Whether you’re team is playing its first or final game of the season and you’re holding onto a 1-0 lead there are some tactics that should be discussed to help your team hold onto the lead and finish the game with a win. Often time’s players make mistakes or as what they call it in tennis “unforced errors.” The same is true in soccer. Below are tips that should be used throughout an entire game and should be strongly enforced when the game is close and you need to hold onto the lead.
1) Always look for the triangle: at all times you should have look to form a triangle with two other players on your team. This will provide you with at least two options for passing and moving with or without the ball. Many players make the mistake of simply reacting to the play instead of thinking ahead and dictating the play. No matter where you are on the pitch, if you can form a triangle you will have instantly given yourself and your teammates the advantage over your opponents. This advantage works offensively and defensively as you can cover a greater area. You will be able to make quick counter attacks and double team quickly if need be on defense. Verbally communicate with the two other players in the triangle so they know they are part of it otherwise you could be left on your own.
2) Keep the ball in the corner to waste time: a common tactic of teams who are trying to hold on to a lead and drain time at the end of the game is to take the ball into the offensive corner and shield the ball from the opposition. If the game is in injury time this is an effective way to drain as much as two minutes off the clock. Be careful though because these are also times when players can get injured due to deliberate kicks to the back of the legs. When you’re shielding be sure to constantly move with the ball as this makes it harder for a defender to stop you. Also keep your head up and notice if you have drawn several defenders towards you because if this is the case there will be openings and teammates of yours will be unmarked in front of the net. Watch video of Cristiano Ronaldo drain the clock versus Arsenal in 2008.
3) Be smart at the end of the game (no bad fouls): often times in the heat of the moment, especially towards the end of a game player’s loose mental control and lash out making stupid fouls. As a result they could injure themselves or the opposing player; they could put their team in a compromiseable situation by giving-up free kicks in a dangerous area of the field or by being sent off and leaving your team a man down. When everybody else is freaking out and emotions are running high, take a step back and briefly assess the situation. The best players on the field are also the smartest on the field. They know when to make plays or not to make plays.
4) Hold your position — No need to make runs forward: another common mistake is when your team is holding onto a 1-0 lead and it’s late in the game. Players will make runs forward often times getting caught out of position. This leaves them and their teammates vulnerable for a counter attack. If the opposition ends up tying the score as a result of this counter attack then the blame will fall on you. If your job is to hold the lead and stay in position then do nothing but that! Don’t try to be a hero and make solo efforts to get your name on the score sheet.
5) When you’re tired make smarter decisions with the ball: this point ties in with the point above about making smart decisions. Naturally as the game progresses we become physically tired. Even those players in top shape will become tired and like many things these are the times when errors are most often made. In fact, many vehicle accidents are caused in the hours of 2am-5am because people are naturally more tired at this time of day. In a game of soccer you are more physically tired than mentally tired; nonetheless, fatigue can take its toll on an individual. Knowing this ahead of time allows you to plan accordingly. If you’re too tired to dribble and take on one or two opposing players then don’t. Don’t force a pass or play that isn’t necessary. This goes without saying for the entire game but often times players force passes, shots and crosses they shouldn’t and it tends to happen when they are tired late in the game. Be smart and make the simple play that will work and be just as, if not more, effective for your team.