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How To Beat A Packed Defense In Soccer? 

How To Beat A Packed Defense In Soccer? 

At the end of every soccer game, there is usually either a winner, a loser, or a draw. Each team struggles to win all their games to secure maximum points, advance in the group table and put smiles on the faces of their fans.

Soccer is not like other sports where goals roll in seamlessly. It takes hard work, skills, and teamwork to score goals in soccer. Each team fortifies their half adequately, making it difficult for their opponent to score goals and win matches.

The players in soccer that are most responsible for blocking numerous goal-scoring opportunities from opponents are the defenders.

Every team is very concerned about their defensive line and coaches make sure they place their best defensive players in the starting squad of every match.

This makes the game competitive as defenders on each team try so hard to defend well. To make it more difficult for opponents to penetrate the defensive line, teams sometimes adopt a packed defensive method.

Penetrating the defensive structure of some soccer teams is often as difficult as breaking a lump of rock with a clenched fist. However, that doesn’t mean such defensive lines can’t be infiltrated.

We have discussed in this article numerous effective ways of beating a packed defense for those wondering how to go about it. Some of our methods require a lot of work. Keep reading to find out more.

Soccer player facing opponents

How to beat a packed defense in soccer?

It is hard to talk about a packed defense without mentioning Jose Mourinho’s tactics whenever he needs a draw from a game. His technique has been nicknamed parking the bus.

A packed defense is an approach a defending team takes by placing most of their players near the goal area, especially when their opponents are a bit too aggressive. Some teams go as far as using all their players for the defense at certain points in the game.

This makes it difficult for their opponents to penetrate the defensive structure and make goal attempts. Sometimes in matches, goalkeepers rarely get tested by opponent strikers because of this packed defensive approach.

Although a packed defense is not an automatic guarantee that the opponent team will never be able to score, it is surely a very difficult structure to overcome. This structure oftentimes frustrates many approaches designed to penetrate it and even causes attackers to run out of ideas.

For instance, during the 1998 World cup in a match featuring Paraguay and France on 28 June 1998, Paraguay adopted the packed defense approach which made it very difficult for France to beat their defensive line and score goals.

Packed defense in soccer

It was indeed a tough match but France was able to shoot the ball into the goal post of Paraguay with the help of L. Blanc during extra time. It was a great victory for France after the match ended 1-0 in their favor. With all the frustration they passed through, it was a well-deserved win.

France players were able to beat Paraguay’s packed defense with their skill, tactics, and teamwork. Teamwork is one of the key secrets that can be used to beat a packed defense.

When players play less as individuals and more as a team, beating a packed defense will become easier. When playing as a team, there is constant communication amongst players and players usually sacrifice personal glory for the team, these acts are known as team chemistry.

Surprisingly, as much as the packed defense is very difficult to beat, it is still possible to penetrate with adequate effort, skills, and tactics. Below are a few tips on how to beat a packed defense in soccer.

More attackers should go into the penalty box

Attackers in soccer are good at penetrating the opponent side, causing an imbalance in their defense by making creative runs, passes, dribbles, and eventually scoring goals just like Messi. To beat a packed defense, it is wise to place more attackers in the opponent’s penalty box.

If there are 3 or more defenders in the penalty box and they are more than the number of opponent attackers present, it will be very difficult to score a goal. In such a situation, defenders will try to stop passes using the low-block technique.

Getting more attackers into the penalty box will overwhelm the defenders. The attackers should be mindful of staying onside or avoiding the offside offense. To do this effectively, they should maintain a scoring position rather than getting too close to the goal post.

Many soccer players in the penalty box

Maintaining a safe distance from the goal post will help you get a better position for a cross or a through-pass and also you have a clearer view of the ball thereby maximizing your ability to take well-calculated shots which can lead to goals.

When attackers get hold of the ball, they must take lightspeed decisions. Sometimes they don’t even get to pass balls because defenders might clear the ball before it reaches their teammate and there might be no second chances.

Pros of placing more attackers in the penalty box

  • Attackers can penetrate a packed defense because they are skilled in that aspect
  • Having more attackers will make it easier to disrupt and cause an imbalance in the opponent’s defense
  • Players can easily score during a goalkeeper’s error or rebounds

Cons of placing more attackers in the penalty box

  • If attackers are not careful, they will play in an offside position which will lead to an offside offense
  • Sending more attackers into the penalty box will leave the team vulnerable and open in instances of a counterattack

Chip the ball into the penalty box

Chipping in soccer refers to the act of kicking the ball in a long arc. Chipping is mostly applied when players want to trick the goalkeeper or when they want to make a pass to their teammates.

After placing as many attackers as possible in the penalty box, these players can send balls into the danger zone by using the soft high chip technique. A soft chip technique doesn’t give the ball much pace but it is perfect because defenders cannot easily clear the ball.

