How to Defend in Soccer 1 v 1 – 5 Great Ways to Defend Well

Let me set the scene…The break is on, the winger looks you in the eyes wondering how he’s going to beat you. It’s just you and him. What do you do?

As a defender myself this is probably the golden question for me, should I dive in or stay on my feet? If you ask 10 coaches what they think you should do you’ll probably get 10 different answers but today I am going to give you my top 5 tips on how to deal with that pesky 1v1 situation

Set Position

If you take anything away from this article it’s this, body position is important. Coaches will always tell you in any sport not to get caught flat footed. The best position is standing almost side on with your feet shoulder width apart and about three feet of distance between you. Keep a slightly crouched posture in order to lower your center of gravity.

Close down space

two players square up 1v1Football is a game where all the danger is in the space left uncovered so chances are your man is going to either be looking to run into the space or play the ball into it. Remember nine times out of ten you will be faster than a man dribbling a ball when you don’t have it so make sure you get ahead of him and close down the space he’s heading to.

Pick Your Poison

In the beginning of the article I gave you a situation when your man has the ball and you can either dive in or jockey. This golden question has no real right answer.

Whether you choose to dive in or not I promise you indecision is way worse. I’ve seen it many times when a defender is caught in two minds and ends up falling over himself or worse doing nothing. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet, make a decision and live with it.

React don’t Act

If you choose to stay on your feet and guide your man away from danger you have to remember that reaction is better than action. By this I mean don’t try to anticipate his moves just deal with them.

When shepherding your man he’s probably going to try to beat you with some skill and as an attacker in that situation you’re waiting for the defender to show you an opening, to try lunge in or move early so you can beat him, that’s really the only easy way.

So wait for him to move first and react, hence why we have the three foot distance discussed in that 1st point. You will always have time to react appropriately and more often than not the attacker will pass the ball to someone else and your mission is accomplished.

Pre Scouting

Although this happens technically before you get in a one on one situation it’s still equally important to all my other tips when it comes to defending 1 v 1.

soccer kneesDuring the game take mental notes on the opposition players, more so for the man you’re facing up against, understanding what their tactics are and what their preferred move sets are will give you a big advantage during the game.

No matter what they are doing you have to learn to counter that and take them out of their comfort zone. If they enjoy crossing then cut off space to the wingers, if they enjoy passing either close them down more or stand-off extremely deep. Exploiting an attacking teams weaknesses can often be the key to defending teams.

That said this article is about one on one defending and the rules are the same. Every player has his own strengths and knowing what your opponents are trying to do to beat you is half the battle. If you are going up against someone who enjoys crossing guide them to their weaker foot.

These tips will help you a lot in becoming a better defender but the most important thing is something I feel doesn’t need to be in a tip, practice your craft


Leave a Comment