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Intercepting involves stealing the ball from your opposition. This could happen when you:  

  • get in the way of a pass or a dribble  

  • take advantage of a poor touch  

  • block a shot or a cross.  

While intercepting has always been important, the speed of the modern game has made it an essential skill – for both attackers and defenders.  

However, to intercept successfully, your team need to do more than just ‘cut out a pass’. Stealing the ball can be a tricky business. Amongst other things, it involves scanning the pitch, timing your move and getting into position. Then, you need to follow this up with excellent technique. 

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Example

To see some examples of intercepting, and hear coaches and players discuss the skill, check out the video below.

Here are some ways to help your players develop their intercepting skills.  

 

1. Play directional games  

To make a game directional, you need to include something or somewhere for your team to aim at. This can be as simple as a goal, an end-line or a target player.  

When delivering directional games, try using a small-sided format (e.g. 3v3 or 5v5) and set your players a challenge. For example, “instead of tackling, try to intercept a pass” or “can you take advantage of your opponent’s mistakes?”. This will help get your team thinking in the right way.  

2. Get creative  

If you want to learn about intercepting, exploring its use in other sports can be helpful. So, don’t be afraid to think outside the box when working with your team. For example, try playing basketball or other ‘ball in hand’ games. Tag is also a great way to introduce and practise basic concepts.  

 

3. Provide encouragement  

First: make sure that your players know that intercepting is skilful. This will help motivate them to engage with your practice.  

 

Next: keep an eye out for good play. For example, if you notice an individual attempting to intercept – let them know. And don’t forget goalkeepers, who may cut out crosses or sweep up behind the defence.  

Finally: accept the fact that players get things wrong. If you make your sessions a safe place to fail, your team will feel able to try new things and develop their skills.