Play out from defence – Small-sided game


This three-part practice works on players’ ability to build play from the defensive third.


Set up an area relative to the age and ability of your players. Play with two mini goals – no goalkeepers, unless you have two available. Divide the pitch into thirds.


Normal match rules, but if a team plays through each of the thirds before scoring, it’s worth two goals. If a team wins the ball in the opponents’ defending third and scores, the goal is worth double. Play always restarts from a defender, wherever the ball goes out. Encourage players to find solutions, e.g. if opponents are pressing high and not allowing them to play out from the back, there may be space in behind to play long into the forward, before supporting the play.

Progression: Play now restarts from where the ball goes out, with players finding different solutions to play out of tight areas.


• Body shape to receive: scanning and receiving on the ‘half-turn’ – try to play forward
• Movement to receive: sharp to exploit space, attract defenders to enable switch of play, open passing lanes to team-mates
• Weight/type of pass: send a message, i.e. passing to back foot or front foot. Vary pass length and speed to create gaps in defence.

1. If teams score having played through each of the thirds, the goal counts double

2. If teams win possession in final third and score, the goal counts double

3. Encourage teams to find solutions, including playing directly into final third if needed

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