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Young girls playing football on an outdoor 3G pitch.

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 some core principles. These are the foundations that help your team to stop and score goals.


Attacking principles

Defending principles



Get creative


Use movement

Be patient

Support play

Provide cover

Create space

Be compact


Get the balance right

To find out more about the principles, check out this introductory article. To help your players get stuck in, read on.

Keep concepts simple

Explaining the principles of play can be tricky. In the video below, Sam Griffiths, FA coach developer, considers how to break things down for your team.

Plan your practice design

Activities that mimic an actual game make it easier for your team to work on the principles of play. Sam explains...

When planning a session, make sure it feels like football. As Sam suggests, try to include things like goals, opposition and directional play. For example, if you want your team to work on penetration, make sure your practice has targets for them to aim at. If players need to work on creating space, use larger areas – it gives them more room to work with. 

A good coach gives players the chance to test their limits and mess things up. By encouraging your team to be brave and make their own decisions, you allow them to build their understanding of each principle. 

Try other games

Sometimes, using other invasion games can help us recognise the principles of football more clearly. This can be especially useful for young players – and even coaches. Sam, along with Chris Sulley (FA coach developer), explains.

Finally, to master the principles of play, your team must work on a variety of key footballing skills. 

When it comes to attacking, focus on: 


For defending, concentrate on:  

By prioritising these skills with your team, you’ll aid their development and help them grasp the foundations of football.