The Art of Counterattacking

Remember when we told you that coaches choose their tactics based of their line-up/squad?

This article will be about a tactic that is specified to a special kind of players: Counterattacking.

Historically speaking, counter-attacking football was introduced to the world of football in Switzerland when FC Servette’s coach, Karl Rappan, used Catennacio to make his team able to compete against fitter fully professional oppositions. They would only move from defense to offense through counterattacks.


Counter-attacking football can help sides composed of ‘’ordinary’’ players achieve extraordinary wins such as Greece 2004 and Leicester 2016 achievements.

It can also be used in a team with quick players (Manchester United, 2008). The pace here is a key element to take the opposition by surprise.


What is a counterattack?

A counterattack is a quick offensive play led by a team that was on a defensive position. The moment they get the possession back, the players start running forward in order to break the opposition blocks and create confusion is their defense.

How can you perform a counterattack?

First thing required is patience, a whole lot of patience. The team will have with the pressure they are facing from the opposition and also keep an eye on the spaces left behind while waiting for the perfect moment to steal the ball and engage and use the spaces they already pinged.

Let us remind you that the key of a counterattack is speed of play and quick decision-making. Players who receive the ball can either make a pass or a run to let their teammates win more space. In case they decide to make a pass, it has to be done quickly and be perfectly timed.


The counterattack can also be initiated by the keeper. He can either through a long ball or make a quick/short throw to one of his teammates. It is the foresight and recognition of one or two players putting one of his teammates quickly in the advantage with a long pass or a series of quick one and two touch passes.  The entire team knows what is going to happen, as they see the opportunity to catch the other team off guard. The video below is a perfect representation of a counterattack initiated by a goalkeeper:

To sum it up, a successful counterattack requires concentration, discipline, timing, and team cohesion (a lot of it actually).

The defenders and midfielders should not only be able to deal with pressure but also to anticipate the play, to win the ball and make the right pass at the very right moment. While pace is essential, one more important thing is having technical players with quick-thinking ability. The players should also have a situational sense to delay a run or pass to allow a teammate to make a run from deep.

The forward runners should stay wide in order to force the opposition defenders to either stay central, which will leave space on the flanks or to close the play out wide leaving a hole in the middle.

Here is another video showing the perfect execution (quick decision-making, one touch football, situational sense… the whole package) of a counterattack:

While possession of the ball is key, as in positional play, counterattacking football showed to be very terrific when it comes to winning games… and titles.

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4 thoughts on “The Art of Counterattacking

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