It’s been put forth in America, by a misunderstanding contingent, that soccer is a boring sport.
“Nobody scores!” they cry.
“Games go by with one or two goals!”
I used to echo these criticisms myself, but then I realized something: that’s kind of the point.
The fact that goals in soccer are so hard to come by makes them the most meaningful type of score in just about any sport. After all, you wouldn’t say that the NBA is the most exciting sport based solely on the fact that each team scores about 50 times per game. The ability for one goal to change everything means that every second on the pitch unmissable. A team bringing the ball close to the opposing net makes for edge-of-your-seat tension among the fans of both clubs. And that moment when a goal finally arrives is one of unrivaled emotion.
Soccer in video games is no different. Outplaying your opponent on the pitch and pulling off a well-constructed goal can be immensely satisfying, but to those who lay hands on FIFA for the first time, the concept can be harder to comprehend then the stock market. Scoring can seem a fine art and names on the leaderboard the Picassos of our modern era. To get the most out of FIFA, you want to make sure you have what it takes to compete with anyone on the pitch.
In past years with FIFA, players would often find one or two formations that stood head and shoulders above the rest and could be applied to any team. This year however, it’s crucial to tailor formations to the specific players on your team and to your personal playing style. While the 4-3-3 might work wonders for Marseille, for example, it could set Manchester United up for another Man City-style drubbing unless you really have a handle on it. A team with a variety of offensive talent like Manchester United will want to stretch the game with formations like the 4-2-2-2, while more defensive-minded squads will be rewarded for sticking with conservative formations designed to work off the counter attack.
Playing with Personality
One of the main features in FIFA 12 is Pro Player Intelligence. It’s a maturation of Personality Plus in previous iterations, and among other things, it means some players will possess certain gameplay traits that give them an edge in specific situations. For example, tall players like Peter Crouch might have the “aerial threat” trait which improves their heading ability when in traffic with opponents. Crossing the ball into the box to set up a contested header will work much better with Crouch than, say, David Villa, who doesn’t possess the trait but would have a similar header rating in normal circumstances.
This principle works the same way for elite strikers like Wayne Rooney who have traits like Long Shot Taker and Distance Shooter. Manage to get these guys into open space with a clear look at the goal, and the forecast for lightning strikes gets a whole lot better.
Possessing and Passing
Scoring chances just don’t appear out of nowhere as is drawn from a hat; they’re often the product of a carefully orchestrated passing attack and a stalwart possession strategy.
There are two principle possession strategies that can be employed provide your team with ample scoring opportunities. One is two hold the ball primarily in the backfield and wait until you draw the defense out of position to initiate a break. While this style isn’t ideal for an entire game, identifying the right time for it – say, when you notice an opponent trying to double up every single pay carrier – can pay off remarkably.
Another way to manage possession is to draw inspiration from teams like Barcelona who aim to maximize time on the ball in the opposing third of the pitch, while finding space along both flanks and middle ground. A good rule of thumb is to use the midfield as a safety net, passing the ball back out if your options dry up and using the new space to find another opportunity. Once you get into the final third, however, you’re facing the teeth of the opposing team’s defense. It’s here that extensive passing skills are crucial for setting up a goal.
The default pass sends the ball directly to the player that’s indicated by either your gesture on the directional pad or your player’s momentum. However, anytime a teammate has some space to work with, a through pass can be your best friend and is downright lethal when sent into a one-on-one setup. FIFA also gives you the ability to attempt a lofted pass which can be used to find an open player whose path is obstructed by a defender. It’s similar in appearance to a cross, but is meant for more tight spaces further out from the goal.
With all three of these passes though, patience is the main skill. If no one is open, continue to move around and avoid defenders while waiting for something to develop.
Shoot to Thrill
Take it from Fernando Torres, all the tools in the world are meaningless if you don’t have the ability to finish and guide the ball into the back of the net. As with a sawed-off shotgun in Gear of War, the closer you are the better, and any chance of even the best shot going in is conditional to position on the pitch. However a big change to FIFA 12 this year is the fact that goals can still come from any place at any time.
The default shot is activated by a simple touch of the shot button and can be used in both near and far proximities. Getting some power behind the shot is ultimately determined by the run up a player can get to the ball after a touch, but it can further be modified by how long you hold down the shot button.
Finesse shots in FIFA 12 can be activated by pressing the finesse shot button in conjunction with the regular shot button. These beauties sacrifice power for panache and not only feature a higher level of accuracy but can bend at ridiculous angles off the foot of a skilled striker. If you find yourself inside the penalty box with time for a proper shot setup, the finesse shot is definitely the way to go.
At certain times a ball will come into the box and your player will find himself faced with the prospect of taking it in the air and making a shot. This is where acrobatic shots play a nice roll in FIFA 12. By pressing LT for the Xbox 360 controller or L2 for the Playstation 3, you can initiate an acrobatic shot in the form of a bicycle kick, diving header, or jump shot. The percentage chance on these shots tends to be rather low, and you’ll have to be in just the right position. The ability to set one up though is a great complement to your offensive arsenal.
Here’s a brief video from Youtube user, XxJamesHD that demonstrates various ways to score in FIFA 12. I’m not sure I would take the “Success Rate” numbers too seriously, but it does provide a good picture of when and where different shots can be employed.
Got any of your own strategies you’d want to share with us? Think we left something out? Sound off in the forums or the comments below.