-makers, box-to-box, or holding midfielders. The number of midfielders on a team and their assigned roles depends on the team's formation; the collective group of these players on the field is sometimes referred to as the midfield.

Centre (ice hockey) Ice hockey position

The center in ice hockey is a forward position of a player whose primary zone of play is the middle of the ice, away from the sideboards. Centers have more flexibility in their positioning and are expected to cover more ice surface than any other player. Centers are ideally stronger, faster skaters who can back-check quickly from deep in the opposing zone. Generally, centers are expected to be gifted passers more than goal scorers, although there are exceptions, typically larger centers who position themselves directly in front of the net in order to score off rebounds. They are also expected to have exceptional "ice vision", intelligence, and creativity. They also generally are the most defensively-oriented forwards on the ice. Centers usually play as part of a line of players that are substituted frequently to keep fresh and keep the game moving.

In the sport of association football, a defender is an outfield player whose primary roles are to stop attacks during the game and prevent the opposing team from scoring goals.

There are various individual skills and team tactics needed to play effective association football. Football is in theory a very simple game, as illustrated by Kevin Keegan's famous assertion that his tactics for winning a match were to "score more goals than the opposition". However, well-organised and well-prepared teams are often seen beating teams with supposedly more skillful players, even over time. Coaching manuals and books generally cover not only individual skills but tactics as well. Some of the tactics include using a 4-4-2 formation which is often regarded as the standard formation, a formation of 5-4-1 which is more defensive and a 4-3-3 formation which allows for more attacking play.

An inswinger is a type of delivery in the sport of cricket. It is bowled by swing bowlers.

Association football positions Association football on-field positions

In the sport of association football, each of the 11 players on a team is assigned to a particular position on the field of play. A team is made up of one goalkeeper and ten outfield players who fill various defensive, midfield, and attacking positions depending on the formation deployed. These positions describe both the player's main role and their area of operation on the pitch.

In certain sports, such as football, field hockey, ice hockey, handball, rugby union, lacrosse and rugby league, winger is a position. It refers to positions on the extreme left and right sides of the pitch, or playing field. In American football and Canadian football, the analogous position is the wide receiver. Wingers often try to use pace to exploit extra space available on the flanks that can be made available by their teammates dominating the centre ground. They must be wary however of not crossing the touchline, or sidelines, and going out of play. In sports where the main method of scoring involves attacking a small goal in the centre of the field, a common tactic is to cross the ball to a central teammate.

Rugby league gameplay

Like most forms of modern football, rugby league football is played outdoors on a rectangular grass field with goals at each end that are to be attacked and defended by two opposing teams. The rules of rugby league have changed significantly over the decades since rugby football split into the league and union codes. This article details the modern form of the game and how it is generally played today, however rules do vary slightly between specific competitions.

Playmaker Playing role in association football

In association football, a playmaker is a player who controls the flow of the team's play, and is often involved in offensively and defensively play passing moves which lead to goals, through their vision, technique, ball control, creativity and passing ability.

Comparison of American football and rugby union

A comparison of American football and rugby union is possible because of the games' shared origins, despite their dissimilarities.

Volley (association football) Air-borne strike in association football

A volley is an air-borne strike in association football, where a player's foot meets and directs the ball in an angled direction before it has time to reach the ground. A volley can be extremely hard to aim and requires good foot-eye coordination and timing.

Rugby union gameplay

Rugby union is a contact sport that consists of two teams of fifteen players. The objective is to obtain more points than the opposition through scoring tries or kicking goals over eighty minutes of playing time. The play is started with one team drop-kicking the ball from the halfway line towards the opposition. The rugby ball can be moved up the field by either carrying it or kicking it. However, when passing the ball it can only be thrown laterally or backward. The opposition can stop players moving up the field by tackling them. Only players carrying the ball can be tackled and once a tackle is completed the opposition can compete for the ball. Play continues until a try is scored, the ball crosses the side line or dead-ball line, or an infringement occurs. After a team scores points, the non-scoring team restarts the game at the halfway with a drop kick toward the opposition. The team with the most points at the end loses the game.

Rugby union is a team sport played between two teams of fifteen players.

This list of rugby league terms is a general glossary of the terminology used in the sport of rugby league football. The sport has accrued a considerable amount of jargon to describe aspects of the game. Many terms originate from the Laws of the Game. A number of aspects of the game have more than one term that refers to them. Different terms have become popularly used to describe an aspect of the game in different places with notable differences between the northern and southern hemispheres.

Glossary of Australian rules football Wikipedia glossary

This list is an alphabetical glossary of Australian rules football terms, jargon and slang. While some of these entries are shared with other sports, Australian rules football has developed a unique and rich terminology.

There are various individual skills and team tactics that are required to play Australian rules football effectively. These are dictated by tradition and the sport's laws.


  1. Jonathan Clegg (5 June 2014). "Are Outdated Soccer Tactics a Cross to Bear? Possession is the Way to Goal". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  2. "World Cup 2014: group stage, day 1". 13 June 2014. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  3. Barney Ronay (14 February 2014). "Why David Moyes has many crosses to bear at Manchester United". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  4. Colman Corrigan. "The decline of the old-fashioned winger". Archived from the original on 7 July 2015. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
  5. "The Question: Why are so many wingers playing on the 'wrong' wings?". The Guardian. 24 March 2010. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  6. "Antonio Conte out to reshape Italy blueprint". Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  7. "What Manchester United need to do to make 3-5-2 work". Retrieved 27 January 2015.