3v2 Defending: Man Marking

The principles of defending are applicable right across the pitch, but in front of our team’s own goal they must be employed in an even sharper manner. Practicing within small-sided games is the ideal way to introduce our players to the different situations of 1v1, 2v1, 2v2, 3v2 and 3v3 and the best tactics to deal with them.

3v2 In Front Of Goal

This is the 4th post in a 5-part series on Defending the Goal. You can read part one (1v1 defending) here, read part two (2v1 defending) here and read part three (2v2 defending) here.

Soccer Coaching Tactics 3v2 Defending


When the defence has a man-over, as they do in a 3v2 situation, the third defender should ‘mark’ the open attacker. This means standing close to the opponent to dissuade the ball-carrier from passing.

However, there are a few key points that the defender must consider if they are to have the best possible position:

  • Mark the player ‘goal-side’ (i.e. stand between the opponent and your goal).
  • Mark the player closely enough that you can tackle as soon as the ball is played.
  • Position so that you can see both the player and the ball.

Harass The Ball Carrier

Having a defender covering the pass option dramatically reduces the ball-carrier’s options and makes their play more predictable. A defensive team that recognises their numbers-up situation early can use this to put intense pressure on the attacker and win the ball.

Because the pass is covered by the marking defender, the second defender is released from their cover role and is free to close the ball carrier.

As much as possible, the defender should close along a path which blocks a ball into the middle. The first defender can move slightly to the outside and ‘show’ the attacker towards the added pressure – this will reduce the space available for the attacker to dribble in.

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