2 and 3 player core moves in goalscoring

2 and 3 player core moves in goalscoring

If your players have mastered the individual tactics of being able to stay on the ball themselves, then it is a great idea to start looking at how they combine and link with their teammates. Core moves are simple combinations between two or three players that help eliminate defenders and maintain possession. They can take place anywhere on the pitch. Core moves are a great way of thinking ahead of the defenders by enticing them through hiding/disguising your intentions on the ball. But what are they and what do they look like? How can we observe them and help our players know when to use them in game?

At the FA, we have identified 11 core moves. Six of these are considered 2 player core moves, and five are 3 player core moves. Look at the graphics below, how many have you observed happen at the top level of the game, and how often do you see these passing patterns in your own game?

There were fantastic goals scored at the World Cup. From Richarlison’s scissor kick against Serbia to Enzo Fernandez’s curler against Mexico to Cody Gakpo’s thunderous strike against Ecuador.  In total, 128 open play goals were scored at the tournament. 85% of these featured an assist (the final action from a teammate preceding the goal scorer receiving possession of the ball). What is really exciting to see, is that 56% of all open play goals featured at least one core move in the build up to the goal. This means that 72 of the 128 goals contained either a 2 player or 3 player passing combination during the possession where the goal was scored. 60 goals featured at least one, 2 player move, this was 47% of all open play goals - nearly half of all goals! 26 of the 128 goals featured at least one, 3 player move, this was 20% of all open play goals - 1 in 5! What is important to remember, is that some goals can contain more than 1 core move. In fact, 25 goals at the tournament contained 2 core moves. 4 goals contained 3 core moves!! This includes England’s goal v Senegal, where Saka scored after a ‘lending pass’, an ‘up, back and through’ and a ‘diagonal pass, straight run’. You can view this goal here.

But which core moves occurred more frequent in the lead up to the goal being scored?

‘Diagonal pass, straight run’ (20%) and ‘straight pass, diagonal run’ (15%) were the 2 most commonly used 2 player combination moves. Although 3 player moves do happen less frequently than 2 player core moves, a ‘round the corner’ (9%) and ‘lending pass’ (7%) were still very important in the lead up to goals. Are these passing combinations that you see happening when you watch goals being scored?

Check out the video below to observe what goals using these core moves look like and begin to think about how you could develop realistic and relevant practices that put these core moves at the forefront of your planning.

Coaching Considerations

  • Coaches to have the knowledge on WHAT the 2 and 3 player core moves are and HOW they could be performed (technical execution)
  • Coaches to have the knowledge on WHERE they could be used & WHY (skill execution)
  • Younger age groups = less players involved in game formats, but connecting & combining is very much dependent upon ball mastery skills first
  • Older age groups = more players involved in game so importance of coaching observation skills to help players see the possibilities to use a 2 or 3 player move 
  • Consider the diet of practices & games that you are exposing the players to;
    • Playing 2v2's as regularly as possible
    • Playing 3v3's as regularly as possible (...with a 2 player move reminder)
    • Playing 4v4's as regularly as possible (but with a 3 player move focus ...with a 2 player move reminder)
    • Directional with use of goals, target players, end zones.