Receiving the ball with your back towards the attacking goal

by Shiv Jagday

As long ago as 1979 I remember observing that some forwards were receiving the ball with their back towards the goal they were attacking. I tried to correct this, encouraging the forwards to receive the ball facing the opponents goal with a tilted body on the run. To further elaborate this point, I gave them the newspaper cutting of the comments made by the 1978 World Cup Champion Argentina's soccer coach, Carl Luis Menotti. He said,

'When I see my forward, in practice, receiving the ball with his back towards the goal he is attacking, I stop the practice and tell the player: "You are wasting your time and that of your fellow teammates. Don't Do It ....Receive the ball with a tilted body, preferably on the run!" ' 
Now, more than 15 years later, with the introduction of the new obstruction rule, the game has changed. Forwards have the liberty of receiving the ball with their back towards the goal they are attacking, or spinning with the ball more or less at will, whenever and wherever they want. 
This point has its advantages and disadvantages. Let us analyze receiving from both angles, concluding when and where to execute this skill, and when and where to avoid it. 

Players receiving a pass with their back to the opponent's goal have a big advantage. They can cover—protect—the ball with their whole body. The chances of keeping possession are much higher than in the past—even in tight marking situations. 
Smart players can receive then spin with the ball, changing direction to either side to beat an opponent. 
Players can receive the ball and lay it off with one touch to either side for a team mate coming through or overlapping. 
In the game phase, when the objective of the team is just to maintain possession. For example, when there are 5 minutes left to play and the team is leading by one goal. 
These are the major advantages, if one knows when, where, why and how to use this skill and exploit the opponents. 
My observations have been that often the Modern Player, even at the highest level of competition, lacks this understanding. In certain game situations he is hurting his own team more by slowing down the flow of the attack. 
In the early 80's the Chip Shot came into fashion. It was just used the way a kid plays with his new toy. Later, it was discarded. This may well be the case with this skill to a certain degree, given time. 
Please remember Menotti's quote. 

When a player is receiving the ball with his back towards the goal he is attacking, for a few seconds his vision of the field behind him is blurred and he looses contact with the changing game situation. This deprives the forward of the awareness of the latest changes which have occurred, especially in a breakaway or counter attack game situation. 
When the forward is spinning and curling with the ball it gives the defense a golden opportunity to Recover and Reorganize. In certain attacking game situations delays are dangerous and the attacking team doesn't want the defense to settle. 
In a breakaway situation, it takes a forward with his back towards the attacking goal extra seconds to control the ball and take off for scoring. In these extra seconds a good defense can create a lot of obstacles. 

CONCLUSION—Receiving the ball with the back towards the attacking goal. 
This move is a negative one. It is done more out of fear than desire: fear is bad, desire is positive and powerful. 
With the tilted body, the chances for loosing possession while receiving are greater. But, when one masters the skill—art?—the advantages are far more. The Higher the Risk, The Higher the Reward. 
We should teach our players—especially juniors—to know when, where, why and how to use this skill to their maximum advantage. More importantly, they should develop the art of receiving the ball with a tilted body on the run. 
When one exposes the ball, while in the process of receiving, this entices the defender to commit, especially on a common ball. This gives him a false impression that he can get the ball, but instead he gets beaten. Just like a fish, he has taken the bait. 
Receiving from the rear - examples 

These action photographs were taken during the 1995 Pan-American Games. The Canadian Women's team was playing against Paraguay. Canada is attacking near the opponent's 25 line. 

 Photograph 1 
The Canadian forward is receiving the ball with her back towards the attacking goal. Here is a situation where three other Canadian players are open. But it appears from the body language of the receiver that it will be a few seconds before she will control and pass the ball.

Photograph 2 and Photograph 3 

The Canadian forwards have taken intelligent and timely leads to receive the ball on the run and eliminate the opponent. The advantage of this attacking pattern is that the flow of the attack is maintained.