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England's Harry Kane runs forward with the ball during a game with Italy.

Football is an invasion game. This means that teams compete to attack their opponent’s territory and score points.  

Just like any invasion game, football has both attacking and defending principles. These are the foundations that help your team to score goals – and stop them too. Let’s take a closer look. 


1. Penetrate 

Your team should think forward, look forward, run forward and play forward. This can happen alone or with others. If your team can’t go forward, they should try to keep the ball until they can.  

2. Get creative  

Players should try to ‘produce the unexpected’ when attempting to beat an opponent. To do this, they could use their individual skill or combine with a teammate. 


3. Use movement 

During a game, your players might need to lose an opponent, leave space, fill space or go to help a teammate. Effective movement allows this to happen. 

4. Support play  

When working as a group, it’s important that players are always ‘an option’ for their teammates to pass to. Positioning themselves between opponents can help.   

5. Create space  

To attack successfully, your team needs width, length and depth. This will stretch the opposition’s defence. 


2. Press

If the opposition has possession, your team should apply pressure to the player with the ball. This makes it harder for them to attack.  


3. Be patient 

Encourage your players to take their time and consider their options. Doing this makes them more likely to make a good decision.   

4. Provide cover  

If one of your players is pressing the opposition, their teammates should consider their own position. Are they able to provide backup if the attacker wiggles through?  

5. Be compact 

If your team is defending, players should stay close together and block any gaps in their shape.    

6. Get the balance right 

When your team is well-balanced, players move in tandem. Whatever happens, they don’t get too close together – or too far apart. 

The principles in action 

To find out more about each principle, and to see them in action, check out this video.

Fancy getting started? Check out our article on helping your team master these principles.