What is Nutmegging in Soccer? – Answered by a Soccer Coach

If you’re a Defender in Soccer, you may have heard of “nutmegging.” So, what is nutmegging in soccer mean? Nutmegging is a trick mainly used in sports like field hockey, basketball, and soccer. It’s more than just a fancy move; it’s a smart skill that can make a player feel awkward and demotivated. 

You might have seen a player cleverly sliding the ball between an opponent’s legs; that’s nutmegging. 

Nutmegging means kicking or dribbling the ball through an opponent’s legs to pass it to a teammate or keep control while going around the defender. It’s not only about looking cool; it’s a useful way to get around obstacles on the field, especially when there’s not much space.

In this article, we’ll explore the technique in-depth, where it came from and how to do Nutmeg in soccer.

What is Nutmegging in Soccer?

Nutmegging in soccer is a skillful technique where a player passes the ball between an opponent’s legs and retrieves it on the other side. While it may sound straightforward, executing a nutmeg requires impeccable timing and technique. The move is not just about embarrassing the opponent; it can inject energy into a team and even lead to scoring opportunities.

However, it’s essential to use this move wisely. Attempting a nutmeg at the wrong time could backfire, putting your team at risk. The key to a successful nutmeg is timing it perfectly and accurately judging the space behind the opponent. A player must ensure their technique is spot-on, hitting the ball neither hard nor soft.

what is nutmegging in soccer

Where Does the Word Nutmeg Come From?

The term “nutmeg” in soccer has an unclear but fascinating history. One explanation suggests that it comes from Cockney rhyming slang, where “nutmeg” refers to the opponent’s legs.

Another compelling theory traces its roots to the 1800s, involving the trade of actual nutmegs between North America and England. Nutmegs were so valuable that some exporters would mix wooden replicas into the sacks shipped to England.

The term “being nutmegged” soon implied that the victim was duped, associating cleverness with the trickster. This historical context adds depth to the term, making it more than just a soccer move.

How Do You Nutmeg Someone in Soccer?

Executing a nutmeg in soccer is not just about luck; it’s a skill that requires precise timing and technique. The first step is to open up the defender’s legs, which can be achieved through a move or a half-move.

Once the defender’s legs are apart, the next step is to slide the ball through the gap. The key is not to hit the ball too hard or too soft; it should be just enough to get it through and retrieve it on the other side. However, caution is advised.

Overusing this move can irritate defenders and make them more cautious, reducing your chances of successfully executing future nutmegs.

How to Do a Nutmeg

To successfully perform a nutmeg in soccer, you need to focus on three key elements: touch, timing, and opportunity. First, develop a soft touch to control the ball effectively.

This will enable you to set up the nutmeg. Second, play the game as it comes to you; don’t force the nutmeg. Look for the right moment when the defender’s legs are apart, usually after a move or feint.

Finally, ensure that executing the nutmeg will put you in a better attacking position. It’s not just about showing off; it should serve a tactical purpose. Here are some situations where nutmeg is most effective:

  • When the defender is flat-footed, it is easier to slide the ball through.
  • When the defender is out of position: Take advantage of such mismatches.
  • When the defender is in a compromising position: For example, if they’ve just made a tackle and are getting back to their feet.

How Do You Defend Against a Nutmeg?

Defending against a nutmeg in soccer is all about positioning and awareness. One effective method is to stagger your feet, creating less of an opening for the ball to pass through.

This also helps you shuffle laterally and stay on your toes. Another strategy is to bait the opponent into attempting a nutmeg, then quickly put your body between the ball and the opposing player. Remember, the objective is to prevent both the ball and the player from getting past you.

If you find yourself nutmegged, immediately position your body to block the opponent’s path to the ball. Here are some additional tips:

  • Wait to commit too early: If you’re up against a skilled dribbler, maintain your ground.
  • Be cautious near your goal: Giving up a foul in this area could be costly.
  • Know your opponent: Be extra vigilant against players who frequently attempt nutmegs.

When is the Best Time to Nutmeg a Soccer Player?

