With the opposition hitting long balls over the ‘Badlands’, this session teaches defenders how to clear the long ball and attackers how to press to prevent the long ball.

Why use it

This shows teams how the front men can pressure and block long passes. It also shows defenders how to clear them. It is a good game for all round blocking when the opposition use long ball tactics.

Set up

Set up an area of 60×30 yards split into three zones with a middle zone of eight yards – vary sizes depending on ages, but all age groups can play this. We’ve used 14 players including two goalkeepers. You need bibs, ball, cones and two goals.

How to play

Split your players into two teams of seven, with each team having a goalkeeper, four defenders and two attackers. Players must stay in their zones at all times and no one is allowed into the ‘Badlands’. The game starts with the keeper, who bowls the ball out to his defenders. At first, don’t allow the attackers to either block or pressure the defenders until they get used to the session. Defenders play balls over the Badlands to their attackers who try to score.


A good session for all round teamwork when long ball merchants come to town, or when your team is under attack from balls played in from the wing and from free-kicks.

    1. Play starts with a pass from the keeper to his defence, who wait for an opening to pass the ball across the Badlands.
    2. The red defender has received the ball with space to run and put in a long pass.

    3. The white defender manages to head the ball back into the opposition half.
    4. The white attackers must try to win the ball or it will come straight back across the Badlands.

    5. Advance the session so the attackers can tackle and pressure the defenders into making mistakes.

5 tips for defending the long ball

  1. Attackers should press high up the pitch to put pressure on players looking to launch the ball long
  2. Organise the centre of defence to clear aerial attacks
  3. Force opposition wingers inside to stop them crossing the ball
  4. Fullbacks and wingers should double up on wide players
  5. The midfield should battle hard to prevent flick-ons
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