Whether you are technically a defensive player or not, you will still find yourself defending at some point during a soccer match. If you are not used to playing defense this can be especially challenging. Here are some tips and tricks to defending during a soccer game that are useful whether you are a beginner or seasoned player.
Approach the Opposition Quickly
Running quickly towards your opponent puts pressure on them to make their next move or decision. The more pressure you put on them, the more likely they are to make a mistake.
They will have less time to judge whether or not they should pass, shoot, or try to run around you, and the stress of making a quick call will impair their judgment. Remember this too when playing offense and the other team’s defense runs up on you. Instead of stressing about making a quick decision, have go-to moves to outsmart a fast player.
Watch the Player, Not Just the Ball
Of course, in any sport the key advice is to keep your eye on the ball. When playing defense, though, it is just as important to keep your eye on the other team’s player.
Don’t run up on the ball when playing defense, but run up on the opposing team’s player. The purpose is to pressure them into making a mistake or to make their next move impossible, not to steal the ball every time.
Focus on the cues of the other team’s player, whether that be visually where he is looking to kick the ball, or physically which way his body is turned to run. Keep your eye on the player in this case, not the ball.
Angle Your Body
You never want to give your opponent a clear path. You should always make dribbling as difficult as possible for the other team. If you try to block your opponent face on, they can still duck around you.
Blocking and defending at an angle keeps the other person from moving forward and also to the side you are leaning. As you angle your body, try to be aware of where the other players on the field are. Angle your body towards where there are more of the other team’s players, and fewer of your own.
You can also use body positioning to force your opponent to go in the direction you want, or even to make them use the wrong foot. Even if you can’t block them completely, block the path of their clearest shot to the goal or their teammates and force them into a path that is less convenient for them, giving your team more opportunity to block a shot or recover the ball.
Practice Your Defensive Stance
There is a good go-to posture for playing defense. In general, you want to keep your center of gravity low to keep your balance and control. To lower your center of gravity, keep your knees bent and slightly lower your rear end. You can put your arms out for balance, or to brush opponents away.
Tackling shouldn’t be a go-to move, since if you are defending properly you shouldn’t have to tackle as much because you have gotten the ball from the other team with blocking and stance.
Tackle when your opponent shows the slightest hesitation or makes a mistake. If you are going to tackle, commit to it and tackle hard.
Don’t hesitate once you’ve decided to do it or you could miss your opportunity and let your opponent get away. If the tackle fails or you miss it, try to recover by sprinting after the other team’s player as quickly as possible.
Do not tackle recklessly and constantly, though, as this leaves a lot of room for mistakes on your end, and recovering from a failed tackle can take time you don’t have. You can also fake a tackle to trick your opponent into making a mistake.
Act like you are going to tackle and then pull away, forcing your opponent off balance or into a different direction. Tackling takes a lot of time and practice to do effectively.
Stay in a Good Position
If you aren’t on the ball, you should still be in a good position on the field and staying on your man. The combination of these two things is key to off-the-ball defense. Stay in a valuable position on the field, where the ball is likely to go and not clustered by a bunch of other defense players.
You always want to be between the goal and your man, and close enough to them that you can run up quickly if needed. Ideally, you’ll always be between your man and the goal and between your man and the ball, and also covering valuable field space.
This, of course, won’t always be possible, so you will have to choose which is more important: covering the goal, the ball, or field space. Learn through practice and experience to assess the situation and find your best position.
Keep Your Cool
The other team will be doing everything in their power to rattle you, throw you off guard, and force you into making mistakes. You may become frustrated with yourself or your teammates during a game.
Don’t let the anger get to you; getting frustrated will only lead to clouding your head and making more mistakes. Try to stay as calm and collected as possible. Practice meditation at the end of every practice session so that you have trained your mind and body into staying relaxed when you need to.
And there you have it! Seven tips for how to defend in soccer, no matter how seasoned or experienced a player you are.
No matter whether you are playing a game against your friends and family or participating in a tournament or championship, with these tips above, you can be sure that you now know how to defend in soccer so you never have to let the ball slip away again.