Hello, foosers, hope you’re doing well. My procrastination took a few steps back, so I decided to continue this big guide, hopefully it’ll be more useful and informative than previous ones.
Just a little reminder, original plan was to go over every position in offense from top to bottom and now it would make sense to discuss how to block the classic pull shot. I have to admit I postponed this one for a long time because it’s still somewhat of a gray are to me (meaning I don’t know an adamant way to block it 100% of the time).
So lets get started.
Pull shot in general is quite straightforward , compared to other shots. The variance of where your opponent can shoot is lower (obviously), so, just in theory, this gives us a better chance for a block. Personally, when my opponents go to option is a pull shot instead of a snake (or a pin shot) I tend to feel about 20% more confident. Not saying that’s the factual truth, just the way I chose to perceive it .
Bad news is that a proper pull shot is ‘unraceable’. Doesn’t mean you can’t block it, just that in a computer simulation a perfect shooter would score 100% of the time. Unless…
…we could predict this shot coming. Which is kinda easy, if you think about it. This shot is so iconic and popular, that literally any idiot would understand what is coming at him. This fact makes our job just a tiny bit easier. So (and this is not 100% adamant rule) in theory, this knowledge gives us an extra millisecond and a better chance for a block.
Lets try and analyze the situation in vacuum. This is a standard setup for a pull shot (hopefully you were able to recognize it )
Now, what options does your opponent have (thankfully, pull shot is much less about mind games/ fakes and more about execution and experience)?
Well, in general, he can go for a straight, middle or long, long being the easiest option for the offense.
Why? There are several reasons, but the main ones (and we’ll get the boring part of playing against bad players out of the way):
- An amateur doesn’t have the level of control over his shot, to consciously shoot early, or in the middle of his motion, so he’s naturally dragged towards far post. It takes a lot of practice to take your shot from “almost missing the long, but sometimes hit exactly the far post” to “Not only my take off speed is insane, but I can also release the shot at whatever point I want”.
2. Out of main 3 options long is the hardest to race (assuming your opponent has decent speed). But, If he’s not that fast with his shot, long actually becomes the easiest to race, since you’ll have extra time to move your defense. No, I’m not high, it’s just how it works
There are also a few trick shots your opponent can go for – bring down the far 3 rod dude and shoot that way, instead of the center guy for example. Or do this fake shown by Zeke Cervantes.
But the chance of this happening is very, very low. What most people go for is the following: they just continuously set up the ball a few times. I’ll attach the video, but here’s the short text version: I set up the ball for a pull shot. Then I pass it down and set it up again. And again. And again. Then I finally shoot after the next setup. The idea being that the goalie has to follow the ball and respect every possible shot along the way. And you expect the goalie to misstep during these moves.
You don’t have to do it many times, but just the fact that you have the option to do so gives enough of an advantage. You can shoot early, you can shoot on the second setup, or on the third, it doesn’t matter. There isn’t really a counter to that except from not weakening your defense and staying focused on the main shot that is coming.
Let’s imagine your opponent knows what he’s doing.
The thing to understand here is that you, as a defender, are probably going to fight an uphill battle when defending a pull shot (or any shot in general). I mentioned this before, but still: accept and embrace the fact that you are probably gonna get scored on a few times (that’s a good scenario). It also helps a lot when you know how to execute the pull shot yourself. I’d even go a step further and state that it’s the most basic and crucial knowledge you will need. Or, at the very least, you should be aware of the danger of properly executed pull shot, even if you are not a great shooter yourself.
Another very, very important thing is knowing your opponent. What does he have in his arsenal? How fast is he, how reckless, or how disciplined. Metaphorically – is he trying to play foosball on hard mode? Or did he just learn to shoot a pull shot some time ago and never polished it. Any info like that will help you tremendously when you’ll have to face him 1×1. No need to say, people on tour usually don’t make silly mistakes, but even they have certain tendencies.
In general, you should keep your defense moving fast and unpredictable. Don’t fall into same patterns and try to brake your opponent’s rhythm. There will always be at least one hole open, so baiting is always a viable strategy. You never want to overdo it and give up an easy point. But some amount of baiting is crucial for your defense. Imo, baiting your opponent for a pull shot towards center is the best way to play most of the situations. I try to spread my spacing something like 50-30-20. This means that I try to give the impression that the straight is blocked most of the time, then middle, then long. Getting scored on with a straight is the worst feeling ever, you basically waste all your energy and efforts for nothing, plus it’s the easiest thing ever for the offense player. Long is the easy and most popular option, but I’ll go over it a bit later. Shot on the center, or just a relatively early release of the shot is hard to execute and very volatile. That’s the perfect battlefield to fight your opponent. So your movement should naturally push the opponent to shoot middle.
Now let’s discuss longs. Personally, when I’m against a guy with a good pull shot long, I race it 90% of the time. If the offense player is confident, then he’ll just shoot it long, this makes total sense. So I just blindly race for long, leaving other holes open. Technically this is the wrong approach and can be punished in different ways. For example what my friends call the Soft Palm style during our games in bars. In a nutshell they mean going counterintuitively slowly with your pull. You can see, why that would work versus someone who just blindly races your shots.
But again, they’re just casual bar players, they don’t spend hours perfecting their pull shot. Going back to our imaginary opponent with a good pull shot long, you can now see, why it’s often worth the risk to race long, especially if the opponent showed it already. I guess, my main point is this: if your opponent has a good long, then you can rely on him shooting long. This predictability is exactly what gives you a chance for a block. These guys don’t tend to fake, or make you split your attention between every possible shot. They believe that long is unraceable and will happily take the chance you give them. Your job is just to shift chances to favor you a bit more.
