How we play

In possession

In possession phases model
In Possession

In possession phases

England teams aim to dominate possession intelligently, selecting the right moments to progress the play and penetrate the opposition.

To do so, we aim to develop England players with outstanding skills and decision-making abilities in all four aspects of the in-possession philosophy:

- Counter-attacking
- Retaining the ball to build the play
- Progress and penetration
- Creating and scoring
- Security
- The fluid nature of the game means each aspect of possession is closely linked. Similarly, possession may be lost at any stage, prompting a transition to the defensive philosophy.

The future England goalkeeper will play an important role in all aspects of the in-possession playing philosophy.

Danny Welbeck running with the ball for England
in possession


Counter-attacking is the execution of quick and incisive attacking play with the aim of exploiting opponents’ defensive state to create goalscoring opportunities.

Why is counter-attacking important?

Counter-attacking is one of the most effective methods of creating goalscoring opportunities in open play.

How does counter-attacking happen?

Dribbling, running with the ball, incisive passing and effective support play are key aspects of counter-attacking. Counter-attacking aims to exploit space, eliminate opponents and create goalscoring opportunities.

England goalkeepers play a crucial role in initiating counter-attacks and will be challenged to exploit attacking opportunities using a variety of distribution techniques to deliver the ball effectively over varying distances.

Quick free-kicks and throw-ins are other ways of creating counter-attacking opportunities.

England Lioness holds onto the ball despite being under heavy pressure
in possession

retaining the ball

England teams aim to dominate possession with the aim of creating opportunities to penetrate the opposition and create goalscoring chances.

What are the benefits of effective ball retention?

Ball retention allows teams to manage the momentum of a game, requiring a patient and controlled approach.

How does ball retention happen?

A combination of intelligent passing, dribbling, and support play all contribute to effective ball retention.

England goalkeepers will play a key role in this phase of play, fulfilling the role of the 11th outfield player and adopting effective positions to support the play.

The England Lionesses launch an attack against Sweden
in possession

progressive and penetrative play

What is progressive and penetrative play?

Progressive and penetrative play is the execution of forward passes or forward running and dribbling (or a combination of both) that moves the ball between and beyond opponents into advanced areas of the pitch to create goal scoring opportunities. 

Why is progressive and penetrative play important?

Penetrative play is used to eliminate opposition players from the game by moving the ball between and beyond individuals or units into areas of the pitch in which goal-scoring opportunities can be created. It is an effective method for opening up compact defensive organisations in international football. 

How does progressive and penetrative play happen?

Forward passing, running with the ball and dribbling combined with effective support play and movement which moves the ball through the lines of the opposition are key to effective penetrative play.

England goalkeepers will also contribute to penetrative play possessing the appropriate skills to penetrate the opposition through effective distribution. 

Trent Alexander Arnold celebrates his first goal for England
in possession

creating and scoring

What is the creating and scoring phase?

Creating and scoring is the final phase of the in possession philosophy. Progressing play to create and exploit scoring opportunities is the ultimate aim of the playing philosophy and the element of the game where goals are scored and games won.

Intelligent individual and combination play together with the execution of a variety of finishing techniques leads to goals in this phase.

Why is creating and scoring phase important?

The creating and scoring phase is vital to success in international football. With many international teams adopting well-organised defensive structures it is crucial to have teams and individuals with the skills and abilities to create goal-scoring opportunities and the techniques to exploit rare goal scoring opportunities when under pressure.

How does the creating and scoring phase happen?

The number of goal-scoring opportunities created is a reflection of the effectiveness of play in the other elements of the in possession philosophy.