World Cup match routine

This session looks at the preparation we undertook for our FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifier against Moldova, and the way we went about our task in the lead-up to that game.

It was a game in which we were specifically looking to play with a different shape: namely a back three, single holding midfielder, two wing-backs, two attacking midfielders and two strikers. The reason for this was because we knew we had to be more offensive in our approach, and that made the build-up to the game unique

– a challenge for both me and my players in attempting to gain a clear picture of our attacking options, and to define player roles and responsibilities.


Up to 55×45 yards
Balls, cones, goals, hurdles
Number of Players
Full squad
Session time

What do I get the players to do?

When setting this up, we only had seven outfielders for the opposition, so got those players to set up in what we expected Moldova to play with – namely a back four, two holding midfielders and a no.10. The set-up was half a pitch with the ball being played in to our back three on the halfway line, and then building up attackers from there.

We expected Moldova to play a low block against us, so a large emphasis was put on getting the ball out into wide areas and then attacking subsequent crosses.

Warm-up practices

Before that main practice, we embarked on a series of warm-ups, as shown. Obviously, these were aimed at mixing low-volume and low-intensity movement and structure:

• Warm-up dynamics (5mins) (1)


1. Players work up and down
2. They mix high-intensity runs with simple jogs
3. Returning to the start they begin the practice again

• Technical (4x2mins) (2)


1. Players pass clockwise around either of the two areas
2. After making a pass they follow their runs
3. Players should alternate between the short and long passing areas

• Speed prep (4×4 reps) (3)


• Players work their way through four different courses, combining speed with agility in negotiating a path around and through the obstacles

Once these practices were complete we were to move into Tactical Attack vs Defence (10v7 + keepers) practice (4).


1. The ball starts centrally
2. It is worked through opponents and into the wide areas
3. The premise is for quick crosses into the box, which must be attacked by the two strikers and winger from the opposite side

How do I progress the practice?

There is of course a natural progression to this, which is setting up against a full 11 opponents, something we would have done if we’d had the bodies available. Clearly, the sensible progression here is 11v11, with the consideration too of playing in a small area in order to reinforce the key principles.

What are the key things to look out for?

The key thing is to get bodies forward to support the front two, with this approach coming from the two attacking midfielders and two wing-backs. Equally vital is people getting into wide areas and delivering quality crosses with bodies attacking the cross with positivity and power.

In addition, we want to ensure the holding midfielder doesn’t get drawn forward as he is the insurance policy, and also the pivot player switches play. It is hard to play through or over the low block so we have to keep the faith in going wide.

How do I put this into a game situation?

We would generally do this in a 55×45-yard space, but would have to be accepting of the reduced pitch width and its impact on the types of crosses coming in.

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