Cricket in the city of dreams
In football, talking about a player who is ‘good in the air’ generally means that player is above 6 feet tall and looks strong physically. However, there are always exceptions and legends like Pele, Eusebio, Romario and Andy Gray were well below the 6 ft mark but could take the mickey out of much taller defenders and scored plenty of headers throughout their career. So, budding footballers who are vertically challenged, stop worrying about your heading prowess!
Here is a list of modern-day footballers who were under 182 cms, but held their own when it came to scoring headed goals and even winning the ball in the opposition half against much taller opponents:
Tim Cahill (5’10”)
GREG WOOD / AFP
Made his name in the English Premier League and on the international stage as well for his tremendous ability to score headers. He mainly played as an attacking midfielder and also as a forward at times. His direct, late runs made him a major threat especially during set-piece situations and crosses.
Henrik Larsson (5’10”)
ANDREW YATES / AFP
A natural goal-scorer, he was famed for his positional play and in-game intelligence. The fact that he could head the ball as good as any made him a complete striker. His two brilliant headers for Scottish Club Celtic in a tightly-contested UEFA Cup final in 2003 against Jose Mourinho’s FC Porto would stand testimony to that!
Javier Hernandez (5’9”)
GLYN KIRK / AFP
Picked out of relative obscurity by Manchester United from Mexico, ‘Chicharito’ as he is fondly called, is a goal-poacher and lethal in the opposition box. His back of the head goal against Stoke City in the 2011 season is a prime example of his tremendous heading ability.
Luis Garcia (5’7”)
VALERY HACHE / AFP
His strong heading ability despite his small frame was showcased brilliantly during his time in Liverpool where he even outshone the 6’7” giant striker Peter Crouch in the air!
Patrice Evra (5’7”)
FRANCK FIFE / AFP
The French international built up a reputation of being a good header during the 2012 season where he scored three goals from corners in spite of being the smallest man on the pitch for Manchester United!
Radamel Falcao (5’10”)
ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP
The prolific Colombian has tremendous ability in the air - score headers, hold up the ball in open play - he could do it all. Often known as the complete ‘Number 9’, his comeback from recent injury issues have been difficult and is struggling to find his earlier form.
It is worth mentioning that retired English striker Michael Owen scored a sizeable number of headed goals in his career and was only 5’8”. Also, who can forget diminutive magician Lionel Messi’s headed goal in the 2009 Champions League final?
Photo_Concepts / iStock Photo
How do they do it? Well, the secret lies in sheer hard work on the pitch, in training and understanding the game better. Agreed that being tall is a definite advantage when it comes to heading the ball, but there are many important factors too:
Strength In Legs
Football has a lot to do with lower body strength. It not only helps in running and shooting, but also to propel your body above the opponent. Strengthening exercises like lunges, squats surely help. Gymming is another option to strengthen the legs during the off-season.
Using arms help you attain more height and also to keep opponents at bay!
Use Of The Neck
The neck muscles help in giving direction and placing the ball in the net. Don’t ignore those neck exercises!
Timing The Jump
It’s all in the timing they say! It is extremely important to jump just before your opponent does and decide in the short time when you are in the air where to head the ball.
You’ve Got To Be Brave
Bravery is very important in any contact sport, leave alone football. The leap for the ball has to be such that it is the only thing in the world that you need!