In a heated game of FIFA 21, a single bad pass or overextension of a player can be enough to swing the game in your opponent’s favor and cost you the match. Even if you’re a longtime fan of the series, this iteration on the popular sport has a ton of changes and new mechanics from even last year’s version that you will need to master if you want any hope of keeping up with the competition. If you’re new to FIFA, or even soccer in general, then the idea of controlling an entire squad of players can seem overwhelming.
Just like the real sport, there’s no perfect way to play FIFA 21. That’s what keeps the game interesting, but it’s no fun to jump into a game and immediately feel like you have no chance of winning. Whether you are playing against the A.I. in Ultimate Team, your friends, or rivals online, these are the basic tips you need to build your skills on the field.
Learn how to use Agile Dribbling and Creative Runs
The two new features introduced in FIFA 21 are what will help even the playing field between veterans and newcomers. These are, of course, the Agile Dribbling and Creative Run movement options. Well, they’re not quite as much options as they are essential parts of your controls. Ignoring either of these would be like playing without using any passes, so learn them well.
Agile Dribbling is mapped to your R1 button when you are controlling a player with the ball. When you hold down this button the player will slow down begin dribbling the ball much tighter to their body than normal, allowing for a far higher level of precision when moving the ball around. How much more control the player gets will depend on the player, specifically their dribbling stats, but not doing it while attempting to bypass the opponent’s defense is basically giving them the ball. Hold R1 and dribble the ball around the defenders like an elegant dancer.
Creative Runs on the other hand take a little more strategy. Once you master the technique, though, you can dominate the field. How they work is by allowing you to direct other players on your team to move in specific directions at different speeds by pressing L1 and aiming with the right stick. The potential of this feature has almost no limits. Use it to set up plays, create openings, move a player into position to where you want to pass, and anything else you can think of. This new feature takes away one more slightly random element of relying on your player’s AI to know what you want them to do and gives you a simple way to remain in control.
Know when to sprint and how to jockey
This one is more for the new players to FIFA 21, but everyone could do with the refresher on managing your player’s stamina. Every game tweaks these mechanics a bit, and thankfully isn’t as harsh as it was in past entries, but can make all the difference by the middle of a match.
Most games condition you to sprint basically non-stop. FIFA 21 doesn’t immediately discourage you from doing it, either. In fact, for a little while, it will look like a complete positive to push your players to the limit at all times. You can attack the ball faster, reposition, and make the overall pace of the game more exciting by keeping that sprint button held down all the time. Here’s the catch, though — pushing your players to sprint too much has more downsides than you might expect. Not only will they get worn out and slow to a crawl no matter how hard you hold down sprint, forcing you to sub them out for worse players, but it also makes them worse players overall. An exhausted player makes the power bar move quicker, gives them less ball control, makes them pass and receive less accurately, and more. Sprint when you need to, not all the time.
Defense is often seen as the less entertaining side to soccer games, but preventing goals is arguably more important than making them. Most people don’t put the time into crafting a good defensive strategy, focusing on offense almost exclusively, so having any type of plan to jockey your opponent immediately gives you an edge. By controlling where the attackers go, you can prevent them from getting clean shots off, or even get a clean steal off. Hold L2 with your defender to square up with the attacker, adding in R2 if you need to speed up, and throw a wrench into their offensive plans. This takes more time, but is more consistent and safer than risking tackles that could miss or give the opponent a free kick.
Spice up your passes and shots
After the ways last year’s FIFA added new ways to pass the ball, combined with the new movement options and controls in FIFA 21, there’s no excuse for sticking to basic passes. Unless a standard pass is actually the best option in your current situation, you need to take advantage of all the passing options you have. If you double-tap L1 and Triangle you can speed up a lob pass to make a sharp cut and regain control faster. Or you can double-tap your short pass to make it a dinked pass to minimize your chances of getting intercepted.
Shooting has also been expanded to new levels. Again, if you’re just running towards the goal and tapping Circle you’re basically just giving the other team the ball. You’ll need to learn all these different shot types eventually, but if the amount seems overwhelming then just try and integrate one or two every match until you can pull out the right one on instinct.
The basic shots are here and mapped to your Circle button. This is just a standard, straightforward kick that you can control the power for by holding down the button for more or less time. Again, nothing fancy and easy to block if the goalie is in position.
A low shot is performed by pressing L1 and R1 while hitting Circle. These shots, obviously, keep the ball low to the ground but very strong. They eliminate the risk of the ball flying too high, but are easier for a goalie to save.
A finesse shot is done by pressing just R1 and Circle, and are most player’s favorite type. They allow you to curve the ball’s trajectory as it flies. If you need to get around an aggressive goaltender, these shots force them to stay on their toes.
Last up is the chip shot, performed with the L1 and Circle buttons. These are very situational, and even then are high risk. They send the ball floating almost directly upward in a big arc. Unless you’re one on one with the goalie, and they make a desperate rush to steal, there’s not a lot of use for this shot in most games.
Do the Squad Building Challenges and Skill Games
The Squad Building Challenges, or SBCs, come in two types: basic and advanced. These will earn you new packs and coins for the Ultimate Team mode that is what keeps most people hooked on FIFA 21 for months and years. Even if Ultimate Team isn’t your bag, they are good to practice on how to build effective teams.
Skill Games are your tutorials for FIFA 21, and cover nine categories with multiple drills within each. If you’re coming right off of FIFA 20 then you could probably get away with skipping the Basic category drills, which cover things like movement, dribbling, passing, shooting, and tackles, but this is the first place anyone new, or in need of a refresher, should start. If you can, the best thing would be to go through the entire series, but at the very least you should do the dribbling, defending, goalkeeper, shooting, and practice scenarios. At this point in the series, the tutorials have gotten very good at actually showing you not only how to perform an action, but which situations you should do them in.
Practice your kicks with set pieces
Set pieces are technically part of the Skill Games, but deserve their own extra mention here. Not only are all the different scenarios they give you quick and fun, but they will really drive home the importance of how you shoot the ball. These, as well as the similar practice scenarios, are a perfect way to sharpen your skills even when you don’t have the time to devote to playing a full match. There are five set pieces and four practice scenarios, plus a final challenge in each.
Quick Ultimate Team tips
FIFA Ultimate Team, or FUT, is basically the star mode in the FIFA games, and is one a hardcore fan could spend dozens or more hours in. This mode is played by collecting player cards and creating teams with said cards to play against others or the AI. There is a ton to learn and consider with this mode, but here are a couple of quick tips to at least help you get started with Ultimate Team.
First up is FUT coins. You will be spending these coins on purchasing new player cards, and can earn them either by playing FUT matches, trading cards for coins, completing SBCs, and as rewards for playing in Squad Battles, Division Rivals, and FUT Champions. This is where our above tip on completing Squad Building Challenges comes into play.
Speaking of coins, don’t gamble them away on gold packs. That goes double for spending real-world cash on them. Unless you get very, very, lucky you are way better off saving up and spending your coins directly on the player you want via the transfer market. Just search for the player you’re after and see what the average price is. They will fluctuate, and different people may put them up for cheaper, so it can be worth it to hold off for a better offer.
While looking for players, check out all the leagues. In the most popular leagues, like Premier League, players are often far too expensive for most people to build a team with (without resorting to opening up your wallet), while there are great players in other leagues at more reasonable coin prices.