The 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 used to play alongside Diego Maradona in the ’80s: “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 a 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’.
Such a dribbling style, mastered by the great Maradona, and imitated by many preceding players can be a joy to watch. Especially when an attacker dribbles past defending players using smoothly executed feints and shoulder drops and quick changes in the direction of the hips, deceiving the opposing player into making the wrong decision. There are several different so-called trademarks of the Gambetta, some of which are:
- Keeping to ball close to the feet when dribbling, not too close to cause the player to trip over it, and not too far to cause the player to lose control of it
- Employing the Shoulder drop to trick the opponent to commit in the wrong direction, quickly anticipating this and reacting accordingly
- Usage of feints with swift changes in dribbling direction, also done by quickly changing the direction of the hips
- Quick, short changes in direction when dribbling
Among the most famous of Gambetta, dribbles have got to be Diego Maradona’s slalom past half the England team in the 1986 World Cup where, Maradona, almost effortlessly drifts past the defenders, using feints and quick directional changes. This is best displayed in the video below:
A good way to practice your ball control for trying the Gambetta style during a match would be to line up at least 5 cones/markers in a straight line at least 5 feet apart. Imagine that the cones/markers are the defenders and dribble the ball towards the cones, making quick directional changes as you get close enough. As you get better to try dribbling faster and adding tricks like shoulder drops and hip feints. The diagram below can be used as a guide for this practice.
As discussed earlier, the Gambetta seems to be more than just a dribble whereby it can be implemented in other aspects of the game. For example, when clearing a long ball, a defender could fake his kick to deceive an oncoming player into committing to the wrong direction, after which the defender can quickly turn the other way and clear the ball with less pressure and more time in hand. Remember, some of the key elements of the Gambetta are deceit, fakes, unpredictability, and of course close control.