Risky soccer tactics when your players are defending corners

It was during a match I was refereeing last season that I first came up with the idea of leaving defenders outside the penalty area when defending corners. One of the teams I was refereeing managed to give away a goal at every corner they faced in the first half.

The problem was the coach called all of his players back into the penalty area to defend the corner. They were crowding out the opposition. To counter this, the attacking team played short at the corner, creating space on the edge of the penalty area.

This made it easier to get direct shots over, or through, the crowd of players. The goalkeeper couldn’t see the ball until very late and had little chance of saving it.

When teams find this is happening to them, they need to change their soccer tactics to limit the number of attackers in the box.

I was reminded of this because the same thing was happening to my team at the weekend. My striker was wandering into the penalty area, rather than staying outside to counter attack.

It made us very slow to get out and allowed the opposition to put as many attackers in our area as they wanted.

It doesn’t just have to be one player you leave outside the penalty area. At half time I talked to the players about leaving two or three players outside the penalty area, which makes the opposition think twice about putting a lot of players in attack.

It also gives you fantastic opportunities to counter attack.

Soccer coaching drill to get players defending corners


However, it is a very attacking move to defend in this way so players must be aware of certain things:

  • With fewer defenders they must identify the dangers posed by the attackers and counter them with close marking.
  • The goalkeeper becomes much more important with space to come and claim the ball. Then they can launch a quick counter attack to the players outside the penalty area.
  • The opposition may ignore your tactics and pack the penalty area, giving them advantage from the first ball in, but leaving themselves badly exposed at the back.

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