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Feet kicking football

Tackling is about winning the ball from an opponent. In the past, this required players to impose themselves and dominate confrontational situations. Today, this is less of a priority. 

That doesn’t mean the desire to win possession has disappeared. It’s just that, as football has evolved, challenging for the ball has become more technical.  


 

Example

Nowadays, to win the ball successfully, players must be skilful defenders. They need to: 

  • know how to dominate 1v1s when their opponent has the ball  
  • read patterns of play and postural cues to anticipate and intercept 
  • understand how to press and cover  
  • be able to change speed and direction quickly  
  • use their body to manoeuvre opponents off the ball  
  • make good contact on the ball at the right time  
  • be able to win the ball cleanly and as early as possible.  

To see players challenging for the ball, take a look at the video below.  

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Here are three ideas to help your players develop their ability to challenge for the ball.  

1. Use simple messages  

Effective communication can help your team get better at winning possession. For the youngest players, try asking them to steal the ball. This encourages a skilful approach to tackling – rather than just booting it away. You can also promote scanning and communication by asking, “are you the best player to try to get the ball back?”  

Reminding players to "not be beaten easily" will also make them think about how they approach their opponent. Plus, it can foster a determined attitude to defending.  

 

2. Develop the art of defending  

Great defenders can read the play. They can see the path of the ball, the movement of the attackers and the space their opponents want to use. This increases their chances of successfully positioning themselves and making an interception.  

Intercepting is an art, and it requires players to be adept at each of our core capabilities. To help them do this, provide plenty of opportunities to take part in games. This will encourage them to recognise similar patterns and interpret visual cues from the game – and their opponent.  

 

 3. Develop physical literacy  

In modern football, attackers can manipulate the ball, quickly change direction and disguise their intentions. So, defenders need great footwork and movement skills to stay close to these skilful players.  

Tag games are an excellent way to develop this ability. Players twist, turn, stop and start – all to outfox their opponent. This makes tag a fun way to work on agility, balance and coordination skills.