If you play on an aggressive team or one that likes to play in the opposition’s half, you have to know what you’re going to do when facing counterattacks. If you don’t, the chances of the opposing team scoring on those counters goes way up and other teams will learn to focus on countering against your team.
Below you will find some of the main ways to approach defending the counterattack. If everyone on your team follows these tips, chances are your team will give up far fewer goals after turning the ball over.
Everyone Should Get Back
First and foremost, no one should be standing around watching the opposing team running with the ball. Counterattacks often lead to goals, so everyone should be running back to try to stop that from happening. If you have a chance to put in a good slide tackle, do it, but otherwise run back as quickly as you can.
While it’s true that the forwards will have a tough time stopping the counterattack, they too should be running back to get in good positions on defense. This will keep the opposing team from establishing a good possession once they have to slow down. In fact, this can often lead to counterattacks for your team.
Midfielders and defenders should stay near their lanes while running back unless they have a chance to stop the ball. Outside midfielders and defenders should pinch in just a little bit to try to force the opposing team down the sidelines.
Pressure the Ball
A mistake that teams at every level make when facing the counterattack is allowing players to have too much space with the ball. When you do this, you give the counterattacking team a chance to pick out the best passes down the field.
As soon as the opposing team gets the ball and is running on the counterattack, the player closest to the ball should get as tight as they can to prevent breakouts. This can force the opposing team into making bad turnovers and get stop the counterattack before it’s even begun.
Prioritize Defending the Middle
Sometimes it simply isn’t possible to cover every opposing player running at you on the counterattack. When the team can’t get back into position on time, it is very important that you choose to cover the inside rather than chasing the ball on the outside.
It’s never a good situation when a winger or a striker has the ball one-on-one going towards goal, but the chances of them scoring go way down if they are forced down the sidelines rather than down the middle of the pitch. It also buys your team time until someone else can come and get closer to the player with the ball.
In these situations, a good central defender will be vocal and let everyone know where they should be.
Don’t Defend Desperately
Different formations cover the counterattack in different ways, but no matter what you have to have a plan when facing a counterattack. Players can’t just run towards the ball or towards the goal without knowing why they’re doing so. Even worse is when a player dives in to try to make a great play only to leave their team down another defender.
There is nothing wrong with trying to steal the ball when facing a counterattack, but you should only do it when you know you have a great chance to get the ball back for your team. Many players dive in with a half-hearted tackle attempt to basically show that they “did something” to try to stop the counterattack; don’t be that player!