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FREE KICKS, including corners and throw-ins are match winning situations, so defending at set-plays needs informed planning if you do not want to concede goals.

Consider the games dead ball specialists: David Beckham, Roberto Carlos, Zola and Dennis Bergkamp. All these players and many more practice for hours perfecting their technique but as defenders how often do you practice defending against them? Very little I expect.

What I will attempt to do is highlight with diagrams, area for defenders to stand when defending set-plays. As defenders, you will need to organize quickly and stay concentrated from the moment the free-kick/corner is awarded.

– You should try to read the type of free-kick/corner about to be delivered: in/out swinger.

– You should be brave and keep your eyes on the ball at all times.

– You should attempt to get to the ball first.

– The wall should stay big and together (runners to close down should not be part of the wall).


Defending at corners – Zonal marking

Zonal marking is when defenders take up a pre-determined position at corner kicks. The one concern with zonal marking relates to the fact that defenders are normally jumping and attacking the ball from a standing position. Zonal marking does allow defenders to organize quickly as their role is clearly defined.

The alternative would be to go man to man with your attacker – this would highlight the following problems:-

Defenders get moved all over the penalty area

Attackers will attempt to block you off

Danger of taking your eyes off your attacker and the ball during the movement

Whatever method you adopt at set-plays, remember to organize quickly, be to the ball first at corners and be brave at all times.

1. Allow the goalkeeper to be in charge. Train the goalie on how to arrange the players to best defend a corner kick from this particular kicker. Then allow the goalie to do her job.
2. Choose you defensive plan by arranging defensive players either in a position or on a man. If you are going to stick to the man-on-man method, do not leave the person you are guarding against. Get in between the offensive player and the goal net. If you are going to defend an area, plant one defensive player on each the front and back goalposts. Plant one player in the center of the goal. And stay out of the way of the goalie. Finally, plant another defensive player near the corner kick.
3. Line up additional men in a row in front of the corner kick. Stand back just far enough to fall within the regulations and lock arms. It will be hard to launch a ball over player’s heads and with the velocity to position the ball in front of the goal. All players face the corner kick except one man who faces the goalie. Allow the goalie to move the men left or right to correctly position them. Stand firm.
4. Clear the ball. The object is to protect the goal. Clear the ball out of “the box” as quickly as possible. Try not to clear it in the direction that causes another corner kick.


All players (no matter what their position) should work at the technique of denying space to opponents.

It is a fact that defenders, who allow opponents time and space to control the ball, can find themselves out of the game, as they are simply bypassed.

There is a technique in “closing down” opponents.

1. Defenders who rush in too quickly can easily be beaten if they slightly miss-time their challenge.
They can also be penalized for rash challenges.

2. Timing and anticipating is everything, and it enables the defender to stay on his feet.

3. The knack is for the defender to be able to see the ball and any possible movement by the opponent – and then make the challenge when the opportunity presents itself.


1. Try and anticipate, while the ball is moving.

2. Concentrate on the opponents around the ball.

3. Wait until the right moment presents itself before making a tackle – observe, too, where your own teammates are.

4. Try and stay on your feet at all times.

Follow these few simple rules and protect your goal like a professional.

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