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2v2 attack vs defence

    Adam Dunleavy, FA coach development officer, provides a small-sided attack versus defence practice that challenges players’ decision-making skills.

    Key objectives

    Players will develop their understanding of:

    • when to be creative to attack alone and when to combine with a partner
    • defending high to protect the goal
    • reacting to a transition.

    2v2 attack vs defence

    Session plan

    Want to try this with your team? Download the session plan to your device and give it a go.


    Set up an area appropriate for your players’ age and stage of development. Place a halfway line down and put a goal at each end.

    We have eight players – three pairs and two goalkeepers – for this practice. Ensure there’s a 2v2 and a keeper in one half, with the third pair and a keeper in the other half.

    If you have a larger group, create as many areas as you need to get everyone involved.

    How to play

    The aim of the game is to work together in pairs to find the best way to score. While defenders are encouraged to defend high and keep their opponents away from shooting distance.

    One pair starts with the ball on the halfway line of the area. They play 2v2 against another pair who are defending the goal. If the attack ends due to a goal, a save, or the ball going out of play, the goalkeeper plays it to the defenders, who now become attackers. They run forward to play 2v2 against the third pair in the other half.

    If the attack finishes because the defending team win possession back, they can immediately counter. They don’t need to receive the ball from the keeper.

    Meanwhile, the original attackers drop back and wait to become defenders when a 2v2 emerges in their half again.

    The same process is repeated in the other half, too.


    It’s important to think carefully about progressions. Learning doesn’t happen straight away, as players will be figuring everything out at first. Constantly changing the game can mean players miss the opportunity to learn. So, give them a chance to have a go at solving the problems they’re facing in this activity.

    After a while, if you feel your players are having consistent success – or need additional support – you could progress the game to alter the difficulty of the challenge.

    Whenever you decide to progress the activity, think about using the STEP framework (Youth Sports Trust, 2002). However you adapt the session, make sure you keep it fun, highly engaging and appropriate for your players.

    If you’re looking for ideas, you could:

    • make the area bigger to increase the space to attack
    • reduce the space to increase the challenge for the attackers
    • add more players to change the focus and the challenge of the session
    • introduce a scoring system.


    After you have looked at the session above, ask yourself the following questions:

    • How would you adapt or tweak the practice to make it appropriate to your own players?
    • What additional challenges could you set to make the practice easier or harder for individuals or your group?

    If you use this with your team, let us know how you get on by posting in the England Football community forums.

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