Defending set pieces requires more than just good tackling ability.

a team defending set pieces

Set pieces can make or break a team and a result, as teams who are good from set pieces can rake in vital goals and be very dangerous. Source.

Defending set pieces does not depend on the performance of one individual player but the team as a whole.

Here, we take a look at how you can get better at defending from a set play:

  • Setting up before the set piece

Set pieces, be it throw-ins, corner kicks, or direct/indirect free kicks is a great way for players who have attributes that will help in set plays, like heading or scoring from a direct free kick.

Before the set piece is taken, the player must remember the tactics that the team is going to use to defend the set play. If it is a throw in with an opposition player capable of throwing it long, the player must be stationed in the position that he was assigned to defend or the player he was assigned to defend by the coaching staff.

a footballer putting the football in place before kicking

In case of a direct free kick, the player, if he is required, must be part of the wall to defend the set piece, while in corner kicks – like in throw-ins – he must get in position to defend the ball. Source.

Communication is key in football, even more so in the defensive front. 

a team trying to score during a set piece

As a player, you will have to talk and organise the defence, as well as tell your teammates the area/player you will be defending, before the ball is delivered by the opposition. Source.

While defending corners, teams should follow the tactics that the manager has drilled into them, be it man-to-man marking or zonal marking. It is important that there are two defenders on the post to secure the goal and clear balls that creep into the corners of the goal, while a man can also be placed near the corner flag if the attacking team is taking a short corner.

  • During the set piece

Quick set pieces, be it a quick throw or a short corner, can catch out defences. Players must be alert at all times to the opposition playing the ball out quickly.

One of the most important rules to follow when a set piece is delivered is to clear the ball away from danger, which is usually to the sides of the pitch. Playing the ball to the centre of the pitch could result in the opposition building an attack once again or even taking a shot.

a footballer after kicking the ball

Slowing down the momentum of the opposition’s attack can help the defending team in easing the pressure on the backline. Source.

If man marking, the defender must stay close to the opposition player he is to mark, while in a zonal marking system, the defender must own and dominate the zone that he is to mark.

A cool head is required while defending, hence players should not commit rash challenges on attackers; closing down shooting/passing angles and staying on feet is a better tactic to employ than committing fully to a challenge.

As a defender, you will have to put your body on the line during a set piece. Do not shirk or duck if the ball is coming in your direction. If you’re a player stationed on the wall, jump when the ball is kicked and not turn your back to the ball.

  • Post the set piece

The threat is not over following the set piece. You will have to ensure that the ball does not return into the box or a dangerous area. Watch out for second balls and clear them away from danger, and be ready for more attacks.

Set pieces can also be a great way to attack the opposition with a swift counter-attack.

Always be aware of where your teammates are placed and keep your eyes and ears open to see and hear where your teammate is running and put in a quick first-time ball.

  • Key things to remember

1) Don’t be scared of the ball.

2) Remember the defensive tactics being used by your team.

3) Close down the man with the ball.

4) Don’t dive into tackles.

5) Clear the ball to the side for a throw-in rather than back into a dangerous area.

6) Communicate with your goalkeeper and defenders at all times.


Defending set pieces requires the entire defensive unit to play as one. As a player who is defending set pieces, you will have to be aware of what is happening around you at all times and clear the ball away from danger. Sacrifice your body for the greater good of the team and be brave while defending.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of our Company, partners and other organizations. While any information provided on our blog is true to the best of our knowledge, we do not guarantee the veracity, reliability or completeness of the information presented. Any advice or opinion is purely for information purposes and should not be construed as an alternative to professional advice.




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