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FIFA 18 beginner’s guide

Breaking down the basics of passing, defending, shooting and more

EA Vancouver/Electronic Arts

FIFA 18, much like soccer in the real world, is much more complicated than it appears. In this guide we will break down the basics, giving your club a great foundation. With each aspect of the game, we have given our recommendation on which skill game will most accurately simulate situations you will see in an actual match. Practice those, and you will have all of the tools you need to score goals and win trophies.

Passing

Passing is the essence of the Beautiful Game, and mastering it is absolutely essential in FIFA 18. Quick and efficient passing of the ball will help you open up an opponent’s defense and give you ample scoring opportunities. The following are some of the different tools at your disposal, along with what skill challenge you should use to practice them. Master each technique, and you will be tearing up defenses in no time.

Short pass, X/A (Advanced Ground Pass Skill Challenge)

Quick and accurate short passes are the key to success in FIFA 18. If you can master the difficult Advanced Ground Pass Skill Challenge, you will have an immense advantage in online and offline play. Short passes are relatively slow, so only use them when your teammate is open and close by, preferably facing where the ball is being passed from.

Driven ground pass, hold R1/RB and press X/A (Advanced Ground Pass Skill Challenge)

This pass is powerful but not for close range, as your players will have trouble controlling it with their first touch. It is most effective when passing over a third of the width of the field and is more reliable than a cross or lob pass to change the side of the field you are playing on. If a defender is nearby, hold L2/LT when receiving a driven pass to help control and shield the ball. Use this when attacking down the middle so that the ball goes directly to your striker and not flying past them into the arms of the goalkeeper.

Flair pass, hold L2/LT and press X/A (Ground Pass Skill Bronze)

On top of looking fancy, this pass can be surprisingly useful. A flair pass usually takes longer to perform than a simple short pass, so it can throw off your opponent’s rhythm. If used as a first touch pass, a flair pass will often be less accurate but faster than taking a touch before passing or even a regular first touch pass. Use sparingly.

Lob pass, Square/X (Lob Pass Bronze)

The lob pass is particularly useful when you want clear the ball out of your box and toward a forward. In a pinch, it’s useful to switch the ball between sides of the field — typically between your fullbacks, but make sure they’re wide open. This pass is risky. Don’t use it to pass to a player who is being marked by nearby defenders. If you’re under pressure and absolutely need to cross it to the other side of the field, try holding L1/LB for a scoop lob, which launches the ball at a higher angle and is less likely to hit the defender closing in.

Cross, press Square/X once (Crossing Skill Challenge)

Using a lob pass in the last third of the field, on your opponent’s side, will initiate a cross. An air cross is best used when you are in the opponent’s final third of the field and you have a player who is good in the air inside the box. Aim toward them with the left stick and press Square/X to power up a cross. Avoid air crosses toward short players as most defenders are strong and tall, meaning they’ll easily clear the ball.

Low cross, quickly tap Square/X twice (Crossing Skill Challenge)

Low crossing is best when you have one of your players making a near post run. This will cross the ball in at a faster pace and lower angle for the target player to head or volley into the back of the net.

Ground cross, hold R1/RB and press Square/X (Crossing Skill Challenge)

The ground cross is best when a player is making a run down the middle of the field and defenders are struggling to keep up. This cross good with any type of forward and perfect for smaller, more agile strikers. They will have trouble reaching a ground cross in the air, and they’re likely outpacing large defenders. The ground cross is much easier to pull off and appears to be more effective than was in FIFA 17.

Through ball pass, press Triangle/Y (Advanced Ground Pass Bronze)

This pass is best when one of your players is making a run past the last defender. It will lead your target, letting them keep their momentum as they continue to bolt down the field. Timing is everything with any through ball pass. Passing too soon will likely end up an easy interception, and passing too late will likely end up as an offside call. When your striker is making a run down the middle, it is often better to use a driven pass rather than a through ball. A through ball down the middle often results in it going straight to the opponent’s goalkeeper.

Threaded through ball pass, hold R1/RB and press Triangle/Y (Advanced Ground Pass Bronze)

This is much like the regular through ball, but it passes into open space rather than leading to a specific target. Use this when your target is surrounded by defenders but will easily beat them in a foot race into the open space into which you are passing the ball.

