Spotlight on: counter-attacks

Guide All Ages

Of 383 goals in the 2020/21 FA Cup, 14% were scored from counter-attacks – and we’re seeing a similar picture emerge in the Euros too. Take Ronaldo’s surge after flipping Germany’s corner or Schick’s screamer in Croatia v Scotland.

With this in mind, w
e examine how to help your team master the tricks of transition.

THE THEORY A counter-attack is a fast and direct attack that occurs from a moment of transition (when one team wins the ball from the other mid-game).

Counter-attacks consist of minimal passes and their purpose is to create a goal-scoring opportunity before the opposition can recover their defensive shape. Perhaps unsurprisingly, if your team launch a counter-attack, it’ll usually start in the defensive half, within central areas of the pitch.

When a team is countering, you may think they have the numerical advantage. But that’s not necessarily true. In fact, the 2020/21 FA Cup stats paint a very different picture...

What is a counter-attack?


So, what does all this mean for your practice design?


  1. 1. Build momentum

Counter-attacks are fast and direct. A great way to build this momentum into your session is to consider your playing area. For example, using pitch that provides space behind the opposition’s defensive line means your players have chance to attack quickly – and prevent the other team from recovering their shape.

Next, focus on a realistic challengeIn the FA cup, the average counter-attack lasts eight seconds. While your grassroots team is unlikely to move quite that fast, you can still recognise players for scoring quickly or using a low number of passes.

Finally, have lots of balls ready for throw-ins and goal-kicks – this keeps the pace of the game high.

  1. 2. Consider your use of the pitch 

When counter-attacking73% of pro-game goals come through central areas only (rather than the ball being played out wide). 

To help your team get to grips with this, try rewarding attacks that are made through the middle of the pitchMarking out this area can give players a visual reference and help them understand what’s expected.

  1. 3. Create uneven teams 

When launching a counter-attack, players are often outnumbered. This means they need to get used to playing against an overloadIf you’re looking for inspiration in this areawhy not try our sessions ‘In possession: attacking overloads’ or ‘Why can’t we play futsal: overloads’.




Counter-attacks play a significant role in the game of football, but getting good at them takes time. To master this move, your players need lots of opportunities to practise their skills in a realistic environment. One that reflects the demands of matchday. 

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