Sometimes you come up against a team who are quite obviously better than you are. It’s not time to panic; it’s time to prepare – follow our list of tips to ensure damage limitation and, who knows, you might just pull off an upset.
1. Keep a positive attitude
Sometimes the game is lost even before it is played. Don’t be the team that goes out expecting to get beaten.
Even though it might be difficult, you have to keep motivated enough to play to your best in the belief that you might get something from the game.
It’s not irrational to believe that, even facing a much better side, that it’s a possibility to get something from the game – who would have thought that Wigan would have won last year’s FA Cup, for instance?! Had they given up and assumed that Manchester City were going to beat them in the final then it would have been a totally different result.
Football, and 5-a-side in particular, is only partially about the ability of the individual players. Matches are, more often than not, won or lost through fitness, organisation, discipline, and desire. If you have more of this than the opposition then anything is possible.
2. Solidarity – no surrender!
If the opposition is better than you then it’s going to be an onslaught. They’re going to come at you, and keep putting you under pressure for the full length of the game. You’re all going to have to stand up and be counted.
If the opposition are a lot better than you then it’s going to be the footballing equivalent of the Alamo! (Little history lesson here for you: the Alamo was a famous battle where roughly 100 Texans barricaded themselves up in a fort and tried to hold off 1,500 Mexicans for the space of about 13 days!)
In the words of the commanding Alamo captain, William B. Travis:
“I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual Bombardment and cannonade for 24 hours and have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken. I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender or retreat.”
William B. Travis
Every one of your players is going to need the Alamo spirit because if just one starts to wave the white flag of surrender, it’s going to be all over very quickly. If there’s just one person who gives up or switches off then a good team are going to punish you severely for it.
Approached right, a tough game can be a good experience, you’ll discover who is really willing to roll up their sleeves and work for the team. The longer you hold out the more confidence you’ll get, and it will unite you.
(PS. for full disclosure, after a lengthy siege the 1,500 Mexicans ended up overwhelming the Alamo, killing all of the the troops stationed there – but let’s not let that ruin our metaphor!).
3. Mark man for man
You can’t afford to give good players time on the ball or the opportunity to shoot at goal.
When you’re defending, everyone is going to have to work at picking up a man – if the opposition are allowed to double-up on you then you’ll get murdered.
Man-marking starts from the front. The nearest player picks up the player on the ball (assuming that you’re not already outnumbered) and the rest of the players make sure that they’re marking the players in behind him.
Distance from your opposite player is key. If you’re too tight then they’ll skip past you, but if you’re too far away you give them time to settle on the ball and work some space for a shot.
As a rule, when you’re within your defensive 1/3 of the pitch, everybody, whether marking the player in possession or not, should be touch-tight to the opposition. This means when you stretch out your arm you should be able to touch them with your fingertips.
It’s vital that everyone sticks with their player and, most importantly, that they block the shot. Yes, if you dive in trying to make a tackle you might win the ball and look like a hero, but good players can make you look like a mug for jumping in – instead you’re much better just jockeying them to stop the shot. All that, and more, is covered in our ultimate guide to 5-a-side defending.
4. Keep talking
You’re not going to be able to sustain your levels of effort and organisation without good communication. Talking comes best from the back, either the keeper or the last man as they have the clear picture of the action.
Someone will need to talk to let their teammates know if there’s ever an unmarked player. When you’re up against it, it is often a natural reaction for players to hang back and defend. That’s often appropriate, but not if it leaves one if their deep-lying players the space to pick shots off from distance.
A lot of the talking from the back will be to tell a player to push-on and close down a player further forward rather than just sitting back and marking space.
5. Don’t forget about attacking
Under pressure it can be tempting for all players to come further and further into defence to try to win the ball.
You need to be careful that you don’t end up having all of your players defending so deep that when you win the ball there’s nobody upfront to try and hold it up. Otherwise, you’re relying on players spontaneously bursting into forward runs just to try to relieve some pressure.
Without any support, pushing forward can be an exhausting job. Players need to be smart enough when playing against a good defence not to just go on individual voyages which don’t lead anywhere. Try to hold the ball up, pass it around, take off some pressure.
6. Don’t lose your discipline
The pressure can get to you and this can end in giving away silly fouls, arguing with each other or the referee, losing concentration, or making rash decisions.
A prime example of poor discipline is trying too hard to make tackles, missing and letting your player past you. If a player is a good one, it’s often better to just jockey them so they can’t take a shot.
7. Rolling it out
Your goalkeeper is probably going to see a lot of the ball.
When the ball reaches his hands you might feel a sense of relief, but it’s not time to switch-off and have a rest. This is the time where you need to be on your toes and ready to give the keeper some options to pass to.
If you can’t provide some good outlets for the keeper to pass to then the ball is going to keep going to the opposition, which keeps the pressure on you.
For the keeper’s part, they need to be calm and focused when distributing the ball. Playing the ball into dangerous areas where it is intercepted by the opposition is a major source of goals conceded.
So, there you have it, 7 steps to not getting absolutely thrashed when playing better teams. Let us know how you get on in the comments below.
Also see: 5-a-side formations – helpful for getting much needed organisation of your team.