Soccer drill to improve marking skills

Work on your players’ core defensive skills with some tips and drills aimed at getting more effective marking of opponents.


What you tell your players the soccer drill is about:

1. How to mark opponents effectively.

2. When to mark players and when to cover spaces.

What you tell your players to do in the drill:

1. Move quickly into position when the ball changes hands.

2. Position between your opponent and your goal.

3. Position to see both the ball and your opponent.

4. Closer to the ball or goal; closer to the opponent.

5. Be ready to intercept the ball but don’t commit unless you are sure.

6. Adopt a slightly sideways on body position to move quickly in any direction.

7. Don’t allow the opponent to receive and turn.

Drill set up:

Set up the drill in a 30m x 10m grid, play this 2v2 target zone game.

The players on the outside act as servers and targets. The players on the inside start in the middle third. One player receives from his partner and the objective is to turn and pass to the target player at the other end. The soccer drill is then reversed. Players are rotated so they all get to practise marking skills.

image shows effective marking drill


How to extend the soccer drill

Bring two grids together and increase the numbers to 2v2 in the middle and two targets at each end. Increase this again by allowing one of the outsiders to join in after the first pass to make 3v3 in the middle. Now they will develop marking and covering.

Put the drill into a game situation:

Increase the pitch size to allow for a 5v5 game with end zones. There are no goals or keepers so the team in possession must try to achieve penetration into the opponents’ end zone.

What to shout:

  • “Move quickly” “get tight” / “not too tight”
  • “Watch the ball” / “don’t dive in”
  • “Sideways on” / “can you intercept?”
  • “Watch the space” / “don’t let them turn”.

What to watch for in the drill:

  • Players moving too late, allowing players to receive under no pressure; marking too far away, allowing opponent to turn.
  • Players getting too close, allowing opponents to turn around or allowing a pass into space behind them.
  • Exposing the goal by marking on the wrong side.
  • Marking directly behind an opponent and not seeing the ball.
  • Marking flat or square; unable to move in any direction.
  • Failing to intercept/attempting to intercept at the wrong time.

Key soccer coaching drill tips: Are the players concentrating when they are in possession? And are they working as a unit or a team? Do they communicate?

Marking skills soccer drill

Soccer drill to get players marking tight

Fun warm up game for marking skills