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On The Deck: Passing 101


Making his FSB editorial debut, Jamie Smith discusses the intricacies of passing in FIFA. As a games developer by day, Jamie brings in fresh ideas and perspective to the FSB team. In the first of many comprehensive breakdowns of various aspects of the game, he analyses the plethora of passing options in FIFA and provides some tips on how to improve in the most fundamental part of the beautiful game.


Passing is one of, if not the most, important aspect of FIFA. Possession, pressure and team work all rely on the quality and reliability of passing. Passing is also the quickest way to traverse the pitch; the ball will always move faster than the quickest player in the game. Gone are the days where you can press pass and let the game do the work, the aim of this article is to inform and dissect all of the game’s passing options in order to provide visibility on all options.

Passing 101

First off, it’s important to understand how a pass is actually completed. It may appear than I’m telling you something you already know; however, many players get frustrated and sob “I pressed the button” before being dispossessed or making a mistake. Passes are buffered long after player input and this is one of the main reasons for frustration. This is unlike tackling, which has almost zero buffer time, meaning a tackle occurs almost as soon as the player inputs the command.

The following formula represents how a pass is made: Decision > Input > Buffer > Action

  • Decision – The mental side of the player thinking what they want to do and how
  • Input – The physical input which will determine what pass happens and how
  • Buffer – The amount of time between input and action, time can extend if the player is already in an animation (i.e. running) or has charged a pass (i.e. full power)
  • Action – The actual animation of all of the above, seeing what you wanted to do in motion

It’s very important to understand this due to the fact that you can limit the amount of frustration you experience by using low power, short passes whilst moving at a near stationary speed. The extreme end of the spectrum is charging full power, long passes whilst sprinting. Try out these two examples and count the amount of time it takes between input and action, I imagine there will be up to 2 seconds difference, a lifetime in a standard 12 minute match.

Passing Inconsistencies

Whilst I have a critical eye for game design, the aim of this article is not to highlight flaws with FIFA’s passing system but that is not to say they aren’t present. I will however, outline a few problems you may have come across and hopefully the advice in the rest of this article can help to limit them.

Determining a pass can be problematic if multiple options are within a small range.

  • The pass may go towards player A instead of player B, because both were stood next to each other (using assisted passing).

Power can also be extremely exaggerated in some situations

  • Sometimes you will put 100% power on a pass and it only goes 15-yards, other times you put 10% power on a pass and it goes to   the other side of the pitch.

Turn on to weak foot at the bye line but maintain precision

  • A valid but overpowered technique where you can run down the wing, turn around and cross the ball in the box with supreme precision regardless of preferred foot.

Overpowered one-twos from kick off

  • An abused technique that has been a staple in football games for years, mainly due to the static nature and base formation of the defending team from kick off, making it the easiest time to score or concede in FIFA.

All of the above can be tricky to replicate in video format but be aware of them and be sure to understand the following in order to limit the above.

Types of Passes

Ground Pass

This is the most fundamental and certainly the most used pass type. It is simple and effective, whilst also being generally reliable for defenders. The reason for being generally favoured is due to having limited trapping issues when playing into feet and also the most unlikely for physics to cause major surprises.


Lobbed Pass

Another standard type of pass but one I personally avoid. When the ball is played in the air, possession of the ball soon becomes a 50/50, not to mention the frankly appalling amount of time it can take to control the ball compared to the ground pass. However, an interesting use I have found is when within your own half and under pressure, switching the ball to the other side of the pitch deflates the opponent onslaught of aggression. Cheeky players may also attempt to dink the ball over an onrushing challenger.


Gerrard Pass

A modifier of the above using the finesse button, the result is a much flatter and faster form of lobbed pass aimed at a target’s chest. It is ideal for covering distance quickly without compromising accuracy. The downside of this is the lack of situations where it truly the best option and the emphasis on taming the ball when it reaches its destination.


Early Cross

The early cross is a somewhat underused passing option but for good reason. When used effectively, it can put an attacker in an almost undefendable position; otherwise it will sail out the far side of the opponent’s box. The key to its effectiveness is to use it in an unorthodox position, more than 30 yards out from goal on either wing then aiming towards the centre of the box, hoping that a wise centre forward will latch onto it.


Double Tap

The double tap is the faster, shorter brother of the early cross and is my go to aerial attacking option. Anticipation is key due to FIFA’s selection system, sometimes the ball may end up homing towards a different target or flying towards the one you hoped but faster than expected.


