When you watch soccer, look for how and where teams attack because understanding this can make you a better player.
Soccer teams attack based on one of the sport’s most basic principles: spreading out when your team has the ball and staying compact when your team is defending.
Therefore, attacking teams want to spread the defending team out and are often looking to get the ball wide to their wingers about seven to ten yards diagonally from the 18 yard box.
This space just outside the box is a very dangerous attacking area for serving in crosses, dribbling to shoot or cross, and opening space up for an overlapping run.
Crossing the Ball
When you receive the ball on the wing just outside of the 18 yard box, you are in a great area to cross the ball. You can whip the ball on the ground behind the defense which forces the defense to make a tough play of clearing the ball while facing their own goal. From this area, you can slot in your teammates to the near post, the middle, or even the far post.
Also, playing balls in behind the defense allows for the possibility of an own goal. All of these crossing options are possible because your team got the ball wide to your winger just outside the 18 yard box.
Attacking Off the Dribble from the Wing
When looking to attack off the dribble on the wing, you must attack the corner of the 18 yard box. This allows you dribble to dribble inside towards the middle for a shot or attack the end line for a cross. The defender can’t defend both the end line and the middle.
When attacking the middle, you are looking to get a shot anywhere from the corner of the 18 to the start of the D on the 18 yard box. If you are closer the corner of the 18 yard box, you want to shoot for far post, but as you get closer to the D you can shot at either the near or far post.
When attacking the end line, you want to get all the way there so you can a cut the ball back on the ground towards the six yard box or farther out. Whether you are attacking the end line or the middle check out our post about how to beat defenders off the dribble.
Overlapping on the Wing
Finally, by getting the ball wide to your winger seven to ten yards diagonally from the corner of the 18 yard box, you are still stretching the defense out but also there is enough space on the outside for an overlapping run. If you see a teammate looking the join the attack with an overlapping run, you should try to attack the middle allowing space for the overlapping teammate to get to the end line.
Importantly, after you play the ball to the overlapping runner, your job is not done. You must sprint into the box, which is a trick to scoring goals. You should be able to find some space at the near post, which is around the corner of the six yard box, or towards the PK spot.
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