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Two womens football teams playing against each other.  Looking at the football pitch from above, 7 players of one team  can be seen wearing white. The other team wears green tops with red shorts and yellow socks. The team in green have the ball and are approaching the opposing net while the team in white defend.


Are they the ones who bring the crowd to the edge of their seat as they glide seamlessly past the opposition? 

Are they the ones that make you hold your breath in anticipation as they prepare to bend the ball into the back of the net with laser-like precision? 

Perhaps they’re the ones who can pick out a pass that’s out of this world? 

Whoever they are, you know they have the skill to make something magical happen. Paul Gascoigne. David Beckham. Wayne Rooney. Kelly Smith. Ellen White. Nikita Parris. 

But what about great defenders? The ones who dominate within their own box. Or the ones whose defensive tactics force the opposition out wide, providing a precious delay for their own team to get back into shape.  

Aren't they skilful too? 


Defending is an art. There's intelligent craft and skill behind each defensive action, which takes time to refine.  

That’s where you come in. As a coach, it’s your job to give your players the tools they need to defend at their best. 

Here’s what to do:

  • Introduce players to defending early on.  
  • Prepare yourself. Get to grips with the key skills of defending. Understand the roles and responsibilities that come into play.
  • Learn from the best. That’s where the England team can help. 

Our England teams aim to delay, deny and dictate the opposition attack – a key part of their out of possession strategy.  

Players use their skills to deny space and dictate the direction and speed of play. All while preventing the opposition from using their preferred attacking method. 

Check out this video for a closer look:

England: out of possession


Can you see how the England teams keep a compact shape to force the opposition away from the goal? By preventing through passes, they also keep their opponents wide. 

The result? More space for the opposition in wider areas, demanding more from our players when it comes to stopping crosses.  

If the opposing team does progress into the defending third, the focus shifts to 1v1 defending excellence. This involves marking, covering, and defending the goal. 

Why does it work? By directing the opposition into areas of defensive strength, England can control the momentum and speed of attacks. This lets our players regain possession more easily. 

While this philosophy is used at the very top of the game, you can take inspiration from it too. Consider working on similar skills with your players to develop their defensive tactics.  


To help your defenders handle some common situations, check out the other articles in this series: