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Tactics: In defence

Before we dive into explaining some of the defensive systems its important to get the individual defensive basics right. When every member of the team performs their individual defensive duty in line with these 3 steps it becomes much more difficult for the opposition to score. So here are our 3 core principals of defence for Futsal.

Step 1 – Delay

The player closest to the opponent with the ball should apply enough pressure to stop the ball being moved forward, thus allowing team mates to recover into a defensive formation.

This can be achieved in 3 ways:

  1. Cutting off the forward line of the ball (goal side marking)
  2. Shepherding
  3. Jockeying 

Step 2 – Depth

This involves supporting a team mate who is marking the attacker in possession of the ball. The principal here is to create as many ‘layers’ of defence between the ball and the goal. For example creating depth means the attacker has 2 players to beat instead of 1 should he decide to dribble with the ball forwards. Depth can be created by:

  1. Covering
  2. Switching
  3. Being behind the ball

Step 3 – Concentration

Good defensive shape means being well balanced at all times. This means having our defensive players exactly where we want them to be as oftenas possible thus covering available space, cutting off passing lines and eliminating the attacker who is in possession of the ball the ability to score direct. 

This can be achieved by:

  1. Every player shifting towards the ball 
  2. Fast recovery when out of position
  3. Anticipation

A system of defence can be anything that works for your team. As a coach you might decide to use a variety of systems during a game. At  the youngest age groups we recommend to purely focus on a man marking system because to be a great Futsal player you have to excel both in offensive and defensive 1v1 situations and all of the defensive systems below require individual defensive quality for them to work. It is also difficult to coach a team defensive system to young players, their mental focus is on themselves and not the team.

An important factor in the system you choose is the area on court where you want to press and win the ball. For this you will definitely need to be reactive to the way the opposition are choosing to attack and you will also need to consider how you want to attack. For example if you are very effective counter attacking team you might want to play a 1-2-1 system with a 1/2 court press, this leaves lots of space to counter attack into when you win the ball back. Only through practice will you understand which system works for which scenario. The fact these scenarios change constantly in Futsal are what makes it such a fascinating tactical sport. 

Here we explain 3 systems that can be used effectively. Which system you use and how high you press is entirely up to you. Don’t forget delay, depth, cover always!

best used for a high press

2-1-1 system


This is a high pressing system which requires your players to have high levels of fitness. The system works by forcing the opposition into making mistakes in their own half of the court by putting them under pressure. If the opposition succeeds in getting through the press there are two further layers of defence covering who are responsible for delaying the play allowing the pressing players to recover into a half court 1-2-1 or quarter court 2-2 system (see below for details on these).

Responsibilities of the pressing players in a 2-1-1 system:

1) Press the opposition at the 3/4 court line ie in the opposition half of the court.
2) Start the press at the half way line closing down the centre of the court
3) Play off the second receiver or when the first receiver gets into a corner (known as a trap).
4) Defensive players must recognise attacking players triggers. Anticipating passing movements by assessing a players hips,feet and eyes before they play a pass

Responsibilites of the covering players include:

1) Covering space so that attackers can not pick out diagonal, line, square passes.
2) Delaying attacks to allow pressing players to recover to position so that they can get their bodies between the ball and goal.
3) Goalkeeper players a crucial role as a sweeper in this system cutting out any long deep diagonal passes.

best used for a 3/4 court to half court defence

1-2-1 system


This system can be adopted all over the court but here we have demonstrated the defensive pressure being applied when the attacking team approaches the half way line. As with all systems of defence players must remain disciplined and maintain the team defensive shape. The system works by limiting the space the attacking team have in which to move through in the defensive half.  Players at the front of the diamond must press the ball to keep it out of their own half whilst shifting position to maintain a close, tight shape that provides cover. The defensive shape will naturally shift between a diamond and 2-2.

Rules for the press include:

1) Only when the ball is in the centre of the court does the player in the ‘pivot’ position press.
2) As the attacking team shift the ball wide the wing players pressure the ball with the pivot sitting in to provide cover.

The rules for providing cover are:

1) Pivot provides necessary cover when the ball is pressed wide.
2) Wing players create cover and balance when the pivot presses the centre of the court.
3) The sweeper marshalls the players in front.
4) All players must be prepared to block and/or track attacking run.
5) All players must be aware of closing space and passing lines.
6) Keep the diamond unit tight at all times!


best used for a 1/2 court to 1/4 court defence

2-2 system


The 2-2 or box system is not used as often as the other defensive systems. It can leave big areas of space through the centre of the court if not executed properly. As with all the systems the aim is to get bodies behind the ball (between the ball and the goal). Usually in the situation where a 2-2 is adopted the attacking team have advanced sufficiently up the court. This defensive system aims to either force them backwards away from goal or set a trap in one of the corners to win the ball and counter attack.

Rules for pressing in 2-2 system:

1) Player nearest the ball cuts off route through middle of the court.

2) Attempt to route attacking team down channels and once in the corner the closest player presses the ball whilst the second player cuts off the pass through the centre of court. This is an opportunity to regain possession.

The rules for providing cover are:

1) Cut off space to the middle of the court.
2) Rotate position where required to maintain 2-2 shape and
3) The goalkeeper marshalls the players in front.
4) All players must be prepared to block and attacking runs through centre of the court.
5) All players must be aware of closing space and passing lines.
6) Keep the box unit tight at all times!