Soccer drill for defending deep

The Italian national team has grown up on the defensive system called Catenaccio – in which the teams strangle the game then unleash long counter-attacking balls. The team’s ability to defend deep is a useful skill for youth soccer (football). Use this soccer drill to teach your players these tips and tactics.

Defending deep is an art and can help youngsters play as it creates a good platform for turning defence into attack. The trick is to force the opposition to play square or backward passes in front of you because as a team your defence has no gaps.

The opposition is forced into passing the ball into situations where your defenders are favourite to win the ball. Once won, they can counter with quick passing and good support.

This soccer drill deals with defenders and the use of space in front of goal. The tip is to look out for:

  • Gaps between defenders.
  • Opportunities to intercept and play forward quickly.
  • Slow reactions when the ball is won.

The first purpose of this tactic is to prevent a goal being scored, the second to try and counter attack.

If a counter attack is not on, tell your players they must keep possession and try to build up more slowly.

Here’s how to play the soccer drill:

image shows possession drill where white team have ball and have to play into a grid


In an area approx 40m x 10m, the players start as in the diagram. There is a 3v3 possession game in the grid at one end. In the diagram the white team has won the ball so they play into the next grid where there is one player from each team, the object is to move the ball forward as soon as possible.

Two players from each team can move with the ball to advance the 3v3 situation through each section of the grid. The players should try and play the ball quickly forward to the striker in the last sector. Again, up to two players from each team can follow the pass. The object is to run the ball into the shaded end zone.

The quicker the ball is moved, the fewer players there are in each sector and therefore the greater the chance to take advantage of a break out from a defensive situation.

Reverse the drill once the ball reaches the shaded end zone.

To read more about Catennacio, click here.

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