EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FOR GRASSROOTS SOCCER COACHES

How to win make or break games

With the World Cup final in a few days’ time, it’s a good time to look at how to win one off important games like the finals of tournaments you are playing this summer.

As you go into ‘make or break’ games, get your players to consider the following…
> Keep it simple: big game pressures can bring out a tendency for teams to either freeze or ‘over play’. Get your team to play their regular game, irrespective of the occasion, and focus on succeeding at the basics of passing, team shape and organisation.
> Show opponents respect: even when playing a seemingly “lesser” team, always be aware that upsets can happen, especially when a big prize is at stake. Never take your opponent lightly.
> Prepare mentally: concentration, determination, confidence and a positive mental attitude are all crucial qualities you should instil in your players prior to any vital match. Talk calmly in the big match build-up, ensuring they are not overawed about the game coming up.

The first thing to say to your players is “win the ball”, and a great way to get them winning the ball is to work with them on sessions from my EasiCoach curriculum. Full pitch pressure to win the ball helps you coach your players in the basics of pressing and forcing mistakes in the opposition.

You should be running some Rondo-style games where players have to win the ball back quickly in overload situations. An excellent session that progresses from a Rondo to a small-sided game that focusses on winning the ball back is Lost the ball? Win it back, working in the Barcelona method to get possession from the opposition by closing down quickly.

In these crunch games, space on the pitch is at a premium and teams need to know how best to create it. Create goals from tight spaces is one of my favourite games to play to help players control the ball and keep possession under pressure.

Finally, you want a good finish to the move, play this great game Win the ball and score a goal that works on overloads and ends with a bang.

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