Whatever the position or role of a player on the pitch, the ability to tackle and win possession of the ball is vital. Defending is one of the least glamorous jobs on the pitch but any soccer purist will appreciate a perfectly timed tackle as much as any other game technique.
As with all other soccer techniques, mental aspects play an important role in successful tackling. A player must be 100% committed and determined to win the ball whilst always keeping a cool head (he should never deliberately try to hurt an opponent). Half-hearted challenges will not only lead to failure to win possession, but increase the risk of injury. Similarly, high levels of concentration and composure are needed as well strength although good technique can help compensate in weaker players. A player must be able to anticipate the attackers actions and recognise the right moment to tackle. He must also know which tackling technique to choose depending on the position and movement of the attacker. This will be developed through practice and game situations. There are several major types of tackle:
front block tackle (pictured)
To win ball possession, all players including forwards (!) should be able to correctly execute these different tackling techniques. Players who do not tackle correctly, will give away free-kicks, increase their chances of getting booked and generally improve their opponents attacking chances.
- The front block tackle: When a defender meets an attacker head-on and with his body square-on to the ball. He makes forceful contact with the inside of his boot, often at the same time as his opponent. The defender needs a sound base where his weight is transferred over and through the ball - The supporting foot must be next to the ball. The upper body must lean into the tackle and the whole body should work through the action. Steady and even pressure is applied using the tensed up leg muscles.
Useful advice from coach to player - Keep eye on ball, upper body weight forward, co-ordinate body movement and apply maximum force but aim to block the ball rather than kick it.
- The side block tackle: When an attacker has partially gone past a defender or when the defender tries to close down an attempted angled pass. This technique requires good balance due to the block being made with an outstretched leg. The leg needs to be tensed to make strong contact with the ball and a stable base is required to quickly carry out the action. Finally, the overall timing is very important.
Useful advice from coach to player - Keep eye on ball, don't sell yourself as the attacker may feint to shoot or pass so try to touch shoulder to shoulder before tackling as this can help reduce the risk of tackling too far away and letting the ball pass by your leg.
- The ground block tackle: If the attacker is in space and the block or side tackle cannot be used, the ground tackle is a useful technique. The defender "throws" himself into the ball to stop the attacker going past him. However, the defender should stay on his feet as long as possible. He should accelerate into the action by dropping his hips allowing his body to go quickly to ground. His contact leg should be slightly flexed and as tense as possible and body weight should be as far forwards as possible to provide an overall firm contact. The heel of the contact leg can be anchored or pressed on the floor to increase rigidity.
Useful advice from coach to player - Keep eye on ball, be patient, use this tackle only as a last resort as once the action is executed, the defender is momentarily out of the game. Aim to execute the tackle and get back on your feet as quickly as possible.
- The sliding tackle: This is probably the most exciting tackle. The defender uses this particular technique as a last resort to prevent the attacker getting past him. To execute this action, the defender slides on the ground into the ball and plays it using his outside leg. This action is particularly useful if the ball is next to the touch line where it can be played out into touch. The slide tackle can also be used as a means of winning the ball and turning defence into attack. The defender slides in (in a low sideways on position) and brings his tackling leg backwards and swings it at the ball. He should attempt to trap the ball to gain possession, however, if the situation is dangerous, he may want to try and play the ball directly into touch.
Useful advice from coach to player - Similar to the ground block tackle.
To develop and improve tackling technique, the coach will have to design simple practices which involve repeated one on one situations where a defender is encouraged to utilise a wide range of tackling techniques as mentioned above. The coach must also be prepared to personally demonstrate tackling technique where necessary.
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