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Defending Soccer Drills

Soccer defending are used by the top football teams today have grown increasingly complex. Below are some general coaching points related to defending:

Defending Coaching Points (1vs1)

  • Switch On, Concentrate (Attitude). Defending is an attitude? As soon as possession is lost you must be mentally switch on and prepared to defend in soccer. You must be able to read the situation, the player in possession and other attacking and defensive soccer player’s activity. We are at our most vulnerable when the ball is lost because players have been drawn out of position.
  • First Role.  The first defenders role is to slow down the attack, not necessarily win the ball.  They should prevent the ball being played forward.  This pressure will cause the ball carrier's head down making him worry about controlling the ball and so he cannot look for passing options.
  • Secondary Roles.  The player(s) not nearest to the ball get into position to intercept all short or desired passing options (they provide cover).
  • Immediate Pressure on the Ball.  Nearest man to the ball should apply pressure on the ball by moving into a position to defend within 2-3 yards of their opponent.  Player nearest the ball is "the 1st Defender".
  • Angle of Approach. In order to adopt the correct challenging position the defender must make up ground while the ball is travelling (travel as the ball is travelling) and get into line between the ball and the goal or target area. The defender's job is to reduce passing angles and space for the man on the ball to play in and to make passing targets predictable.
  • Speed of Approach. The defender should approach his opponent as fast as he can while the ball is travelling in order to make up ground. It is important, however, for the defender to have slowed his approach by the time the ball has reached the opponent. If he continues at speed when the opponent has the ball under control he will find it difficult to change direction, so the attacker will be able to beat him with a trick or a sudden side movement. The approach by the defender should be slowed, and a balanced position should be adopted, just before the ball is brought under control. Quick closing down can force technical and tactical errors by making opponents perform quicker than they are capable of. Make sure he doesn't beat you on the first touch, therefore don't close down too close or too fast or he will nick it past you. Be aware of give and goes with supporting players.
  • Closing Down the Last Few Yards.  Closing down the last few yards by slowing down and taking small strides. If the defender is five to six yards away from the attacker when the ball is brought under control, his task is to close down the last three to four yards.
  • Side on Approach.  Side on approach and inch in, face the same way. Slightly crouching, the defender should adopt a sideways on position and edge in slowly towards the attacker. Gain the initiative by pretending to tackle or feinting so the attacker looks down and the ball and tries to defend it.
  • Force Him One Way.  Force him one way onto your best foot, into players, down the line or across the field. Make play predictable. Show where you want him to go and make him go by getting there early. 
  • Closing Down.  Get in position with a gap between your legs, get down and stay down and resist putting first foot forward. Is he too tight too soon or too loose so that the attacker can easily control the ball?
  • Jockey Him.  The idea of jockeying is to delay or break up the attack by preventing the player on the ball from playing forward (or sometimes sideways) by keeping in front of him or by getting your body between the attacker and the goal. The defender backs off slightly and waits for the attacker to commit himself, keeping their eyes focused firmly on the movement of the ball and not the player. The defender must get low, slightly half turned and stay balanced on their toes with their body weight evenly distributed between both feet so they can edge close to the ball, have the option of tackling or springning off if required. Keep your opponent at arm's length so you are a good distance to tackle if possible. You don't need to tackle the important thing is to prevent them playing forward. Don't make it easy for the attacker by diving in or moving too fast or too close, be patient and track the attacker who is in front of you.
  • Be Patient, don't stab (You dont have to win the ball!).  Time, in these situations, time always favours the defender. If the attacker has control of the ball, the temptation to try to win the ball must be resisted by the defender. Remember, fools rush in, usually fall over, and present the opposition with a numerical advantage. 
    End product. Intercept and create, spoil and recover, contain and stick and tackle.
  • Can we Intercept?  Intercept and create, spoil and recover, contain and stick and tackle.
    Clearances you must you be first by meeting the ball as early as possible with determination. Look for height, distance or width. Height favours the defence and buys time.
  • Recovery runs with lots of positive attitude. Recovering defenders should understand their lines of recovery. The run should be a direct line towards their own goal. When the ball is put into wide areas wide full back furthest from the ball should run in line with the back post, far post should run mid goal, mid goal should mark near post, near post should go to the ball. Once goal side the options are can I win the ball, can I cover a challenging player, can I mark someone or can I mark space. 


Remember to tackle if you can win it but don't jump in

 Defending Soccer Drills

  • Staggered stance, alternating front and back foot, feet shoulder width apart, legs bent, body bent, on your toes (don't get flat-footed).
  • Feints and stabs but do not commit until ball-carrier makes a mistake.
  • Concentrate on player, not the ball, look at ball carrier's hips, not his feet or upper body.
  • With peripheral vision, see the space between the ball and ball carrier. If the ball gets away from feet
  • Deny the shot
  • Deny penetration by denying "through" spaces which ball carrier desires to penetrate.
  • Close distance between self and ball carrier. Get close enough to force ball carrier to alter course of attack and to force his head down to concentrate on not losing possession of the ball.
  • Choose angle of approach to guide ball carrier away from dangerous space.
  • Block any attempted shot.
  • Win possession by stepping between ball carrier and ball if ball gets away from his feet.
  • Tackle also if the ball carrier allows ball to be between his own feet. Tackles should be fully committed through centre of ball carrier's position.
  • Individual Defending Technique
    • Player nearest the ball is "the 1st Defender"
    • The first defenders role is to slow down the attack, not necessarily win the ball.  They should prevent the ball being played forward.
    • This pressure will cause the ball carrier's head down making him worry about controlling the ball and so he cannot look for passing options.
    • The player(s) not nearest to the ball get into position to intercept all short or desired passing options; (they provide cover)
    • Leave open most difficult and longest passing options as long as there is good pressure and cover on the ball carrier and his nearest passing options.
    • The first defender should not run straight at the ball carrier, but should come in at an angle that would force the ball carrier to pass back or to attack toward our covering defenders or toward a touchline. This makes the opponent's attack predictable and easy to read by covering defenders.
    • Once contained, delayed, the defender may more in closer now with cover to challenge for the ball.
    • If the defender can force the attacker to go backwards, the defender must try to maintain close pressure to keep the attacker from opening up space.
    • The supporting defence should use this opportunity to push forward as well, compressing the attack away from it's own goal. If the on ball pressure is not there, then the supporting defence would do well not to compress as the attacker will have time and space to find and take advantage of the defensive weak spots.
    The 1st defender, in applying pressure to the attacking ball-handler, should:
    • The 2nd defenders, (those next nearest to the ball), are those who are marking up to close passing options. They must cover the space behind their teammate who is pressuring the ball; and if numbers are up than extra defender might decide to risk double teaming the ball carrier to win the ball.
    • The 3rd defender provides Balance - the 3rd and other defenders cover deep and attacking spaces which may be used by the opponent to switch their point of attack, for example, by playing to the opposite wing.