Don’t be afraid to race, seriously. Yes, a proper shot may be “unraceable” (in reality a normal person is usually just late to react, this is just a stupid word), but simply failing to race a pull shot is an incredibly valuable experience in itself you shouldn’t avoid. As I’ve already mentioned, anticipation is you best friend. Yes, your opponent might be fast, but it’s unlikely he’s a genius and a virtuoso of foosball. Mother nature took care of your reflexes, now use your experience and knowledge to make us all proud.
I wrote this in previous guide, but you should always stay calm and focused. Or at least don’t panic (42). There’s nothing wrong with getting a bit pumped up or exited during a match.
Staying calm will allow you to read the game better. There’s ALWAYS some useful information in every move your opponent makes, especially when he’s setting up for a pull shot. Just the way he does that can allow you to predict his intentions with surprisingly high accuracy. If you’re a pull shooter yourself, you already know that if he stopped the ball a bit behind the rod (deep), then his cutback will probably be good. And if he sets up the ball a bit outside, then you should watch out for sprays and cover a tighter area in the middle, dismissing longs. Again, you already know this, do not doubt yourself.
Even if you’re playing 2v2, essentially goalie vs offense is a 1v1 duel and your enemy is under pressure too. So the best thing you can do is to not choke yourself with responsibility and guilt for missing that one stupid shot in the beginning, but rather say to yourself: ”Yes, he’s most likely gonna score, but I’m not afraid and ready to take risks.” Don’t be the guy who loses the battle before it even starts and don’t put your expectations unreasonably high (in a pro match just getting a few blocks in crucial moments will often lead to your partner in offense winning the game => you did your job). And again, don’t be afraid to take risks, if you think you got the read on your opponent. Decide on what is his most probable shot, then decide what is his second most likely move and use 2 dudes that the table manufacturer so kindly provided.
Shuffle Defense (Louis Shuffle)
The last thing I wanted to add here is something rather unorthodox. I wrote a few paragraphs, but wasn’t sure if I should add them here, or save for the snake shot tutorial. But this topic was brought up on reddit recently, so why not. I’m not claiming any expertise on this, but I have some thoughts on shuffle defense, had relative success using it and it was often used against me with even more success.
This approach is very different to mine, where I try to predict exactly what is the opponent going for and executing the direct counter to his plan.
Instead, we’ll give all the initiative to our opponent. All we have to do is simultaneously and rapidly move both the goalie and the 2 rod defender along the expected path of his pull shot, which is usually 3/5 the length of the goal-line. Back and forward, as fast as possible.
Here is the best analogy I could come up with.
There is a famous trope in many Hollywood heist or escape-from-prison type movies. One that comes to mind first is a scene from 1996 The Rock movie. Basically, Sean Connery’s character perfectly times his way through a deadly multistep flame-spitting fan-like mechanism to escape from Alcatraz. I’m sure most of you know what I’m talking about. And perhaps some of you know where I’m going with this one.
In a nutshell, our goal is to emulate that deadly fan or whatever with our defense and force our opponent to try and find the tiny opportunity to score in between our moves.
Many people do this intuitively with the 5 rod. When you’re in the offense and you miss the block on enemy goalkeepers shot with your 3 rod, you can still make up for it by rapidly moving your 5 rod. I’ll probably never be able to explain the physics behind this, but it still works. When timed well, for a brief second this move transforms your normal rod with foosball players into a solid wall.
I understand that to some people this will seem incredibly wacky and stupid.
In many ways this approach aligns with traditional “school” of foosball very well, it is a usual practice to always keep your defense moving randomly and fast (especially on tour), breaking opponents rhythm and not falling into any rhythm yourself. But on the other hand it leaves many holes, it’s unreliable and, ehm, kinda braindead
For the sake of intellectual honesty, I have to go over the cons first.
If done wrong this will lead to many, many open straights. Basically, a straight shot is the deadliest thing against this type of defense, because it cuts half the job the attacker has to do. Now he doesn’t have to move the ball to bypass your defense (straight is normally blocked by default in a traditional static defense) and only has to nail the timing.
If you are slow, it will make his job significantly easier.
If you’re predictable and fall into the same patterns this approach also won’t work.
Basically, if you don’t do everything right, you’ll probably end up looking like an idiot.
And many more reasons not to do it, but lets get to the positives.
Often times this type of defense will put your opponents hand-eye coordination to the test. If he can’t see the gap in your defense, but he kinda knows it’s there – now the guy is forced to gamble with his shot and timing. Suddenly, if you’re an underdog, your chances to block the shot go from about 20% up to 40%-50%. There are many, many examples of pros using this approach and when it succeeds, everything looks pretty boring – the offense player just pulled and shot the ball right into goalkeepers defense. But that is exactly what we’re going for, stable boring blocks.
Sure, this doesn’t work other way around (I mean, if you are a better player), since, if you’re in a position of power and your opponent can’t bypass the defense you’ve put up, there’s no reason to give him a better chance to score.
Another good reason to me is the relatively low skill ceiling for this technique. You still have to practice A LOT, but it’s much less demanding of you. No ball control, much less mind games and the fact that all you have to do is moving the rods back and forward.
That’s basically it for today, guys, I can hardly fit in more tips in a structured way, so I will probably have to write version 2.0 for this guide based on the feedback I’ll hopefully get. I know that not every concept in this post would make it to the imaginary “textbook” of foosball, but hopefully, I was able to at least give you some inspiration to think about some problems in a different way. Cheers!