Defending outnumbered drill

by Pablo M16th Sep 2020

Drill created with Tactics Manager

Inexperienced defenders rush to the opposition to recover the ball. This is a particularly dangerous move during a counterattack. The drill in this post will help your team to coordinate defensive efforts when defending outnumbered.


This drill requires half of an actual football pitch, 2 small goals and 10 cones to mark the field and the central box, as shown in the picture below. You will need 6 attacking players and 3 defenders.

In the picture, red players are defending and blue attacking. Red players can move everywhere in the field while the blue team is distributed, 3 in their defensive zone, 1 in the central box, 2 in their attacking half.

Two small goals are provided to create a more competitive situation and motivate the red team to move from defence into attack in an orderly fashion instead of simply kicking the ball out of danger. Furthermore, because the red team can also score, it forces the blue team to pressure the red players to recover the ball.


In addition to the usual football rules, follow these basic instructions:

  • 2 teams. 6 attacking players (blue team) and 3 defensive players (red team).
  • The blue team players can only move in their designated zones: 3 players in their defensive zone, 1 in the central box and 2 in the attacking area.
  • The red team players can move everywhere in the field, but only 1 player at the time can defend in the central box.
  • Both teams can score, but the blue team can only score if the ball was touched by the player in the central box.
  • Only the two blue players in the attacking zone can shoot to goal.
  • Any red player can shoot to goal.
  • The blue team is only allowed 2 touches.
  • The read team is allowed unlimited touches.

This drill is very demanding on the defending players. Therefore, play this game for 15 minutes and rotate the defenders every 5 minutes.


This exercise focuses on coordinating efforts when outnumbered. However, this game also covers other aspects:

  • Passing. Because of the limitations imposed by the zones and the number of touches, blue players are forced to improve their passing technique.
  • Teamwork. The red team must coordinate their movements to recover the ball.
  • Transitioning from defence into attack. Constantly hoofing the ball away to defend will make it harder for the defending team to score. Therefore the team must move from defence into attack in an orderly manner.
  • Players positioning. To keep possession of the ball, players must move in a block and stay close to each other.  The zones also ensure that players move in a restricted area instead of all over the field without any organisation.
  • Field awareness. Red players must take care of the central area while they press for the ball. Because they are outnumbered, red players have to be aware at all times of the position of any free blue player to block passing opportunities.
  • Speed and reaction. Once the ball reaches the blue player in the central box, red players must sprint to stop the attacking blue players from scoring. This requires quick reaction and speed.
  • Fitness. Red players are constantly on their toes: covering spaces, moving in and out of the central box, running back to their goal, etc. This game is physically demanding for the outnumbered team.

I hope you find this drill useful. If you like this post, please share it with your friends. If you know other exercises or have any questions, leave a comment below.