The timing of a nutmeg is crucial for its success. The best time to execute this skill is when you’re certain it will work without any setbacks. Factors that make for ideal timing include:

  • Along the Sidelines: This gives you a better chance to score.
  • Running Down: Execute the nutmeg when you’re in motion to catch the defender off guard.
  • Near Full Speed: The faster you are, the less time the defender has to react.
  • End of the Game: A successful nutmeg can be the cherry on top when the game is in your control.
  • Third Part of the Pitch: This is often where defenders are most vulnerable.

Also Read: 6 Best 9v9 Soccer Formations – According to Soccer Coach

Professional Soccer Players Who Have Achieved a Meg in Soccer

Several soccer legends have mastered the art of nutmegging. Here are some of the players who have achieved mastery in this skill:

1. Lionel Messi

The Argentine wizard Lionel Messi is famous for his dribbling skills, which often include nutmegs that leave defenders in the dust. With over 120 nutmegs in his career, Messi is often considered the king of this skill.

2. Ronaldinho

Brazilian legend Ronaldinho is another player known for his audacious nutmegs. His flair and creativity often saw him glide past defenders as if they weren’t even there.

3. Cristiano Ronaldo

Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo also has a knack for nutmegs. His speed and technique make him a formidable opponent, capable of executing a nutmeg when it matters most.

4. Luis Suárez

Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez is so skilled at nutmegging that fans at Liverpool would hold up banners saying, “Luis Suárez could nutmeg a mermaid.”

5. Neymar da Silva Santos Junior (Neymar)

Brazilian forward Neymar is a master of complex variations like the Elastico nutmeg, adding another layer of difficulty to this already challenging skill.

6. Juan Roman Riquelme

Argentine legend Juan Roman Riquelme had the extraordinary skill of executing nutmegs without even touching the ball, leaving defenders and spectators alike in awe.

7. Tobin Heath

An American professional, Tobin Heath, is often called the Queen of Nutmeg. She can humiliate defenders with her skillful nutmegs, making her a standout player in women’s soccer.

These players have not only thrilled fans but also demonstrated how a well-timed nutmeg can be a game-changer in soccer.

Also Read: What is a Brace in Soccer? – Explained by Soccer Coach

Summing Up on What is Nutmegging in Soccer

Nutmegging is not just a flashy move; it’s a tactical maneuver that can be both rewarding and risky. It’s a skill that requires perfect timing, technique, and situational awareness.

Whether you’re an amateur or a professional, mastering the art of the nutmeg can add a new dimension to your game. However, it’s crucial to know when to use it.

The wrong timing could lead to a counter-attack or even a goal against your team. But when executed correctly, a nutmeg can inject energy into your team, create scoring opportunities, and even change the momentum of a game.

So, the next time you find yourself in a one-on-one situation, consider whether a nutmeg is the right move for you.

Faqs on What is Nutmegging in Soccer

What Happens When You Get Nutmegged?

In soccer, a nutmeg occurs when the opponent skillfully passes the ball through your legs before regaining control on the other side. This move is not just a way to bypass you; it’s often seen as humiliating. The player who successfully performs a nutmeg gains a psychological edge, while the one who gets nutmegged may feel embarrassed or lose confidence, even if momentarily.

Who is the King of Nutmeg in Football?

Lionel Messi is often hailed as the king of nutmeg in football. His ability to execute this skilful move with precision and flair has been showcased numerous times. Messi’s nutmegs are not just for show; they serve a functional purpose in dribbling past defenders and creating scoring opportunities.

How Do I Stop Getting Nutmegged in Football?

To avoid getting nutmegged, adopt a staggered stance with one foot slightly in front of the other and keep your feet about a ball’s width apart. This reduces the gap between your legs and improves your lateral movement. Stay on your toes and be ready to move in any direction. This stance makes it difficult for the opponent to execute a successful nutmeg.

What is a Scorpion Kick in Football?

The scorpion kick is a unique and acrobatic move in soccer where players dives forward, place their hands on the ground, and use their heels to kick an incoming ball. This move is named for its resemblance to a scorpion’s tail. Colombian goalkeeper René Higuita is credited with popularizing this skill, most notably during a 1995 international friendly match between Colombia and England.

About the author


Hi I"m Aryan a pro soccer player, coach, and visionary in the world of soccer. With an impressive journey that began at the tender age of five, I have dedicated my life to the beautiful game.

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