12 Soccer Defending Drills for Superior Defensive Play

Soccer defending drills


In this post you’ll find 12 of the best soccer defending drills to help your team become a more effective and efficient defensive unit.

Defending is the art of preventing goals and it relies primarily on pressure, cover, and balance. While defense is not usually seen as being as interesting or entertaining as attacking, it is just as important to the team and many attacks build from a defensive position.

Practicing soccer drills for defending not only imparts defensive skills but their repetition leads to instinctive play on the part of defenders.


12 Soccer Defending Drills


1. Defensive Shape Drill

Defensive shape is the positioning of defenders relative to the position of their team mates and the opposition attackers. A good defensive shape is difficult to break down and can prevent the other team from creating or, subsequently, converting clear cut chances. This drill teaches and instils a solid defensive shape from the back line.


2. Improve Defensive Shape Drill

Defensive shape really is vital. Having a good shape can help make up for other defensive frailties, such as having short central defenders or slow full backs. This drill teaches defenders how to cut out passing lanes and limit the options of attackers as they attempt to progress into the final third.


3. Defending in the Box Game

A good defensive shape can break a lot of attacks down before they reach your team’s box, but it is inevitable that the ball will eventually reach the box. The defending in the box game is a team drill that involves a goalkeeper, four defenders, and six attackers and teaches how to prevent balls from getting into the box and what to do if the ball does breach.


4. Defensive Clearances Drill

Sometimes, you have to put your body on the line to clear the danger. The defensive clearances drill is a fairly basic drill that encourages defensive-minded players to clear the line before the ball crosses it. It encourages defenders to use their head and their feet to get the ball away.


5. Arsenal Group Defending Drill

Another important element of defending is communicating. The Arsenal group defending drill not only teaches positioning and pressing but it also encourages defensive players to communicate with one another, ensuring back up and support for the rest of the defense.


6. 1v1 Defending Drill

1 versus 1 positions happen a lot in football, and if a defender can’t cope with these situations, they won’t be able to prevent attacking players from getting beyond them and in on goal. 1 versus 1 doesn’t necessarily mean tackling every time and good drills teach positioning, parrying, and pressuring attacking players while in a 1-on-1 position.


7. 1vs1 Dribbling Soccer Drill

The 1vs1 dribbling soccer drill is another drill that aims to improve a player’s defensive skills in a one-on-one situation, but this time it encourages the attacker to try and use their 1v1 skill to dribble past the player. In this drill, the roles change if the attacking player fails to score.


8. 2v2 Battle

In a 2v2 drill, players not only hone their 1v1 skills against a marauding attacker but they also have to learn covering position and how to support the 1st defender. This is a rotating drill so that all players regularly change positions, giving practice for all the players in their respective positions and roles.


9. 3-on-2 Defending Drill

It is common for 2 defenders to be left playing against three attacking players when the other team is counter attacking. The 3-on-2 defending drill teaches rotation between the two defenders so that the active defender becomes the covering defender and vice versa.


10. Defending Against Continuous Attack

When your backs are against the wall, it can feel like your team is defending for 90 minutes. This drill teaches defending against continuous attack. Defenders learn how to defend when organized and when disorganized and it will help in a match situation because defenders will be able to defend more calmly and potentially make fewer mistakes.


11. Press and Cover Defending Drill

The press and cover defending drill teaches both pressing and covering. The active defender has to run towards the player with the ball while the remaining defenders take up a covering position. When the ball is passed, the defensive players adapt and change their positioning from pressing to covering and from covering to pressing.


12. Attacking Into Defense Transition Drill

Transitioning from attack into defense is an important defensive skill and one that relies on all defenders knowing their role and getting into position. This drill transitions from 2v2 to 1v1 and can help prevent counter attacking opportunities when your team loses the ball.


Soccer Defending Drills – Final Thought

Defending requires good positioning, pressure, cover, and balance, as well as communication. These 12 soccer drills for defense will teach all of these essential skills and more to help the defensive players on a team.


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