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Pressuring the ball

Putting pressure on the ball doesn’t always mean running in for a tackle. Simply having a defender in front of the ball limits the attacker in many important ways. In your own defensive third, make sure to stay between the attacker and your own goal. In the middle of the field, approach the attacker at angle so you can “shepherd” him toward the sideline.

First and second defender rule


The first defender is always the one who is pressuring the ball while the second defender provides backup. It is common for two to rotate whenever the first defender misses a tackle. The defender who was beaten immediately drops back to the center of defense while the second defender steps up to the ball.

Closing down passing lanes

Defenders can sometimes limit the attacker by closing his passing options. For example, an attacker is challenged by a defender who blocks his passing lane to a second attacker. This forces first attacker to move sideways. Usually, you want to force your opponent out to the sideline. One exception is when you are near the opponent’s goal. In that case, it’s better to force him towards the middle, on top of his own box.


The closer an opponent is to the ball, the tighter he should be marked. This way, you can intercept and fight for the ball when he is about to receive a pass. Never wait for the person you are marking to receive the ball. Instead, try to beat him to the ball or pressure him so he is off balance.


Clearing the ball is a good idea when the attackers have momentum or a numerical advantage. Don’t hesitate to play the ball out of bounds in order to delay the attack.
Experienced defenders can use their smarts to clear the ball. For example, when close to the sideline, you may try and kick the ball at the attacker’s knees so that it’s deflected for a throw-in.

Updated: June 29, 2016
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