Grassroots Coaching

UEFA B Coaching – Defend to Counter Attack

I had another question from a Grassroots Coaching fan regarding a key UEFA B Coaching topic:

“What is the difference between Coaching a team to defend to counter attack compared to coaching a team to defend deep to counter attack?”

In this article, we look at how to Coach a team to defend to counter attack.


The first thing to think of is that your team are defending and the opposition are attacking. So you want the opposition to commit players forward, so if the defending team gain possession and break forward quickly they have the opportunity of an equal number or numerical advantage and the opposition have players’ briefly on the wrong side of the ball.

The defending team for this topic will look to be organised defensively, with the team behind the ball. They will be higher up the pitch, with the GK sweeping behind for any balls that are player over the top. This will enable them to put pressure on higher up the pitch, so if they win the ball there is less distance for them to attack the goal. Imagine a game like situation where the opposition are playing out from the back. The defensive team are organised and behind the ball. They have squeezed up and compacted play, but are in defensive positions to deal with a long ball over the top. They are encouraging the opposition to pass the ball in their own half. They are giving the opposition enough rope to hang themselves. Typically, this might be a home team who are 0-0 or winning 1 –0.

The team will need to be patient with their pressure and if the opposition have good possession, not to chase the ball and become disorganised, allowing the opposition to play through them.


The defending team are waiting for TRIGGERS that they react to as a team to go and pressure and hunt the ball, trying to win it and counter attack.

The triggers might be: A poor back pass to the GK that could be pressured and force the GK to hurry: A loose throw or kick from the GK: A poor cross field pass that forces the receiver backwards to control it or might result in a poor touch: Square passes into tight areas, for example a full back passing square into a midfield player: A straight pass from a defender into a midfield player who has a closed body position: Any poor control or loose control.

The defending team will be looking to identify these triggers early. The nearest player will look to try and intercept or pressure the ball aggressively. The rest of the team then work together to hunt as a pack and put pressure on and around the ball, looking to win the ball and counter attack. They will have to be careful that as they pressure the ball, they don’t push to high up the pitch and leave themselves vulnerable for one ball over the top that beats them all.

The key is discipline, organisation, communication, and patience. Once they have quickly identified the trigger, they react quickly and as a team to flood the area around the ball.

If they win the ball, they are in a position to counter attack quickly. This might take the form of a player quickly running with the ball into space or directly at an opponent to commit them to the ball: A player dribbling past an opponent and taking them out of the game: A quick through pass or cross behind the opposition for timed forward runs: A direct shot on goal. They will also need to commit players forward quickly to counter attack, but be careful they don’t all commit forward and leave themselves vulnerable for a counter attack.

This video might help you understand the principle of defending as a team in an 8 v 8 game. If the team win the ball, then they look to counter attack.

UEFA B Coaching – Small Sided Game – Defend as a Team

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Assessment UEFA B Defending Sessions Defending Tips UEFA B