“Hoch, Höher am Höchsten”. Anders Giske, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, 1985. Photo: WEREK Pressebildagentur.
Your opponent has been awarded a free kick 30 meters from his own goal. The opposition pushes out, and you and your team have to set the offside line. Your team chooses to set the offside line in the middle of your own half.
Figure: Giske Defending. Credit: www.sports-graphics.com
You are a defender and have to mark the opposition’s attacker who is a head taller than you.
You are a defender and have to mark the opposition’s attacker who is a head taller than you. Before the long ball comes in, he moves backward and turns his back into your body. The keeper easily passes the long ball to the attacker who has “blocked” you.
You do not have any real chance of winning a head duel in this situation due to the following:
- The attacker is much taller than you.
- The attacker has “blocked” you, so you are unable to move and jump.
- Your game is static, not dynamic.
You have a big challenge to win this duel…
Here are some common mistakes that defenders make in situations like this:
- Your working conditions are poor. The majority of players unconsciously adopt the frontal defending position. This is not a good technique in this scenario because while the frontal defending position can allow you to work sideways, it will impede your movement in the longitudinal direction.
- You have to protect yourself and obtain the space and freedom you need to move.
- You miss an opportunity to actively influence the game through implementing your own game plan.
The majority of players unconsciously adopt the frontal defending position. This leads to poor working conditions.
Solution and Tips
Obviously, your aim is to win the head duel or “fall off” (cover space) and take control of the space if the ball goes too high or low. The task can be achieved by taking the following steps:
Tip 1. Choose the chase defending position
Work in the chase defending position and put your forearm in front of you so that the attacker backs into your forearm, not your body. When he leans back into you, use your legs and muscle strength to push him forward and stop him moving. Lower your centre of gravity if necessary.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen – FC Cologne. Ulrich-Haberland-Stadion, 31 Aug. 1985.
Tip 2. Move backward
Just before the goalkeeper kicks the long pass, claim your space by taking a few steps backward. The most effective way of doing this is through the use of the crossover step. You should now have the space you need to move. This will surprise the attacker, who will be at a standstill. Now you can position yourself in the chase defending position with a good LFT (Leg, Feet, Torso) quality.
Choose the chase defending position.
Tip 3. Assess the trajectory of the ball and make a decision
Your next big task is to assess the trajectory of the ball and make the right decision as to what action to take.
- If the ball is coming too high and long for the attacking player, you will often be in the perfect position to head the ball without any obstruction.
- If the ball is coming too low, you will find it difficult to win the head duel because you cannot jump over the attacker and it will be difficult to prevent the attacker from heading the ball forward. However, you will be in a good position from which to focus on the “second ball” (after another duel) or to control another threatening attacker or the space behind you.
- If you are of a suitable height, you could win the head duel with power.
Tip 4. Attack the ball by jumping on one foot
When the height and length of the ball path are appropriate, and you are coming with speed, jump on one foot and attack the ball in the air. It will be pretty easily to win duels of this nature against a stationary attacker (regardless of his height) if your technique and timing are good.
Jump on one foot technique. Photo: Giske Defending.
The result is startling.
How can a centre back win head duels against someone who is a head taller?
The answer is simple. You obtain the best working conditions by playing in a dynamic and powerful way. Even the tallest player has no chance when they are competing against a player who comes in at speed, jumping on one foot and attacking the ball in the air.
Even the tallest player has no chance when competing against a player who comes in at speed, jumping on one foot and attacking the ball in the air