Perfecting counter-attacking


60x44 yards


Balls, cones, goals

No. of players

Up to a full squad

Session time

20mins per practice

This session looks at developing counter-attacking skill for players of all ages. It’s important to practise this in the modern game because defences are now so well organised, even at youth level. That means counter-attacking quickly and efficiently is often the best way to defeat good defences.

The session looks at 2v1 and 3v2 counter-attack situations; it maintains a high tempo throughout and gets players thinking about support, communication and unity between team mates in perfecting the skill.

We’ll run this with players of all ages because good counter-attacking can be done well by anyone.

What do I get the players to do?

We set up as shown, but can use multiple practice areas.

2v1s into 1v1s

This practice is 2v1 on ‘the way out’, and 1v1 on ‘the way back’.

Setting up as shown in a 60×44-yard area, it begins with the keeper feeding the ball out to either attacker.

He attacks the lone defender, looking to beat him and score in the goal (1a). If successful, the scorer remains at the far end and defends next time. The player who previously defended now receives a ball off the keeper and attacks his remaining opponent (the recovering attacker) in a 1v1 (1b). Both players rest after the attack.


• In the first practice, the two attackers receive a pass from the keeper and attack the lone defender in a 2v1


• The keeper saves and rolls the ball out to the defender, who now goes on the counter-attack, 1v1 against the attacker who failed to score in the last phase

If, on the way out, the defender intercepts or tackles then he immediately attacks the other end, and the attacker who made the mistake must defend, leaving the other attacker to defend on the next rotation.

3v2s into 2v1s

This practice is 3v2 on the way out, and 2v1 on the way back.

The keeper can feed to either of the three attackers who go up against two defenders looking to score. The receiving attacker must attack centrally while the other two run down the sides (2a). The central attacker always becomes the defender on the way back in a 1v2 (2b), while the other two remain to defend next time.


• In the second practice, the first attack is now a 3v2, with the receiving player attacking centrally


• Again, the keeper saves, and now the two defenders go on the counter-attack, moving 2v1 against the former attacker, who now backpedals looking to defend his goal

If the defenders intercept, the keeper makes a save or a shot misses, those two players attack the other end and the central attacker must defend.

When the ball goes dead, rather than start with the keeper, coaches can serve a new ball in immediately. This ensures the tempo remains high.

What are the key things to look out for technically/tactically?

We want to see running with the ball at speed with plenty of support from behind the ball and down the sides. Decision-making must be good, with players recognising when to pass, when to dribble and when to shoot. And recognition of the ball changing hands is important too, so we want each player to be able to adjust his mindset quickly from defence to attack, or vice versa


  • Ball movementBall movement
  • Player movementPlayer movement
  • DribbleDribble
  • Optional movementOptional movement