UEFA B Licence Functional Practice

Defending from the Front Functional Practice

This is the first defending functional practice from the UEFA B Licence Course that I will look at. The topic is Defending front the Front where we will look at how the front players should press to make the opposition play predictable.


  • Playing area: First third of pitch
  • Players: 3 Blues v 4 Reds + GK
  • Setup can be altered depending on your preferred style of play and your opponents style.

Session Detail

The setup for this is the same as the Attacking functional practice for playing out from the back. In this example we will work with the blue team, which consists of a number 9 and two wide forwards to mimic a 1-4-3-3. They will play against the reds who play in a back 4 and are a team who likes to play short out from the goalkeeper.

When defending from the front it is important to consider the following:

  • How high you want to press – Do you want your team to try to win the ball back high up the pitch or do you want to sit in and win the ball back elsewhere on the pitch?
  • Your players – It will take a lot of fitness / conditioning to play a high pressing game like Liverpool, Man City etc.

For the purposes of this example, I want my players to press once the ball has exited the penalty box. Once it is, we want to make the play predictable. We can do that by using basic principles of defending:

  1. Delay + Deny – If the goalkeeper has passed to either CB, be patient, block passing lanes to stop quick forward passes. Force the CB to hold on to the ball and either progress forward or try a risker pass.
  2. Dictate Play – Once the ball exits the penalty box, we ask the number 9 to press the player on the ball, but to curve his run to cut off a pass to the other CB or nearest player. We want to force the opposition to play in one half of the pitch making the area to defend smaller. This will allow the opposite winger to play narrower and make our own block more compact.
UEFA B Functional Practice - Defending from the Front

Dictate play!

In the example above we can see the Red #4 on the ball, the Blue #9 is curving his pressing run in order to cut out the passing option across to the Red #5. The Blue #11 has the Right Back locked in and the Blue #7 can now move closer to the ball as the pass to the opposite side is much less likely now.

Technical Coaching Points

  • Angle your pressing run – This is one of the most important aspects of this session. Work with players to learn how to curve their runs to close off / screen passing lanes and to help you dictate play.
  • Body Shape – Angled approach, this will allow players to pivot of their back foot. If you get caught flat footer or too straight on you could be beaten in a 1v1 or allow a pass beyond.
  • Communication – It’s really important players use good verbal communication throughout together as a unit. When to press, when to drop off, if a player is out of position they may have to retreat and apply pressure later.

Defending from the Front

Even at Grassroots level, more and more teams and coaches are choosing to play short from the goalkeeper. Players are becoming better and more confident in possession so if your team is not confident in pressing from the front it can be easy for opposition teams to play through you quite easily.

For man coaches, the defending starts with the forward players. This functional practice is an excellent introduction into how to defend from the front and showing players how it can be really successful if you can make the oppositions play predictable.

You could also adapt this practice if you prefer your teams to defend in the middle third, simply move the scoring gates for the attacking team to the half way line or beyond. Then simply tell your team to let the opposition have the ball and you can chose where your “line of engagement” is and start to dictate play from there.

Players need to “defend smart” so they wont have to run hard continuously after the ball.