How To Counter-Attack In Soccer | Win More Games

A counter-attack in soccer is a fantastic way to take advantage of a team that likes to leave a lot of space in behind when they are attacking. They also work great against stronger soccer teams as they are more likely to dominate possession. This post will cover how to counter-attack in soccer to help you win more games against more vigorous opponents.

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This is how you counter-attack in soccer

This is the best way to create more goal-scoring opportunities from counter-attacks in soccer:

  • Sit deep to draw the opposition in
  • Press as a team, remain disciplined and force the opposition into a mistake
  • Quickly transition from defense to attack when the ball is won back
  • Commit players forward to create an overload and stretch the opposition
  • Play direct and take advantage of the overload

I go into more detail about the steps below, however, a counter-attacking strategy doesn’t always work well for every team.

Draw the opposition in

The first step to setting up a counter-attack in soccer is to draw the opposition in.

The further the opposition team gets drawn in, the larger the space will be created behind them.

However, the further you allow the opposition to come forward, the closer they will be to the goal and be able to create more dangerous chances.

You should set your team up in a midfield press or a low block.

A midfield press is where you look to contain the opposition on the halfway line, only pressing when they look to get into the final third of the pitch.

The lock block is where the team will hold off the opposition team while in their defensive third (or the opposition’s attacking third).

This post will go into more detail about the different types of presses, including the midfield press and low block

Maintain your defensive shape

Maintaining your defensive shape in soccer plays an important role in counter-attacking in soccer.

A team that likes to counter-attack will be under attacking pressure for the majority of the game.

This can be very demanding of your players and requires a lot of work off the ball.

The counter-attacking team doesn’t want to chase the game as this will force them to place a more expansive style of play, and allow more gaps for the opposition’s team to attack.

To maintain the upper hand the counter-attacking team must defend rigorously to prevent the opposition from scoring.

Having a solid defensive shape is a great way to do this!

A Successful, strong, defensive shape requires a team to:

  • Remain compact to avoid spaces being exploited in central areas
  • Know when to press or hold their positions
  • Communicate well
  • Help support and cover teammates (especially in wide areas)

These drills are focused on helping a team soccer keep its defensive shape.

Quick transition

Once your team has won the ball, your players going to have to quickly transition from defense to attack.

The quicker the team can transition the better chance they will have of a more dangerous counter-attack.

When a change in possession happens, attacking players will have to identify spaces to attack while also supporting their teammates on the ball.

Equally, if a team loses possession of the ball while counter-attacking they need to transition to a defensive position to prevent the opposing team from scoring

The best way to improve the speed of a team transition is to provide drills in your training sessions where there are goals or objectives for both teams.

Make sure to practice drills where your team goes from possessing the ball to recovering the ball and defending to attacking.

These counter-attacking soccer drills are perfect for helping your team transition from defense to attack!

Commit players forward when counter-attacking

When a team counter-attackers, this is the perfect opportunity to create overloads when the opposition players are out of position.

The 2 wide players in the team should look to stretch the opposition team by moving into the wide areas.

This allows them more time and space to receive the ball as well as creating larger gaps in the middle of the pitch for central players to receive the ball and attack.

To help support the player on the ball, teammates can create an overload by making an unlapping or overlapping tune.

This can drag defenders out of position and create more space for the teammate on the ball to exploit.

Also when playing a counter-attacking style of play you create fewer goal-scoring chances, so you really need to double down when you attack!

Play Direct

When you start a counter-attack speed is everything.

The first thought on a player’s mind, when they gain possession of the ball, should be forward

Whether you combine quick sharp passes or play a long ball, the quicker you can attack the better.

This is because it gives less time for the opposition to reorganize.

The slower a team counter-attacks, the more time they give to the opposition to get players behind the ball and into a solid defensive shape.

What is the best counter-attacking formation?

In soccer, the best counter-attacking formation is the 4-5-1 soccer formation.

This is perfect for sitting deep and absorbing attacking pressure from the opposition team.

The wingbacks can help support the fullbacks, while the 3 in the middle can either go man or have a numerical advantage.

The 3 in the middle make the central areas incredibly crowded, which forces the opposition teams into the less dangerous, wider areas of the pitch.

When you are counter-attacking you will want to make sure that your players in the wide areas are fast and will quickly support the striker.

In the midfield 3, 2 central players will play in a more advanced position while 1 player will have a more anchoring role in the middle.

When should you counter-attack in soccer?

The best time to counter-attack in soccer is when the opposition has pushed high up the pitch either through attacking or when they are taking a dangerous set piece.

When an opposition team pushes up high, they create a large amount of space behind them which can be exploited by the counter-attacking team.

This provides a perfect opportunity to quickly attack while the opposition players are scrambling to get back while out of position.

The greater the space, the more likely a team will be able to launch a successful counter-attack.

This post details how to successfully defend corner kicks so the team can put their best foot forward when counter-attacking.

Final thoughts on how to counter-attack in soccer

Counter-attacking soccer isn’t for every time but it defensively has its use cases in certain scenarios.

However, as a coach, you must weigh up the strengths and weaknesses of your team and decide whether or not this play style would work.

Counter-attacking is a great playing style to use with your team if:

  • Your team is defensively organized
  • They are comfortable going large parts of the game out of possession
  • Your team is playing against an opposition that likes to keep possession
  • You have fast players who can quickly exploit space

Now you know how to counter-attack in soccer, you should also know how to stop a counter-attack!

I hope this post has helped outline how to counter-attack in soccer for you!

Please share this post with a coach who would find this interesting!

Thank you for reading and sharing,


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