Understanding Simple Defensive Strategies

defensive strategies soccer

Soccer players love to focus on their offensive skills when they are first starting out, but they soon learn the value of good team defense. A team that understands basic defensive strategies can shift together and keep opposing offenses from being able to execute their tactics.

Often it is the good defensive teams that finish the season near the top of the standings because they limit the amount of goal-scoring chances that other teams get against them. Also, these teams usually get the most counter attack opportunities since they know how to get the ball back and get their offense going quickly.

Below you will find defensive strategies that every soccer player should know about. If you can master these basic tactics, then you will improve immensely as a player.

Forcing Opponents Sideways

Most of the time, teams want to force their opponents sideways since it keeps them as far away from the goal as possible. It also takes more of the opposing players out of the play since they are spread out all over the field.

As an individual, it is a good idea to steer your opponent towards the sideline by overplaying them. This means that you need to shift so your body is diagonal to your opponent, and so they can’t make a move towards the middle of the field. This simple defensive move can make your job a lot easier, and it also allows your defense to keep its shape longer.

When the opponents do get the ball close to the goal, the whole defense should do whatever it takes to push them sideways. This will keep the opposing team from getting a clean, straight shot on goal. This is also the only time when it is okay to leave a player along on the side of the field; the primary goal, after all, is to keep the ball out of your net.

Zonal Marking

The majority of defenses play in a zonal marking system. This means that each player has a “zone” that they need to cover, and they should only leave that zone as a last-ditch effort to stop the other team.

Zonal marking isn’t as simple as just standing still and waiting for a player to enter your zone, though. Each player has to keep an eye out for what’s going on around them so they can fill in any gaps that their teammates leave.

One of the best skills to practice for zonal marking is picking up opposing players that go on runs. The best defenses shut down these runs by either stepping up and drawing them offside, or by quickly making a run with them to cut off any pass that goes their way.


If you want to have a good defense, absolutely everyone on the team has to communicate with their teammates. Since there is a lot going on all over the field at all times, each player has a responsibility to let others know when they are covering for them or when they need help.

There’s more to soccer communication than just screaming back and forth, though. Players can communicate to the teammates next to them with quick hand gestures to let them know how to move. They can also huddle up when they get the chance to tell each other what they've been seeing from the other team. It is up to the team to decide exactly how they communicate, but it doesn’t have to be through yelling at one another.