Pre-Game Soccer Tactics

Pre-game soccer tactics can decide a game right then and there. Yes, even before a soccer game starts the game can be decided. It doesn’t take much to tip the balance of a game early on. That’s why at the highest level of football or soccer, pre-game soccer tactics are crucial. Setting the tone and coming out with the right focus and mentality can lead to victory.

When you approach a soccer game you might say, we need to go at their left defender, he’s inexperienced and slow. Or, you might say, the other team likes to play the soccer ball directly from the back into their forward’s feet, so we have to close their defenders down quickly so they don’t have time to serve the ball in. Make the defenders get their heads down with pressure on the soccer ball so they can’t pick out their forwards so easily.

Additionally, you might say as a soccer coach, in the first ten or fifteen minutes let’s drop back into our own half and stay compact, the team we’re playing is very good on the ball and we don’t want to concede an early goal. The main idea with pre-game soccer tactics is to counter strengths or exploit weaknesses of the other team.

  • High pressure the other team or drop off
  • Man mark the opposing team’s best player or playmaker – make sure he or she is alway under pressure
  • Force certain players to use their weaker foot
  • Give players who are fast a bit more space so they don’t beat you
  • Stay compact and as a unit on defense so team’s can’t break you down
  • Look out for counter attacks or what other team’s like to do – know their style of play
  • Designate penalty and free kick takers
  • Setup marking plan for set pieces – man mark or zone or combination
  • Watch certain players on corner kicks, especially those who are big and tall

The pre-game tactics and strategy you take coming into a game often hinge on the team you’re playing, the other team’s style of play. However, the best teams stick to their game no matter who they’re playing. Spain won the 2010 World Cup not by adjusting their style of play but sticking to it.

But famous soccer coaches like Jose Mourinho, is known for his stringent defense and conservative play, packing the box with players if they’re playing say away from home at the Camp Nou against Barcelona for instance – which is what he did when he managed Inter Milan. Give your team confidence that they can beat the other team if they work together as a team and stick to what they do well.

How can you as a soccer coach or player use this in your own games? Well, stress to your team to get back on defense, funnel back towards goal and not necessarily pressure the ball right away if it’s out wide, but get back into position as a team unit closer to goal and then begin to pressure the ball. One player shadows the player with the ball, holding him or her up until the team can recover.

Also see Jesse Marsch’s Locker Room Speech for Red Bull Salzburg

What about Manchester United’s Alex Ferguson? What does he tell his team prior to a game? What can be assured his all Manchester United teams come out ready to play. They don’t jog around the park and know they’re going to win the game just because they showed up. They are aggressive and go at the other team.

Pep Guardiola Half-Time team talk | All Or Nothing

Most of this comes from their preparation though. They are in good shape, all have an understanding of how they want to play, and play for one another. Teams can’t win games if the players are disorganized or players aren’t playing for each other. Think of France in the 2010 World Cup. There was talk that some player didn’t want to pass to other players.

These dynamic exercises will ensure you and your soccer team ready to go when the whistle blows.