Space Invaders: Fun 1v1 Attacking Game

This is a fantastic Small-Sided Game (and progression) which will see your players beating defenders, getting into goal-scoring positions and attacking space more aggressively than Darth Vader.

Initial Set-Up

Mark out an approximately 40m x 40m pitch. This works well for me with 8-10 players of average ability but you might want to adjust the space to accomodate a different number of players or to adjust the challenge. Use poles or tall cones to mark two 1m-wide goals in each half, position them about 5-6m in from the touchlines and angle them slightly so that they favour runs from the outside inwards.

Partner up your players and give one player in each pair a ball and a coloured bib. In the diagram the white-shirts are attacking the two goals at the top of the pitch and the blacks are attacking the two goals in the bottom half, but of course you can use whatever colours you have available to distinguish between the teams.

The Rules

The game is really a series of independent 1v1 contests happening simultaneously on the same pitch.

Within each pair, one player attacks the goals at the top of the pitch and the other player tries to stop them. Goals are scored for successfully dribbling between a set of poles.

Possession changes after a goal is scored, if the ball is put out of play by the attacker and obviously if the defender wins the ball. It’s up to you whether you allow defenders to attack after they clear the ball out of play – on one hand you can teach young players about ‘safety first’ principles, on the other you can challenge more able players to win the ball cleanly and spring a quick counter-attack.

You could easily have one rule for one pair and a different rule for another in order to provide suitable challenges for players with different skill levels.

Play either for a few minutes or until one player gets to five goals and then let the players discuss what moves have been effective and, if they have been caught out, why.

After their team-talk play another few minutes with the same pairs and then swap the teams around for another round.

The basic form of the game is great for practicing 1v1 dribbling skills like close ball control, quick changes of pace and direction, disguise and feint moves. And because of the traffic from other pairs, players will only be successful in this game if they keep their heads up whilst dribbling.

In addition, the angle of the goals encourages players to attack the space inside defenders, where most successful shots will come from in a full-size match.


You can make simple adjustments to the size and shape of the pitch to increase or decrease the difficulty.

You might also move the goals, limit players to a single goal or allow players to use any goal, change the defender’s starting position to a far corner or to directly in front of the attacker, or you might set a 10-second time-limit on attacks.

A further progression can introduce more elements of strong attacking play.

Take the ball away from one pair and give them each another bib to hold (so they can be easily identified within the crowd or players – if you have a group who play together regularly you may be able to forgo bibs).

These players will become free-attackers, meaning they can support any of the other dribblers to create a 2v1 overload situation.

In a 2v1 attack players can add a goal to the dribbler’s tally in three ways: By receiving the ball and dribbling through a goal, by passing or receiving a pass directly through a goal (not pictured) and by running through a goal and receiving the ball in space.

Again change the free attackers every few rounds and encourage more creative ways to get into that crucial space inside and behind the defence.

Finishing Off

This small-sided game transitions very neatly into a 4v4 or 5-a-side game, but you can add an intermediary step by placing pod-goals or small nets at either end of the pitch and offering double points for attackers who dribble between the poles and then finish with a successful shot.

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