Break the defensive line and shoot

by Pablo M23rd Dec 2022

Drill created with TACTICS MANAGER

One of the most effective ways to score is to outnumber the opposition goalkeeper. To do this, your attack must break the defensive line. Teams can do this by dribbling through defenders or with passing combinations. The drill in this post emulates the latter.


This drill emulates an attacking scenario you can apply in an actual match. Therefore you need enough space to practice, at least 50 metres long (half a football pitch size). You can practice this drill with as few as 5 players: a midfielder, two strikers, a defender and a goalkeeper. If you have good attendance at training and an entire football field is available, you can run two groups in parallel and make it a competition between groups.

In addition to a full-size field, you will need balls, mannequins (or anything that simulates a back line), and cones to mark the pitch, as shown in the picture.


In a previous post, we discussed another exercise to break lines, but in this case, the main objective is to provide strikers with an opportunity to score. To make it fun, run this drill in multiple groups and make it a competition. Follow these instructions as a starting point:

  • A midfielder starts in the first cone (middle circle), a defender waits in the penalty spot, and strikers pick a mannequin to start (in the picture, they choose the mannequins in the middle).
  • The midfielder passes the ball to one of the strikers.
  • Immediately after passing the ball, the midfielder runs to the second cone.
  • The receiving player passes the ball back to the midfielder, and both strikers turn around to run behind their mannequins.
  • The midfielder breaks the defensive line by passing the ball behind the mannequins to set the ball for the second striker (the player that hasn’t been involved so far).
  • The defender must stay in the penalty spot until the ball breaks the mannequins’ line.
  • The striker receiving the ball can shoot or pass to the other strikers.
  • The defender can block or challenge the ball. Sliding tackles are not allowed.
  • Repeat the sequence, but this time the midfielder starts by passing the ball to the other striker.

Run a few sequences for the players to get in the rhythm. Then the midfielder can break the sequence by randomly alternating the first pass and second pass. This will make it more difficult for the defender and the goalkeeper.

You can also make alterations to this drill, such as having an additional defender and/or using real players instead of mannequins.

Breaking defensive line


This drill will help practice passing combinations to break a defensive line and also help with the following:

  • Mechanising movements. The exercise simulates a common scenario during a game. The more the team practices this drill, the easier it will become to execute in actual games.
  • Passing accuracy. The midfielder must be accurate with their passes to move forwards quickly and set the ball in the right place to score.
  • First touch. Players must improve their first touch to control and pass the ball quickly or shoot.
  • Teamwork. This drill encourages collaboration over individual efforts. Players must coordinate their movements to keep moving quickly and move into scoring position at the right moment.
  • Positioning. Players have to move on and off the ball to create passing lanes. When defending, players have to position themselves to close passing lanes and block shots.
  • Patience and defending close to the goal. Not allowing sliding tackles forces the defender to be patient and keep their position. Defenders practice how to recover the ball, avoiding reckless defending.
  • Shooting accuracy. Practising with a goalkeeper and a defender requires strikers to read their movements and shoot with pinpoint accuracy.
  • Quick finishing. Because there is a defender, attacking players are encouraged to shoot as soon as they receive the ball.
  • Goalkeeping at a short distance. This is a good drill for goalkeepers to practice saving shots from a short distance.

I hope you find this drill helpful. If you like this post, please share it with your friends. If you know about other exercises or have questions, leave a comment on our Facebook page.