Penetrating in the final third

This session examines ways teams can break with precision and poise through an opponent’s backline.

It’s a detailed practice that moves from a simple warm-up into more complex possession and penetration set-ups, and is great for teams really looking to harness an attacking unity and knowledge in the final third.

As with most soccer coaching principles, practice makes perfect, but thankfully this is a blueprint that players like to run again and again.


Up to a half pitch
Balls, cones, goals
Number of Players
Up to 9v9 (incl. keepers)
Session time
Passing practice 10mins,
8v8s 15mins each,
Small-sided game 20mins

What do I get the players to do?

Simple passing practice

We set up, as shown, on a 15×15-yard grid with five players and one ball (use multiple grids to accommodate the full squad) (1). The players move throughout and pass one-touch.


• In Simple Passing Practice, players move themselves and the ball around one-touch

What are the key things to look out for?

We want to see a good quality and weight of pass in short and long balls, smart timing of supporting players and excellent communication.

8v8 – Gates

Now in a 40×50-yard grid we play 8v8 (2). Cones are placed every five yards along the touchlines. The team in possession of the ball must make six consecutive passes before releasing a player outside the grid to receive the ball. If successful, they score one point. The player’s run outside the grid must be through a different gate than the pass.


• Into 8v8 – Gates, yellows make six successive passes and lay a ball through the perimeter to a team mate who collects and scores a point

8v8 – End Zone

Now we extend the area by adding 10-yard scoring zones along each of the long sides (3). This is an 8v8 directional game where the team in possession tries to penetrate the end zone with a pass through one gate. Again, the receiving player runs through a different gate, and this time has a defined area in which to receive the ball.


• Into 8v8 – End Zone, and now the yellow must receive in the tighter confines of the end zone, also ensuring he goes through a different cone to the ball

What are the key things to look out for?

We’re looking for shape and balance of the team in order to support around the ball. Timing of runs into the end zones mimics breaking the offside line, so the quality of the penetrating pass must be good. We also want to see a combination of straight and diagonal runs.
Small-sided game

We now narrow a half-pitch to the width of the 18-yard box, with three clear zones marked out with cones (4). Now 8v8 plus keepers, each team possesses the ball until they penetrate the final zone to go 1v1 with the keeper.


• Finally in the Small-sided Game, yellows pass within a compressed central area, breaking the ‘offside trap’ to send a team mate through 1v1 on the keeper

What are the key things to look out for?

In addition to the previous observations, we want to see overlaps and third-man runs, and of course a quality finish on goal.

Share this

Follow us