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How To Defend In Indoor Soccer? 12 Common Tactics

How To Defend In Indoor Soccer? 12 Common Tactics

In all variations of soccer, defense is a crucial part of the game and indoor soccer is not an exception. The ability to reduce the impact of the opponent in a team’s half of the field is key to winning a match. This is achieved by setting up the team to attack and defend at intervals in an efficient and structured way.

The difference in the number of players fielded by both teams and the smaller size of the pitch calls for a slightly different approach to defending when compared to association football. Other differences such as the nature of the pitch and the number and time for halves also play a role.

Considering all these variables, several tips will come in handy when learning how to defend indoor soccer. This article hopes to extensively discuss these tips and how they can be imbibed to improve the all-around gameplay of a team as individuals and as a unit.

How To Defend In Indoor Soccer?

Indoor soccer usually has five players fielded by both teams, in essence, there are four outfield players and a goalkeeper. This squad size and the short length of the pitch increase the fluidity of the team and the speed with which the game is played.

However, despite this speed of gameplay, several cardinal rules must be kept in mind as the game progresses. These rules will help keep the team’s defensive shape in both the offensive and defensive phases of gameplay.

Regardless of the level of opponent faced, your team will stand a chance of winning through sheer determination, resolute will, and disciplined defending. These tips include, but are not limited to the following:

Keep opposition out of danger zones

Danger zones are ranges from which the opponent can take a shot. Do well to ensure that the opponent gets no joy in the zones. Keep a close eye on the preferred striking foot of your opponent and move them away from your goal post.

You can do this by blocking their passing lanes and closely marking them. Constantly counter their press and ensure they are pushed back to their half. Keep the spaces minimal, because the further you are away from your opponent the greater the chances that they will take a shot on goal.

kids play indoor soccer

Use a marking system that allows your team to cover all grounds of the pitch. With every player staying focused on the job, you stand a greater chance of keeping out the opponent.

As long as this is done uniformly across the pitch, the opponent ends up being frustrated and has to keep moving the ball around in search of an opening.

Block the opponent’s view of the goal post

To aim and shoot for a goal the opponent needs a clear vision of a target, which in this case is your goal. When playing a defensive line, you are intuitively on the goal side. Maintain your position and make sure that the opponent is not allowed to run past you.

Running past you puts your team in a dangerous position, as the opponent will be bearing down on the goal with a clear shooting opportunity. This is why it is crucial to remain mindful of your position and that of the opponent.

In futsal, for example, the set play moves fast, hence you have to stay mentally switched on and fully focused for the entire duration of the game or till you get subbed out.

An indoor soccer game

Limit shooting opportunities

When teams get blocked out using the aforementioned tips, chances are that they will resort to taking long-range shots. This is less likely to hit the target and the keeper gets to see it from a mile away. However, it is still important to guard against these shots.

The goal is to neutralize all threats across all areas of the pitch, so you would want to close down your opponents and suffocate spaces in a way that it becomes difficult to have a clear shot on goal. Stay tight and keep the distances short

It is also important to stay watchful when doing this to guard against feints that could leave you flat-footed and open your goal up for your opponent. The opponent could be using this to lure you out of position hence be sure you are being covered by a teammate.


Covering is an important part of defending. It ensures that there are no holes for the opposition to eating through. Whenever a team member moves out of position, another teammate quickly fills that gap and ensures the safety of the team, till the other team member recovers.

This is built on proper communication. Communication is not essential to covering alone but to almost all aspects of the game as it allows the team to work in unity. A team that communicates well has members that understand set play and in-team vocal calls during a game.

Defenses are not organized in silence. It is necessary to have team members who get vocal and take control of the situation. Albeit defending begins from the front, effective communication with a better view of proceedings should come from the back.

The ability to communicate effectively will greatly help the team defend as a unit. It in many ways helps team members stay intuitive as they understand the strength, weaknesses, and movements of each other. It also helps to call out potentially dangerous situations.

Maintain team Shape

Retaining the structural integrity of your formation is one of the most important attributes of a good defensive side. Despite the many movements during the game, it is important to stay mindful of your position on the pitch. This awareness will help you recover on time when drawn out of position.

When defending, each player should pick individual targets to ensure that all outfield players of the opposing team are occupied.

two teams play indoor soccer

This allows for every aspect of the pitch to be fully covered, and should there be a breakaway by the opponent with the ball, the closest player can quickly take charge while the other player fills the opening created by the covering player.

Use the man-to-man marking or the zonal system

  • Man-to-man marking system

The man-marking system is an effective defense system in which each player is given a specific player from the opposing team to mark and tail. The player to be marked is followed around all parts of the pitch and is consistently checked.

This will result in your opponent having less time to think of what to do with the ball and usually results in less possession time for the marked player. The more the opponent is a man marked the more difficult it becomes to influence the game.

This decreases passing options and in the long run forces the opponents to make mistakes. The opponent has to keep moving around in search of an opening to influence the game. This eventually leaves them physically exhausted.

female soccer player uses man marking technique in indoor soccer

As a result, the man-to-man marking system requires a lot of stamina to be successfully implemented due to the physical exhaustion that it causes. It also makes it easier for the opponent to take free kicks as the mid-court is left free.

Should an opposition player dribble past a defender the team is automatically on the back foot as they immediately get out-numbered.

