Player Profile: Hristo Stoichkov

hristo stoichkovHristo Stoickhov, notoriously known as the dagger embraced the world of football for the last decade along with the likes of Romario, Roberto Baggio and Jurgen Klinsmann. The Bulgarian made an impact to the Bulgaria national side in World Cup 1994 and Johan Cruyff’s “Dream Team” of Barcelona FC which made him European Footballer of the Year 1994.

Background
His humble beginnings began in his hometown Hebros before moving to CSKA Sofia the following year in 1985. There he was involved in the 1985 Bulgarian Cup final and managed to score 38 goals in 30 games which earned him the European Golden Boot. His clinical finishing and constant goal threat caught the eye of Johan Cruyff.

Club

Stoickhov had a successful journey in his career at club level. He is instrumental to both clubs CSKA Sofia and FC Barcelona. But also on other clubs towards the peak of his career at Al-Nassr and Chicago Fire.

The Dream Team
He was part of Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona in those successful era of the early 90s contributing Primera Division for four consecutive years (1991-1994) and ultimately the European Cup (1992) in Wembley after defeating Sampdoria. His unique display made him popular among Barca’s fans.

Honours

CSKA Sofia
1. PBL Bulgarian League – 1987, 1989, 1990
2. Bulgarian Cup – 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989
3. Bulgarian Super Cup – 1989

Barcelona
Domestic
1. LaLiga Spaninsh League – 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1998
2. Supercopa de Espana Spanish Super Cup – 1992, 1994, 1996
3. Copa Del Rey Spanish Cup – 1997

European
1. European Cup (Champions League) – 1992
2. European Super Cup – 1992, 1997
3. European Cup Winners’ Cup – 1997

Other Clubs
Hristo Stoickhov spent most of his time at Barca and CSKA Sofia. But later decided for a fresh challenge by joining Al-Nassr in 1998 and D.C United as his last club in 2003. He instrumented on Al-Nassr’s victory in Asian Cup Winners Cup (1998) and later US Open Cup (2001) with Chicago Fire in the U.S.

Al-Nassr
1. Asian Cup Winners Cup – 1998

Chicago Fire
1. U.S Open Cup – 2000

International

Bulgaria
There is no doubt that Hristo Stoickhov is a legend among Bulgarian fans for the last decade and maybe the best of all time. At the 1994 World Cup, he became the joint top goal scorer with six goals thus awarded the World Cup Golden Boot. Furthermore he almost single-handedly carry Bulgaria to the semi-final but only to lost against the brilliance of Roberto Baggio and the Italians.

-4th place World Cup 1994

Coaching
During his coaching career, Hristo Stoickhov had quite a controversial issues with several clubs and country. He started as a forward coach at Barca and then became the national coach for Bulgaria. He then coached for the remaining clubs in Celta Vigo and Mamelodi Sundowns. Overall, he is still in the learning stage of his career as a coach but struggle to sustain his position in any of these clubs.

Individual Honours

1. European Footballer of the Year (Ballon D’Or) – 1994
2. 1994 World Cup Golden Shoe – 6 goals
3. European Golden Boot – 1989
4. Golden Foot “All Time” Legends – 2007
5. FIFA 100

Stoichkov Golden BallOverall
His blistering pace with explosive shots and best crosses as a left winger made undeservedly and notoriously known as the “Dagger”. Hristo Stoickhov has indeed earned himself as the star, a legend and one of the best players for the last decade. However, there are times when he has let himself down due to his short-tempered character. Yet, he will remain a legend and who wouldn’t forget his brilliant display at World Cup 1994 in the U.S.

The Gambetta – More than just a trick

GambettaThe term ‘Gambetta’ is rarely heard of in the footballing world of europe and asia, but in the football loving nation of Argentina, it is almost a way of life. In the words of Jorge Valdano, who use to play alongside Diego Maradona in the 80’s: “it is another form of tango with the pleasures of applying those extra flourishes with those twists and turns. There are essentially two elements to the “Gambetta”. The first one is skill, where I with my foot can do anything I want. This gives a player a certain dignity. The other is deceit, where I have got to fool the defender into believing the opposite of what I am going to do. The taste for deceit is apparently very Argentinean in nature, as they brought up to celebrate cheekiness. When you combine the two elements, you get the most celebrated move in Argentinean football, which is the “Gambetta”.
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Freestyle Soccer: Confused on where to start ?

Freestyle SoccerFirst of all, let’s start with a simple question, what is freestyle soccer ? Freestyle soccer is simply the style and ability to combine various soccer tricks in juggling and ground moves. It’s a new trend in soccer along with other types like five a side futsal and beach soccer. In a soccer context, freestyle is perceived as less significance to the modern game. However, freestyle soccer does improve a footballer’s ability to control the ball.

The ball control is what I perceived as the most important element in soccer before other attributes like fitness and tactics. There’s a saying that if you can control the ball you can control the game. In fact, I stumbled one of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s, the Swedish star player, quotes saying that as long as you have the ball, you’ll have the advantage.

Yet majority of footballers still ignore the importance of freestyle soccer. There are reasons behind it and one of them is that the soccer tricks are difficult to execute and only brings less to the modern game. True enough, but let’s not forget the concept of ball control. Learning freestyle allows a player to enhance his touches especially the first touch. A great first touch buys you a thousand of a seconds to give you an edge over the opposition. Those seconds could change the game in an instant especially in the modern game where it demands fast and furious soccer. As a result of those reasons, they don’t even bother in the first place.

