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Defending Drill: Close the Space


Anyone who has seen the Italian national team defend a one goal lead at a World Cup knows that defending is an art form. Simply hurling themselves into full blooded challenges is no longer enough for a defender - he must at all times have awareness of what is going on around him, the consequences of his actions, and the need to deny opponents a clear line of sight on goal like a chess grandmaster protects his king.

This small sided drill puts defenders on the back foot and forces them to develop rapport - one closes, the other covers.

Select a goalkeeper, two defenders and three attacking players. The penalty area will be the entire playing area and the ball is given to an attacking player to begin. Scoring is as follows:

  • For each goal the attacking trio score they are awarded one point
  • For every thirty seconds the defending duo (and goalkeeper) do not concede a goal they are awarded one point
  • Each time the defenders rob the attackers of the ball they are awarded one point
  • Each time the ball goes out of player (outside the penalty area and not a goal) the defenders get one point

Play for between three to five minutes before switching for another group of players - a large squad can use both penalty areas of the training pitch to keep more players involved.

Coaches should watch for and encourage defenders that stay on their feet, keep their balance and look to anticipate and intercept passes and block shots.

Keep a supply of balls by the coach's foot ready to resupply the attacking team and keep play frenetic. This drill may very occasionally degenerate into some attacking teams simply firing wasteful snap shots at goal from impossible angles. Whilst the coach will want to shake his head at these kind of players, be sure to take your defenders in hand and heap praise on them - attacking teams only resort to this kind of action when they realize defenders are simply too good and well drilled to allow them a proper sight of goal.

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