  • Zonal marking system

In the zonal marking system, each player is responsible for a certain area of the court. The individual area manned by each player is the responsibility of the said player, as a result, every opposing player that occupies that area will be marked.

The defender doesn’t follow the opponent across the court but maintains the assigned position and checks for runs in that position only. This setup is efficient when the opposition moves the ball well with neat passing exchanges.

This system makes it easier to recover in case of a dribble. It also shields the team from counter-attacking runs ensuring that there are no spaces for the opposition to exploit. It is also less physically demanding when compared to the man-to-man marking system.

The major drawback of the zonal marking system is that it allows the opponent too much time on the ball. When playing with a technically gifted team, one could get punished.

To find the balance it is safer to adopt a mix of the two systems, having two players zonally positioned and the other two on man-marking duties. This is referred to as a 2 by 2 formation system.

It is important to note that the quality and the playing style of the opponent are pointers to the defensive style to be adopted.

Shield as a single unit

Moving together as a unit regardless of the defensive formation in use is important when seeking to keep out an opposition. Shielding as one requires all members of the team to cover different areas of the court moving together as one.

This depends greatly on the movement of the ball and the movement of the opponents. The team has to cover the eastern and western parts of the pitch.

yellow team is moving together to prevent the opponent in indoor soccer

When a part of the court has many opposition players making passes and interplay, the movements in that region of the pitch must be met with stiff opposition. The team is expected to move as one in crowding out this area without leaving gaps behind for the opponents to exploit.

In a 2 by 2 formation, for example, the two defensive players stand at the left and right, should the ball be played to the right the two attacking players move to support the defense by manning that area, and the same goes for the other side.

This is done without the defense breaking their lines. Keep in mind the line is a straight line but not necessarily 180 degrees.

Doing this keeps the team operating as a unit, defending and attacking together.

Stay on the press

Indoor soccer is a 40-minute game split into two 20-minutes halves. For the entire duration of these halves, it is important to stay in the press. Continually squeeze the man with the ball, not giving an opening for passes or shots.

Keep your energy levels constant and maintain pressure on the opposition all through the game. Let this marking be closely followed up with other teammates keeping close tabs on possible outlets of the opponent.

female soccer players play indoor soccer

This guarantees the safety of the team should the opponent find space to pick a pass. The longer you stay on the press the greater the chances of the opponent getting frustrated and making a mistake that would put your team on the front foot.

This requires a lot of stamina and endurance hence it is advisable to focus on training routines full of cardio and running.

Assault through the center

Another way of defending in indoor soccer is centralizing the team’s defensive approach in such a way that the opposition is forced to the flanks. This reduces the likelihood of conceding a goal because shots from flanks are from a tighter angle to the goal and are more difficult to score.

Crowding out the middle of the court leaves room for the opponent but they can hardly do much. They usually end up trying to cut inside or crossing the ball to the middle. With the goalkeeper staying vigilant a crossed ball can be easily scooped up to set up a counter-attack for your team.

With the team already positioned in the middle, launching attacks becomes easier and more dangerous as the team will have a clear sight of the goal.

Stay patient and disciplined

Being coordinated and patient during the game is essential to defending efficiently. When dealing with more experienced or technically gifted players, don’t run into challenges else you get turned off easily. Instead, keep your eyes on the ball, and stay patient till you get an opportunity to make a tackle.

There are right moments to look out for before committing yourself to a tackle. Check if the opponent has shown you too much of the ball or if they have taken a poor touch.

These windows are opportunities for you to nick the ball away. The opponent may even be struggling to get a received pass under his control, and you could also take advantage of this.

Stick to your game plan for the entire duration of the match. Do your best to not go all out to attack when searching for a goal. Losing discipline and having all outfield players go out in search of a goal can be counter-productive.

Ensure that one player is left behind consistently, to guard against counterattacks should the ball be lost in the opposition’s half. This helps your team maintain its balance, staying prepared for every possible outcome as the game progresses.

An indoor soccer match of the children

Make quick transitions

A transition is when your team moves from a defensive phase of play to an attacking one or vice versa. This moment is crucial in gameplay because there are chances of losing the ball if done sluggishly. This is why it must be done quickly and precisely.

When your team loses the ball it is natural to pause, then reluctantly start jogging back to defend. But on the contrary, you must let your decision-making be sharp and deliberate. Waste no time and immediately track back to your defensive position.

some people are in an indoor soccer match

Doing this consistently during the game makes your team a really hard nut to crack. This is why maintaining high fitness levels is emphasized, for every member of the team regardless of your position

Don’t give away unnecessary fouls

During the game, it is important to maintain a cool head. Stay grounded and go about your defensive duties without flinching. Do your best to go flying into tackles that could be avoided.

Pick your moments and trust your teammates to be able to handle the pressure should the opponent get past you. This is of great importance when playing against better teams.

Most average teams can punish defensive mistakes and free kicks. Remember the pitches are shorter, giving more room for long-range shorts from deep free-kick positions.

a dangerous foul situation in soccer


The defensive side of the game is the foundation of every winning team. Hence it deserves close attention and many hours spent perfecting routines.

Alongside many of the tips mentioned above physical and mental fitness can also help in the defensive phase. These tips coupled with maintaining a high level of concentration will result in a formidable team capable of withstanding all forms of attacking assaults.