Football Techniques
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Defending outnumbered
Drill created with Tactics Manager

Defending outnumbered drill

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 above. 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 defense into attack in an orderly fashion instead of simply kicking the ball out of danger. Because the red team can also score, it forces the blue team to put pressure on the red players in order to recover the ball.


This is a simple football game. In addition to the usual 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 zone.
  • The red team players can move everywhere in the field, but only 1 player at the time can defend in the central box.
  • Only the two blue players in the attacking zone can shoot to goal.
  • Any of the red players can score.
  • The blue team can only score if the ball was touched by the player in the central box.
  • The blue team is only allowed 2 touches (e.g.: 1 touch to control the ball and 1 touch to pass the ball).
  • The read team is allowed unlimited touches.
  • Goals can be scored by both teams, but goals scored by the defending team are worth 2 points.


The main objectives of this exercise is to keep team shape both in attack as well as in defense. When in defense, the team has to be well organised in order to score in the small goal. This game covers a good number of aspects:

  • Passing. Because of the limitations imposed by the zones and number of touches, blue players are forced to improve their passing technique.
  • Team work. The red team is forced to coordinate their movements in order to recover the ball.
  • Transitioning from defense 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 defense into attack in an orderly manner.
  • Players positioning. In order 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 at the same time that they press for the ball. Because they are outnumbered, red players have to be aware at all time 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.

This drill is very demanding on the red players. Therefore, rotate the players in each team. Keep the game to about 15 minutes, then rotate.

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