Lobbed through ball pass, L1/LB and press Triangle/Y (Lob Pass Gold)

This is much like a ground cross, but it’s designed to be used as a forward pass, rather than across the field like your typical cross. Use the lobbed through ball when there are too many defenders between you and your target to make a regular or threaded through ball pass. The ball will fly through the air and into the path of the player making the run. It’s most effective when the player making the run is fast and able to leave defenders in the dust.

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Defending

“Attack wins you games. Defense wins you titles.” - Sir Alex Ferguson.

Good defending separates the average and the exceptional player. Ironically, this means that a majority of the time you should not use your defenders to defend. Rather, let them do their thing and use your midfielders to do the brunt of the work.

Auto defending is much less effective this year, so knowing when to switch to a defender will take a lot of experience and practice, but will make all the difference. Winning the ball back quickly and efficiently will frustrate opponents and lead to devastating counterattacks.

Switching defenders, point the right thumbstick in the direction of the player you wish to switch to (Advanced Defending Skill Challenge)

The first thing you should focus on when learning how to defend is accurately switching your players with the right thumbstick rather than relying on the often unreliable L1/LB player switching. Be sure to change your settings so that FIFA 18 will only switch your player for you when the ball is in the air.

Standing tackle, press and hold Circle/B to charge (Advanced Defending Skill Challenge)

Standing tackles poke the ball away when an opponent is coming directly at you or from a slight angle. Your player will occasionally and automatically attempt a standing tackle if the opponent is close enough — even if you are directly controlling them. Always pressure the opposition in your half of the field. Using a manual standing tackle is less risky than a sliding tackle, but it can still slow you down considerably if you do not time it right.

Push/pull, rapidly press L1/LT or hold Circle/B when running alongside an opponent (Advanced Defending Skill Challenge)

When running alongside a player, you can use L1/LT to harass the opposition, challenge them with your shoulder and attempt to step between them and the ball. If you hold the Circle/B button, your player will try to grab your opponent’s jersey and pull them to the ground. If you rapidly press the button, you are less likely to be penalized. It’ll still cause trouble for the opponent, slowing them down and giving you time to reorganize your defense and close in.

Sliding tackle, Square/X (Advanced Defending Skill Challenge)

Sliding tackles are risky. Use them when you are certain you’ll hit the ball. If you time it wrong, you will likely get a card or leave your defense open for an attack. Press the slide tackle button a second time to shorten your slide and quickly get up.

Teammate contain, press and hold R1/RB (Advanced Defending Skill Challenge)

Holding RB/R1 will call the nearest CPU-controlled teammate over toward the opponent’s player with the ball. Combine this with your own efforts to manually block passing lanes, and this will put heavy pressure on the opposition. When you use this technique, you don’t have direct control of what player comes to help. Just make sure it does not pull a defender out of position.

Jockey, press and hold L2/LT (Advanced Defending Gold)

Most defending in your final third, the portion of the field stretching from your goal to a few yards outside of your penalty area, should be in the jockeying position. It will help you face your opponent and prepare for a standing tackle or interception. Hold the sprint button to move quicker while jockeying, but be careful not to lose momentum by overshooting the area you want to protect. Use jockeying to seal off passing lanes and force your opponent out wide where they won’t have a clear shot.

Keeper charge, press and hold Triangle/Y (Advanced Defending Skill Challenge)

This is a risky move, but it can save you from conceding a goal. If your keeper is not going to make it to the ball in time, let go of the button and let the AI take over. Continuing your charge will make it easy to shoot around your keeper.

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Shooting

Scoring goals is how you win matches, and knowing how and when to use different shooting techniques will help you capitalize on your chances. To power up any sort of shot, press the Circle/B button on your controller. Too much power, and you will send the ball into the stadium parking lot. Too little, and the keeper or defender will easily intercept.

Regular shot, Circle/B (Advanced Shooting Skill Challenge)

This is the most powerful shot in your arsenal and is best with an open net in front of you or from outside of the penalty area, which is the biggest box stretching out 18 yards from the goal, toward one of the top corners. It’s not the most accurate of shots, but if you’re surrounded by defenders and quickly need to get a shot off, this is your best option.

Finesse shot, hold R1/RB and press Circle/B (Advanced Shooting Skill Challenge)

This technique aims for accuracy over power, making it much slower than a regular shot. Use a finesse shot should to curl the ball around the keeper. It’s perfect for one-on-one situations or whenever you see the keeper rush toward you. This method of shooting works best when using less power than you would use for a regular shot.

