Tips For Defending Set Pieces
Ask any experienced footballer and they'll tell you that entire games are won and lost with set pieces. That, of course, goes both ways -- execute and you'll be rewarded, fall asleep and you'll be punished. To properly defend a set piece, it's important to stay alert, stay close to your mark, be aware of the space around you, and, most importantly, not to be afraid to sacrifice your body!
Set pieces, such as corners or free kicks, are something that every professional team has a set plan for, but is paid less attention to at amateur and youth soccer levels. There are some fundamental soccer skills every defender and goalkeeper should remember when defending free kicks.
Soccer coaches all over the world see the set piece as a free opportunity to attack the goal. For defenders and goalkeepers it can be incredibly nerve-wracking to know that one mistake could be the difference between winning and losing. It's important to keep your focus because making a mistake or a rash decision could easily lead to a goal or penalty kick. Check out CoachUp's best tips for defending on set pieces unless you want to be on the wrong side of a goal!
Stay Cool + Alert
You need to be ready to quickly clear the ball with your head or your feet. Even if the ball goes past you, it's important to remember that the job is not done until the zone is cleared. You might even have to block a shot, you must be alert at all times. Focus is the name of the game for defending set pieces -- so never, ever let your guard down. Keep your feet moving and stay on your toes. You never know when you'll have to lunge, slide or jump to save a goal.
Stay Close To Your Mark
Staying close to the player you're marking makes it tougher for them to get a chance on goal. The best position is to stay in front of your mark, blocking them from the ball and the goal. Be close enough that you can grab their jersey without much effort. If you're more than an arm's length away, you're too far and it's too late to fix it!
Additionally, this means it's super important to communicate! If you need help, let your fellow teammates know you need a switch. Good communication leads to less goals -- this is important for soccer defenders and goalkeepers alike. Knowing where your teammates
As soon as possible, take control. Build a wall, physically place your defenders at posts, and verbally tell your teammates who to mark. It's the keeper's responsibility to make sure everyone and everything is accounted for before a set piece is taken.
Listen to your keeper! It may not be the most glamorous job, but it wins games. Don't wander off or lose your mark. One simple slip up could cost the team in a big way. If there's any miscommunication, make sure you and your teammates know who is marking who -- especially if the team is using zonal marking for runs.
Always Be On The Lookout
Be aware of your surroundings and watch for delayed runs, the movement of your opposition, and who they might be aiming for. In fact, it's extremely wise to game plan before the whistle even blows. Do your research on opposing teams and answer questions to better prepare yourself. Who has the most goals for them? Who do they aim for on set pieces? Do they take short corners? Do they cross near post or far?
These are all things that can be examined before the game even starts, most likely. Most often, the opposing team's tallest players will be a first target for crosses.
It will take any combination of your head, legs, feet, torso, and definitely your heart to defend on set pieces - be willing to dive, block, and head to save a goal. Simply put, do absolutely whatever it takes to avoid conceding. Be ready to sacrifice your body -- be fearless, be brave! You and your team will appreciate it later after you've won the game, we promise!
(Related: Read about the importance of team organization here.)
Though defending from set pieces is a team effort, it can be perfected through the use of highly skilled defenders. Being strong, mentally and physically, is key. Every defender should be working with their coach constantly. Defending requires a whole different set of skills coupled with mental toughness and a hard approach to the game.
However, if you're still struggling with the process, communication, and self-sacrificing side of defending set pieces, consider booking one of CoachUp's private instructors to help you out. Our experienced team will have you commanding the box and taking names in no time -- what are you waiting for?