Triple Tap

The triple tap is lethal. Requiring the player to press the cross button three times in rapid succession, it unleashes a devastating drilled pass across the floor. When on the bye line or across from the 6 yard box, it almost always guarantees chaos or an unstoppable goal from either set of players.


The Laser

The laser is a term given to a modified double tap cross which has now become part of FIFA folklore, considered to be a placebo at the best of times. If you press the cross button twice almost instantaneously in the opponent’s half there is a chance where any player in the game will launch a bullet which moves faster than the camera. Not entirely useful but interesting all the same because the power can be transferred into what would normally be a pedestrian header.


Through Ball

Traditionally, the through ball has been the most abused and effective type of pass available to FIFA players. Not anymore. In FIFA 13, the use of this pass type should be left only to those who have truly mastered it or if you are a player who abuses pace to counteract its pitfalls. The through ball now has a tendency to skew out of play and often over its target.


Over the Top Through Ball

This is another type of pass that has had constant love over the years. By modifying the through ball with the switch player button, it’s easy and effective, being a popular choice for pace demons alike. However, in FIFA 13 the balance is slightly offset due to the first touch system, meaning it is not a guaranteed win button anymore. A nice technique to try is to attempt this type of pass with less than 10% power in order to create a deft, controllable pass which can be tricky to read and defend.



Not strictly a pass, the hoof can simply be done by pressing the shoot button anywhere in your own half. It’s not accurate but is extremely effective when defending a corner, under pressure or as a way to gain yards. Any player will attempt to kick the ball quickly (shortens buffer time) at the expense of power and there is an off chance that it will land at an attacker’s feet.


Fancy Pass

Up until last year, the fancy pass was too powerful due to unrealistic accuracy and being able to charge power with too many players. In FIFA 13, this type of pass has the largest spectrum of effectiveness due to the amount of situations it could and should be used in. From cheeky defender back heels to centre forward flicks to midfielder scoops. There is no right or wrong place to attempt it. That’s not to say it comes without warning though, prepare to lose possession if attempted.



Whilst not strictly another pass type, you can hold the player change button which can push passing and receiving players into new positions, whilst also enabling the opportunity to trigger a one-two. It is, and always has been, the most effective form of passing in the game. The one-two is fast, accurate and allows the ball to be moved simultaneously with player movement from which no other pass allows. Within tight spaces and against defensive formations, the one-two can tear teams apart. It’s almost too effective in most circumstances but combined with pace, it can be a game breaking prospect.



A mixture of the above can also be applied to heading. Significant results can be found by using a mix of through ball, lob and passing headers in different areas of the pitch. On goal kicks I tend to focus on through balls, in open play I stick to cushioned passing headers and only using lob headers for defensive aerial challenges.


Manual Pass

The manual pass is what I feel all long term FIFA admirers should aspire to use. A setting in the options as opposed to a mapped input, this allows players to truly play as a master on the ball by overriding the frustrating aspects of auto football. The Skill challenges imply FIFA may go in this direction, whilst Pro Evo uses solid feedback to visualise input.



Whilst the conditions are exaggerated in FIFA, rain and snow apply an additional modifier to all of the above. As a rule, try not to use high balls in rain unless there is space enough for it to settle on the ground, from which it will slow rapidly. Through balls become a much more viable option due to the drag created on the ground, almost slowing the ball to a dead stop and creating a frightening prospect when played behind the back four. Snow on the other hand is a horrendous condition for visibility purposes but creates a highly unrealistic bounce if the ball is even teased off the ground. Playing the ball in the air is almost always suicide in wintery conditions.


The range of passing in the game isn’t limited to the above either. Footballer attributes and analogue power charging from the player mean that there are an overwhelming number of options to use. So just before we finish, try stick to the following. You will see your possession and accuracy stats increase enormously.

  • Measure twice, pass once
  • Pass to a player on screen
  • Pass in the direction your player is facing
  • Charge the appropriate amount of power
  • Pass in the direction of your stronger foot
  • Frequently use the radar to see off screen players
  • Switch the radar to 3D in order to give a sense of perspective and depth
  • Switch the camera to broadcast in order to make ordinary passes look cooler or to see the pitch in a different way


To sum up, passing is far deeper than pressing a button and expecting perfection every time. By testing out the above techniques, you will not only improve your passing but will soon be able to prove my advice wrong as the possibilities for each of the above are near endless.

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