Flair shot, hold L2/LT and press Circle/B (Advanced Shooting Skill Challenge)

Use this technique when you want to show off. Much like the finesse shot, a flair shot is usually slower and takes longer to pull off. Use it when you have plenty of space.

Chip shot, hold L1/LB and press Circle/B (Advanced Shooting Skill Challenge)

This shot “chips” the ball above the keeper’s head and into the net. Only use a chip shot when the keeper rushes you and there is plenty of space between them and their net. Don’t use this technique with defenders inside the box. It’s very slow and easy to clear.

Low shot, double tap Circle/B (Advanced Shooting Skill Challenge)

This technique debuted in FIFA 17 and is still very effective in FIFA 18. Use a low shot in the penalty box when the keeper is right in front of you and you have no room or time for a finesse shot.

Using a powerful ground shot will catch the keeper by surprise as it goes right under them before they can drop to the ground. Try using this instead of a chip shot when the keeper rushes you inside of the box. It will give you more time to line up the shot and is much more accurate. You can also use a low shot with the finesse modifier for beautiful curved shots into the far corner, right under or around the keeper. Thierry Henry would be proud.

Headers and Volleys: Circle/B (Crossing Skill Challenge)

When the ball is in the air, your player will do one of two things depending on their position relative to the ball.

If the ball is higher up, there is a good chance they will attempt to head the ball into the net. To head the ball, press the shoot button. If you want to head the ball toward the bottom of the net, press the shoot button again quickly after you power up the shot.

If the ball is too low for a header, your player will likely be in a position for a volley — a shot while the ball is in the air. Use power sparingly for a volley. They are inherently more powerful shots because of gravity.

EA Vancouver/Electronic Arts

Set pieces

Set pieces have been completely reworked again for FIFA 18. While the changes may seem daunting at first, many of the strategies that have worked in the past carry over to the new game.

Corners, Square/X or X/A for a short pass (Crossing Silver)

With the reworked corner kick system, you can now choose to target a specific area of the field or even a specific player. Note that pressing X/A instead of Square/X will initiate a ground pass to the player closest to the corner (or the player you have selected with L1/LB).

Standard

When your players take their position for a corner kick, you will be prompted to aim a circular reticule toward where you’d like the ball to go. The aiming is very sensitive, so take your time choosing your target. Once you are near where you want the ball to land, power up your kick with Square/X, and your player will take the corner kick.

Player-targeted

After taking your position for the corner kick, press LB/L1. Typically, this will select the player with the best jumping and heading accuracy first, but you can press LB/L1 again to cycle to your desired player.

Once you’ve selected your player, you’ll be prompted to aim and power up your corner kick. After that, you’ll be able to freely control the player you selected.

When you’re ready, press Square/X again, and the corner kicker will kick the ball toward the area you marked while you control your selected player.

Free kicks (Free Kicks Skill Challenge)

With FIFA 18’s new free kick system, you have more control than ever. The following are a couple of solid techniques, but practicing the free kick skill games is absolutely essential for mastering any style of free kick.

Keep in mind that free kicks are easier score when you use the correct footed player. If you want to hit the right site of the net, use a left-footed player and vice versa.

Power

Use this technique no closer than 25 yards from the goal. After taking the free kick stance, aim the camera between the last two players in the wall who are closest to the side of the net you wish to shoot the ball.

When you’re ready to shoot, hold L1/LB, up on the left thumbstick and use Circle/B to power your shot to just over three bars. If you do this correctly (it will take a lot of practice) you will kick the ball just above the players in the wall and into the top corner of the post you aimed toward.

Curved

Use this technique when 25 yards or closer. This free kick is soft but is easier to curve around the opponent’s wall.

Aim just to the side of the wall (usually just outside of the goal post) and power up your kick to one and a half bars. While doing this, hold the left thumbstick in the opposite direction of your free kicker’s dominant foot to curve it around the wall and into the net.

Penalties (Penalties Skill Challenge)

EA changed up penalties last year, but in FIFA 18 penalties are like they were in years past.

Use Circle/B to power a shot and use the left thumbstick to aim where you want to shoot. Hold L1/LB for a chip shot and R1/RB for a finesse shot. Any shot above two bars of power will start to lift off of the ground, so limit both your regular and finesse shots to two and a half bars. Your chip shots should be weaker at less than two bars of power.