On the other side,  the ones who love freestyle soccer perceived it as something that they can express their creativity and improve on ball control and touches to a greater heights. But I’m more concern to those who are ignorant and may not have the slightest interest on freestyle soccer.

The problem is, they may not know where to begin especially after watching a series of freestyle videos on streaming sites like YouTube. I’m assuming that they only watched the difficult tricks and instead forget the basics of freestyle soccer. I believe that freestyle soccer should begin with the basics like juggling and planting before moving on to the more advanced soccer tricks like the around the world, crossover, flip flap and others. It’s important since juggling is the principle of all types of ball control along with dribbling. In this case, I shall focus on juggling since it’s related to freestyle soccer.

Juggling the ball
Simply done by doing kick ups without letting the ball fall on to the ground and expanded to different parts of the body from foot, thigh, shoulder and head. The aim is to be able to link your juggling skills from one part to the other. For example, transfer your juggling from foot to your thigh. You can start with a simple transfer and improve to more advanced transfers like juggling from foot to thigh and then head. Once you’ve mastered juggling, you can start planting or stalling a soccer ball.

Planting the ball
The ability to balance the ball on a specific part of your body like balancing the ball on your foot. You can start by placing the ball on your foot and once you’ve mastered, you can plant the ball during your juggling. For example, juggle with your foot which is then transferred to your thigh and then balance it with your foot i.e. foot plant.

Focus on these two abilities will help build confidence for you to start on learning some of the basic freestyle soccer tricks. Improving your juggling and planting skills increases your coordination abilities especially when you practice your transferring or linking skills.

For this one, I’d recommend the around the world trick because it’s the principle of all soccer tricks. Once you’ve mastered this trick, you have a great chance of doing other tough soccer tricks like the MATW, TATW, crossover etc. The trick is simply to rotate your foot around the ball after either juggling or footplant and kick it as you finish the rotation to complete the process.

These are a couple of basics that you’d need to constantly bear in mind. Similar to soccer, the techniques are very important and I highly encourage you to practice these tricks with a lot of dedication and once mastered, you’ll begin to appreciate the beauty of freestyle soccer.

Training 101: How to Improve your Weaker Foot?

George Best - Manchester United
George Best was a player talented with both feet.

In football (soccer), being too dependent on a single stronger foot can be a major weakness, especially in situations that would require you to make use of your weaker foot, be it a shooting chance or a last gasp clearance. If you need to improve on your weaker foot quickly, then you might want to practice these soccer drills every day (or at least once every 2 days) for about a month and hopefully you’ll achieve the results. By then, your weaker foot should be able to cope with most high intensity soccer drills like shooting, passing, dribbling etc.

These soccer drills aim to improve on your touches, control and balances. So let’s begin:

Drill #1: Warming-Up
Begin with a short 2 minute jog then continue with simple stretches on your legs and feet, concentrating on your ankle, calf, knee and hips to maximize performance and prevent any injuries during practice.

Drill #2: Juggling (kick ups) with your weaker foot
Find an open space, throw the ball at waist height and let it bounce. Then kick it up using the laces section of your foot. Repeat this for roughly 5 minutes and then increase it to 10 minutes and so on. For a start, let the ball bounce as it is easier and gives you the confidence. Once you’ve become better, try by not letting the ball bounce on the ground.

Drill #3: Weaker foot ball control
Touch the soccer ball lightly with your outstep/outside sole of your weaker foot and then quickly change to your instep / inside sole of your weaker foot and vice versa. This is similar to doing a flip flap or elastico, but at a very slow pace. Practice it for as long as you can by building rhythm along with speed with the ball.

Drill #4: Trapping the ball with your weaker foot
The simplest way you can do this is by throwing the soccer ball upwards and trap it by letting the ball fall on your toe part of the foot. The first few times you do this might cause the ball to simply bounce off your weaker foot, try to trap the ball using a softer first touch. In other words, try not to ‘stiffen’ you feet/legs too much when the ball is about to make contact with it.

As you progress, u can improve this drill by throwing the ball against a wall and trapping / controlling it with your weaker foot as it bounces back towards you. After each successful trap, throw the ball with increased intensity and attempt to control it with a single first touch with your weaker foot as it bounces back towards you.

Drill #5: Passing with your weaker foot
Find a wall, maybe in your room or even outside. Pass the ball against the wall by using the inside sole of your weaker foot and outside sole of the same weaker foot depending on your preference. To make it interesting, build rhythm in your passing by increasing its speed which greatly improves ball trapping and passing skills relatively quickly. As you progress, try to pass and trap the ball in a single fluid motion, making no more than 2 touches at the most for each time you pass it to the wall. Throughout this drill, try to aim your pass towards a specific target area on the wall in order to improve the accuracy of your pass. If the wall is far away from you, attempt a lobbed/chipped pass with your weaker foot.

Drill #6: Shooting

Perhaps the hardest part when it comes to improving you weaker foot, proper shooting could make a difference, especially in a match where a goal could mean winning or losing. Generating power and accuracy when shooting with you weaker foot can be quite a challenge, so we recommend that you complete drills #1 to #5 before attempting this drill in order to be sure that your weaker foot is ready for a higher intensity drill.

For this drill, find an open space, perhaps a small field or yard, and make sure there aren’t any breakable objects or people near your target. Designate a target such as a goal post, cone or even a mark on the wall, and aim the hit that target with your shot. Attempt to do a laces shot as powerful as possible, but try to also keep it as accurate as possible, aiming for your designated target.

Apply these six soccer drills in any order (except for drill #6) at any time you like. Keep practicing consistently and you’ll benefit from the results, enjoy practicing!

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