Soccer player chip the ball

When using this technique, defenders might try to use the high-press method to stop you. Thankfully, there are ways to beat a high-press in soccer.

With this technique, attackers who can move quickly with the ball can easily get behind the defenders and score goals. This strategy was used by France to beat Paraguay in the 1998 World Cup.

Attackers can score with one-touch shots, rebounds, and headers even while the man-marking technique is executed by defenders.

During aggressive attacks, opportunities like poorly cleared balls, balls that might bounce off defenders, rebounds, and even lucky breaks are bound to occur. This is why attackers must be aggressive, alert, and ready for one-touch shots.

Pros of chipping the ball into the penalty box

  • Players can score through opportunities like rebounds and missed headers from defenders
  • Good attackers will utilize whatever chance they get and skillfully shoot balls into the goal post
  • A soft chip is not easy to clear

Cons of chipping the ball into the penalty box

  • Having attackers who can’t properly control ariel balls will cost the team lots of goal-scoring chances as they won’t be able to tactically control or shoot balls in one touch
  • This technique is not easy, it requires adequate mastery, space, and calculation
  • Requires tall attackers to increase aerial duel winning chances

Use long-range shots

While playing against a packed defense, players should employ the use of long-range shots rather than trying to dribble their way into the 18-yard box.

A packed defense work for and against the team at the same time. While it makes it difficult for the opponents to penetrate into the 18-yard box, it also makes it harder for goalies to have a clear view of long-range shots.

Since balls are smaller, a player with good shot power can swerve the ball through the packed defense. Before the goalkeeper will see the swerve on the ball, it may be too late.

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Players like Gareth Bale, Roberto Carlos, Juninho Pernambucano, and Cristiano Ronaldo are known for using a shot technique called the Knuckleball which is a shot taken from a distance. It has very little or no spin with an erratic movement. This makes it a great technique for beating a packed defense.

Also, when a team is playing a packed defense, there is a higher chance that one of the defenders will try to block the shot and deflect it into the goal in the process. So, if you can’t dribble past a packed defense, try a long-range shot.

Pros of using long shots

  • A packed defense makes it harder for the goalie to see the shot
  • Balls can easily be deflected into the net

Cons of using long shots

  • Not every player has the shot power to execute a long-range shot
  • Other team members may see it as throwing away chances if you miss the target repeatedly

Place quicker players in the scoring position

Beating a packed defense requires having upfront players that are quick in action, taking shots, and scoring with any part of their body. They should also have good touch and dribbling skills, an example of such a player is Lionel Messi.

When trying to beat a packed defense, you must consider accuracy and dexterity as well, rather than just strength and speed alone. Quick players with good dribbling skills, accuracy, and strength will be able to easily penetrate defenders without them stopping them easily.

Quick player facing opponents

No doubt, there are times when a team has to depend on the individual brilliance of exceptional players to create opportunities out of nothing. We have seen players like Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Cristiano Ronaldo take powerful shots from the center line and score in their opponent’s post.

Not even the best defense in the world would anticipate such goals. It is no surprise that such goals don’t come too often.

Get free kicks close to the opponent’s 18-yard box

A few things are as spectacular in soccer as a perfectly scored free-kick. This is the reason why soccer teams usually struggle to get as many free-kicks as possible in a soccer match, especially when playing against an opponent side with a packed defense.

Since the inception of soccer, free kicks have always been a chance for soccer teams to get ahead in games although they are harder to score than penalty kicks.

Soccer player doing free kick

During free kicks, all opponent teams usually get agitated even those with a packed defense knowing that with the right choices and touches from their rivals, balls might just end up in the net.

When a team gets a free-kick close to the 18-yard box of the opponent with the packed defense, all it will take is the brilliance of a great free-kick taker like Gareth Bale or Cristiano Ronaldo to see the ball end in one corner of the net.

Just like a perfectly curved free-kick, power-free kicks also have a very high success rate. From its name, you can tell that it requires adequate power and brute force.

Some soccer teams who don’t have players who can take great free kicks from all angles and distances usually rely on tall strikers to get the ball at the back of the net. The free-kick taker will loop the ball into the 18-yard box so that the tall striker can head it into the net.


The aim of having 11 players on each team is for the players to work as a unit in actualizing the common goal which is winning the game. Players must learn to make sacrifices for their teams while working in unison.

Teamwork is a key strategy in beating a packed defense in soccer. Players also ought to work on their quickness, touch, and dribbling skills to successfully outsmart their opponents.

Beating a packed defense is difficult but not impossible, all you need to do is to apply the right strategies at the appropriate time and required level of accuracy, and your team could be smiling home with a victory.