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Defence – Key Tactics to Boost Your Defence of the Ball

Updated: May 1, 2023

Remembering that defending is a team effort, and everyone on the field has a role to play in protecting the goal, we’d like to suggest some key strategies to boost your defence of the ball in youth football:


Communication: Encourage your defenders to communicate with each other on the field. They should be calling out the positions of the opposition players and alerting their teammates to potential dangers.


Pressure on the ball: Teach your defenders to apply pressure on the ball when the opposition has possession. They should be closing down the space and forcing the attacker to make a quick decision.


Marking: Ensure that your defenders are marking their opponents closely and preventing them from making runs or receiving passes in dangerous areas.


Covering: Teach your defenders to provide cover for each other. If one defender is beaten, another should be there to provide support and prevent the opposition from advancing.


Team shape: Make sure that your team is organized and has a solid defensive shape. This means positioning your defenders and midfielders in a way that makes it difficult for the opposition to penetrate through the middle of the field.


Anticipation: Encourage your defenders to anticipate the movements of the opposition players and to react quickly to intercept passes or win back possession.


Patience: Teach your defenders to be patient and not to dive into tackles or make rash decisions. They should wait for the right moment to make a tackle or interception.


Virgil van Dijk, one of the world's top football defenders, rates the following as the key skills in football defending:


Positioning: Van Dijk emphasizes the importance of having good positioning on the field. This means being in the right place at the right time to intercept passes and make tackles.


Anticipation: According to Van Dijk, a great defender needs to be able to anticipate the movements of the opposition players and react quickly to win back possession.


Reading the game: Van Dijk stresses the importance of being able to read the game and understand the opposition's tactics. This means analysing the opposition's strengths and weaknesses and adapting your own tactics accordingly.


Communication: Van Dijk believes that communication is essential for a strong defence. This means talking to your teammates on the field, calling out positions and potential threats, and working together to protect the goal.


Tackling: Van Dijk rates tackling as an important defensive skill but stresses the importance of making clean tackles and avoiding unnecessary fouls.


Heading: As a tall defender, Van Dijk also highlights the importance of heading in football defending. He stresses the importance of timing and technique when it comes to heading the ball to do it safely and minimise risk of injury.


Overall, Van Dijk believes that a great defender needs to have a combination of physical and mental skills, as well as a strong work ethic and dedication to the game.


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