Generally junior football coaches are not happy when their team gives away a goal at a set play. The frustration for the football coach is defending set pieces does not take a great deal of skill, though requires some coordination, team work and communication.
During a set piece each player has to mark an attacker and ensure they get to the ball first. Any attacking player would have to do something extra to beat a defender who is marking them tightly.
It sounds simple, though a lack of organisation and with it, concentration, often allows openings for attackers providing a chance at goal.
It’s not difficult to defend a set piece and it does not need complex formulas to work it out. Every attacking player must be marked, including the kicker and the job of the defender is to stay with their player wherever they go, though always keeping goal-side - it’s simple.
While marking, it is important to keep looking around to be aware of what the other plaers are doing. If a player is unmarked or has gone on a run it is your job to tell a team mate with the view of them picking the player up. Even if you think others have highlighted the possible danger, it will not hurt if you make the call too, just in case.
Mainly there are three threats from set-pieces: Corner Kicks, Free Kicks, Throw-ins.
Throws are the least complex to defend against and they present the lowest threat of the three to the defending team. In junior football it is rare that a player has a long enough throw to trouble the goal area, and generally a team needs to defend about 10 yards from the touchline.
All attacking players must be marked, especially the thrower, as many throws are played straight back to the thrower, who then presents the biggest threat. By not being marked the thrower having received the ball back, has time to deliver a cross into the box or play a telling pass in-field.
Often a throw is played down the line enabling the attacking team to advance down the pitch. It is a good idea to position a defender both in front and behind the most likely receiver of the throw; doing this prevents the ball being played back to the thrower and also defends against a possible flick-on.
The first rule of defending corner kicks is to have a defender on each post. The defender closest to the kick faces the ball and is ready if the ball arrives close to the near post. The player furthest way faces play, watching for the ball being delivered and being kicked toward goal by an attacker.
A defender must be as close to the kicker as possible, ready to intercept any balls that are played back to the kicker.
Each attacking player in and around the penalty area must be marked by a defender, toward the goal side of the player. This seems obvious, however you often see attackers being marked the wrong side of the player who is frequently left free to have a chance at goal.
It is also important to have a defender stand in front of the closest attacker to the corner, this stops the first player getting an easy flick-on or having unchallenged possession of the ball.
An attacker running late into the box is always the most difficult to defend against, especially if the defender is unsure how to deal with the situation. A player running in has an advantage with the momentum the run carries, not only being able to connect well with the ball, but also being able to power past a defender. Because of this, as a defender it is always better to run with the player, staying goal side, and attacking any balls that come close even if it means kicking it out for another corner.
A short corner is also difficult to defend against, though the player closest to the kicker has the responsibility to close the attackers at the corner down, often defending against two players.
Free kicks are more unpredictable than corners, coming from various angles and distances. Free kicks from wide areas should be treated in the same way as a corner kick.
Free kicks within the range of the goal offers the defending team an altogether different challenge. The task of defending the kick also differs if the kicks is direct or indirect, which the referee will indicate by raising an arm. In mini-soccer all free-kicks are direct, there are no indirect free kicks.
If the kick is in scoring range it is important to set-up a wall, blocking off one side of the goal, while leaving the other side open for the goal-keeper to protect. The wall should be positioned close to the side of the ball and in front of it.
The closer to the goal the ball is the more players and wider the wall should be. Players who are not part of the wall must mark the attacking players, goal side. When the ball is kicked the players in the wall should try to block it and not turn away from the ball, which is often seen in games on TV.
If the kick is indirect a defending player must be nominated to close the ball down as soon as it has been played.
In defending any set piece the important factors are concentration on staying with the attacker on the goal side. Communication, ensuring all the players are aware of their job.