What does Cover look like
In soccer, cover refers to the defensive strategy where a player positions themselves in a way to support a teammate who’s directly challenging an opponent for the ball. This helps to prevent the opposing team from breaking through the defensive lines and limits the space that can be exploited if the first defender gets beaten.
Here are some examples illustrating how the principle of cover operates:
When an attacker of Team A is moving towards Team B’s goal with the ball, one defender from Team B (let’s call this defender the first defender) would approach to challenge the attacker. A second defender from Team B would then position themselves behind the first defender to ‘cover’ if the attacker manages to evade the challenge. The second defender doesn’t directly engage with the attacker, but instead, anticipates the path the attacker might take and gets ready to intercept.
In a scenario where Team A is launching an attack down the wing and Team B’s full-back is out of position, a center-back or defensive midfielder might shift over to cover the space left open. They position themselves so they can challenge an attacker who receives the ball in this space, effectively covering for the out-of-position full-back.
Covering During a Press
If Team B is pressing high up the pitch, the players who aren’t directly involved in the press have a role to cover the space and the players behind the pressing line. They position themselves so they can intercept a pass that breaks the first line of the press or can challenge an opposition player who receives such a pass.
Cover in Zonal Defending
Even when a team uses zonal defending (as opposed to man-to-man marking), the principle of cover is crucial. Each player is responsible for a specific zone, but they must also be ready to support their teammates if an opponent threatens to break through a neighbouring zone.
Even goalkeepers participate in providing cover. If a defender is drawn out wide to challenge an attacker, the goalkeeper may need to adjust their position slightly towards the open side of the goal. By doing this, they’re covering the angle that the attacker might try to exploit.
To effectively implement Cover, players must possess the following technical skills:
Tackling: Defenders must be able to execute tackles effectively without conceding fouls or leaving gaps in the defence.
Interception: The ability to anticipate and intercept opposition passes is crucial for disrupting their attacking flow.
Marking: Players must be able to mark their assigned opposition players effectively and prevent them from receiving or making passes.
Clearing: When necessary, defenders should be able to clear the ball effectively to relieve pressure on the defence.
Effective communication and teamwork are essential for successfully implementing Cover. Players should:
Use verbal cues: Players must communicate their intentions and positions to teammates to coordinate movements and maintain a solid defensive structure.
Employ non-verbal communication: Body language, such as pointing or signaling, can help convey information and synchronize movements on the field.
Be aware of teammates’ positions: Players should have a clear understanding of where their teammates are on the field to make effective decisions and maintain a solid defensive shape.
Develop chemistry: Building a strong rapport and understanding among defenders will improve the fluidity and effectiveness of Defensive Support implementation.
Tactical knowledge players need
To apply Cover effectively, players must develop a strong understanding of the following tactical concepts:
Team shape: Players should understand their assigned positions and responsibilities within the team’s defensive shape.
Pressure: Players should know when and how to apply pressure on the opposition to limit their attacking options.
Cover: Defenders must be able to provide cover and support for their teammates who are trying to win back possession of the ball.
Communication: Effective communication among defenders is essential for maintaining a solid defensive structure.