Maximize Your Odds When Defending 1 v 1 by Mastering These 4 Subtle Tricks and Gain Confidence in Your Ability to Win the Ball Back


Skillz and Drillz produced an excellent video on soccer defending 1v1 situations. It’s remarkable how logical most of one on one defending is, but we mostly don’t think about these concepts and thus remain ignorant.

My comments explaining the reasons why these principles work follow the vid. If you like this post, share this post with friends on Reddit, Facebook, or Twitter, and/or sign up for our weekly training tips in the right hand form.

The 4 key fundamentals to defending 1 v 1 in soccer are as follows. (The video’s still definitely worth watching to understand what doing these well looks like, as opposed to doing them poorly.)

1) Get to the opponent fast.

One thing that’s not explicit in the video, but that more advanced coaches will teach you, is not to attack towards a player in control of the ball who is facing towards the flow of play. The reason is that they have all the time in the world to dribble or pass past you, and you’ve wasted time and space (there’s now a hole behind you) and energy.

In the video, the offensive player doesn’t start with the ball, but rather receives it. This is important – you want to run towards the receiving player as the pass is still coming to them. Once they have it in control and are facing towards the flow of play / upfield, you still want to prevent them moving comfortably with your positioning, but not by racing at them.

2) Curve your run to force the opponent towards their weaker side.

Generally people are right-footed, so you want to force them to their left. This means curving in from your left, which is their right.

Why do we curve? If we run straight at the player, it’s easier for them to  dribble in the opposite direction and beat us – the angle is more comfortable. So the defender curves and give the attacker a worse angle. Sometimes the defense adopting a curving run allows us to cut off a passing angle as well.

3) Position your body sideways as you get close.

The result is that the attacker is forced to go to the side that the back’s body faces, or else risk a tackle from our foot that is further forward.

Why do we want to choose what side the attacker goes to? There are many advantages:

  • It gives us certainty and thus saves us time and the risk of anticipating incorrectly. Remember the #1 rule of smart soccer is to increase your time and space advantage.
  • It forces them to use their weak foot, increasing their chances of making a mistake and our chances of tackling successfully.
  • And it gives us a space advantage – we force them away from the center of the field, away from the area where most goals are scored from.
  • Plus if this is close to the touch line, they may accidentally kick the ball out and we recover possession.
  • A different perspective and useful advice offered by Reddit member hcdangerfield211: “I have to disagree with the notion of playing the attacker to his weaker foot. To me, the better approach is to play the attacker to the sideline or better yet, to the sideline and towards a side that you have help defense.

4) If the opponent manages to dribble to the other side without the defence tackling him, we pivot and give them the other side.

This may seem to negate what I said about space advantage, and it’s true that this is a concession. But it’s the lesser of two evils, because it allows the defender to remain in front of the offense, and between the offence and the goal.

Either way, we always keep our ability to pivot and transition high by keeping our weight low. This means bending our knees a lot and leaning forward so that our weight rests on the balls of our feet.

Anyways, the video’s excellent and Skillz and Drillz have more where it came from, so consider subscribing to their Youtube channel! (No, I’m not associated with them. I think they have great videos, period.)

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