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Although soccer may seem like a relatively simple sport, soccer is only simple in the rules and the basic game play. The strategy of the game can be quite complex especially at high levels of play like professional and World Cup.
Soccer Strategy for the Offense
The team that has possession of the soccer ball is on the offense. When on offense a soccer team may take a number of different tactics or strategies depending on which players are in the game at the time and on the skill level and type of the players.
One general strategy of offensive play that all soccer players should employ is Passing and Moving. This means that you should never just stand still on offense. Whenever a player has the ball, they need to either pass the ball or dribble. Just standing still is a sure way to lose possession. This also applies to any offensive player near the player with the ball. They should always be moving and looking for an opening and providing passing lanes for their teammate.
Another good strategy is to pass the ball and then move quickly to another open space closer to the goal. By continuing to move and create passing lanes, the defense can be put at a disadvantage.
Another good offensive soccer strategy is to Switch the Attack. This is a long pass to another area of the field that has less defenders. It may be backwards towards ones own goal or all the way across the field. This gives the offense a chance to re-group and form a new attack on goal.
Some offensive soccer teams will play Possession Ball. This is when the team tries to keep possession of the ball for a long period of time. They may pass the ball backwards side-to-side with no real apparent attack. This can be a good strategy at periods over a long soccer game. Passing the ball takes much less effort than dribbling or chasing the ball. The defensive soccer team will use much more energy to try and chase the ball down than the offensive team will passing the ball around. This can also be a good soccer strategy when the offensive team has a good lead and wants to take some time off the clock.
When playing on offense, there are certain other key skills and times during the game that any team should be ready for and have a strategy. These include:
Throw-ins: Throw-ins seem like a small part of the game. You just pick up the ball and throw it back in. However, there are lots of throw-ins during a game and they should not be taken too lightly. Consistently getting a good throw-in to set up the next play can be key in keeping possession of the ball. Players that can throw the ball far can be valuable in certain areas of the field and can even set up goal scoring plays.
Goal kicks: Similar to throw-ins, goal kicks don't seem that important to many soccer players, but since there are many during a game, the coach should have a few different strategies on how and where to place the kick depending on the game situation.
Corner kicks: Most teams practice corner kicks and have a couple of defined plays. Corner's are one of the best scoring opportunities in a soccer game. There is usually a player that kicks the corner best from the left side and another from the right side. Depending on the defense, kicking the ball high and long or short can be the best play. Often goals are scored via headers off the kick, so there should be some tall players that can jump and head the ball well charging toward the kick. However, rebounds off defenders or the goalie is another great scoring chance, so a player or two that comes in late looking for the rebound is also a good strategy.
Soccer Strategy for the Defense
The team that does not have possession of the ball is the defense. Good team defense is essential to winning any soccer game. Defense is not just the goalie's job, but the job off all eleven players.
A good defensive soccer team will learn to communicate and form walls of defense against the offense. A player or two should always remain between the ball and the goal. Other players should be covering the other offensive players to make sure that they can't get open for a short goal shot. This is often called "marking".
It is a good idea for defenders to force the player with the ball towards the sidelines. By playing the right angle and turning the body, the defensive player can guide or channel the offensive player to the sidelines. This makes it hard for the offense to get off a good shot or get a good angle for a pass. It can also cause them to lose the soccer ball over the sideline and, therefore, get the possession back.
Some teams have a player they call the sweeper. This is a defensive player that positions in the center of the soccer field usually a bit deeper than the rest of the defense. The sweeper roams the backfield looking to steal or "sweep" any balls that get through the defense.
Defenses can also trap the player with the ball with two players preventing them from getting off a pass and stealing the ball. This can be a risky but rewarding play.
Defenses should take advantage of the soccer offside rule. By coordinating the last line of defense and keeping track of the offensive player's locations, a defense can trap a player offsides and cause a turnover of the ball.
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