The confrontation line

This session is about counter-attacking in a 4-3-3 formation, with the use of a ‘confrontation line’. This virtual line gives players a unique positioning point to defend up to before releasing a counter-attack. The line moves depending on the opposition and how quickly they progress with the ball, but is always around the halfway line.

The practice enables attack-minded players to learn their responsibilities when both in and out of possession.


Full pitch
Ball, goals
Number of Players
Session time

What do I get the players to do?

In a two-way 11v11 game, blues begin as the attacking team, with whites the counter-attackers.

When blues play out from the back, whites’ first instinct must be to press opponents and attempt to win the ball. If, however, an opponent is too far away so that a white is unable to directly and quickly affect his decision-making, then all whites must retreat back towards the confrontation line (1a), which is to be indicated by the coach.


• After regrouping, whites begin to push out to stop blues from playing through

Retreating to the confrontation line will encourage blues to advance. When play approaches the line, the defending team must move in to win the ball (1b). If they can do that, the compact nature of their frontline now makes it possible for quick counter-attacks to be made behind the blues’ defence, either with a direct pass (1c) or varied passing combinations (1d).


• After regrouping, whites attempt to stop blues from playing through


• A successful interception is made and a counter-attack launched with a direct pass


• On this occasion blues apply quick pressure so a counter-attack is launched using indirect passes

The roles and responsibilities of all 11 whites are therefore very important when the team is out of possession, and good communication is essential.

How do I progress the session?

To ensure that teams don’t sit deep we add a restraining line, which represents the furthest point that defenders can drop to. This compression of play in match practice allows a free flow of counter-attacking scenarios to develop at both ends (2). We’ll also pause play to highlight developing situations.


• The restraining line ensures high defensive lines are maintained. But defenders must be aware of the danger areas left by adopting a high line, which are vulnerable to quick counter-attacks

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

Players who press must realise when to approach and when to drop back, quickly communicating this decision to team mates. When preparing to counter, team mates must be similarly clear about the areas that are to be attacked (3).


• Players must aim to break into designated counter-attacking areas

Remember too that counter-attacking teams must themselves be aware of being exposed, so team mates must cover forward breaks. For example, if the full-back is counter-attacking, the centre-backs and opposite full-back must slide across, with a midfielder dropping into the gap as extra support. 

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