1v1 Defending Tips for Success

Players engage in 1v1 battles just about as much as anything else in the game. So, to help players defend their 1v1’s to the best of their ability, we provide eight tips for success when defending 1v1 situations.


The angle of approach is one of the keys for success when defending against another player. Players must angle their body so that they are not facing directly at the player, but forcing them to a specific side instead. Generally, players should be angling their body to force the opposition player away from goal, toward the sideline. If you are aware of what side the attacker’s weak foot is on (such as by reading what foot they tend to dribble and pass with), you can also angle your body position to force them onto their weak foot.

2. be an arm’s length away

When defending in 1v1 situations, you want to be close enough to force the defender to get their head down. When you get too close too fast, they can easily skip by you with a quick piece of skill. When you are too far away from the attacker, they can see all of their options. By being an arm’s length away, you force the attacker to have fewer options and simultaneously make them less aware of the options they have.


Attackers may try to wiggle out of 1v1 situations with their feet, such as utilizing quick changes of direction. But the vast majority of 1v1 skill moves require the player to move their chest and hips in the direction they want to go, before needing to do so with their feet. For example, on a V-Push, after the player pulls the ball back, they must adjust their body position to face the new direction they want to go before taking their next touch into space. By having half an eye on the player’s chest and movement of the hips, you are able to react more quickly than they would like, and more carefully assess which direction the player is headed next. In addition to their chest/hips, you should also keep half an eye on the ball, as sometimes the hips/chest can be used to deceive defenders (such as shoulder fakes), and the ball is ultimately what you are fighting for.

4. be patient, don’t dive in

When defending against another player, it is almost always important to be patient and not dive in (that is unless they are close to goal and about to get a shot off). But even then, by diving in, the attacker is able to react quickly with a piece of skill or even a basic touch and take it around you. Why? Because they have the ball. They are in control of the situation. And by you making the decision to dive in too early in an attempt to win the ball, you are making the decision easier for them on what to do. Clever attackers might even wait for you to dive in before they make their move around you. So it is important to be patient, wait for a loose touch, wait for them to be off-balance, for the ball to be closer to you than it is to the attacker, or when they are about to attempt a pass or shot to then time the tackle or block.


Whenever possible, try forcing the player away from goal, toward the sideline. The sideline can act as a second defender, as if the player accidentally dribbles the ball out of bounds, it will be your ball now instead, without you even having to make a tackle to win the ball. Carefully angle your body to force them out of bounds, not allowing them any room to cut back inside in the process.


In 1v1 situations, it is important to approach the attacker at the right speed. If you approach too fast, they may be able to easily take the ball around you, quicker than you can shuffle your body back across in the new direction. If you approach too slow, they have more time to make a decision. So it is important to get to the attacker early, such as when you see the ball travelling to the attacker. As the ball is travelling to the attacker, get there early by closing them down, forcing them away from goal and getting an arm’s length away.

7. be physical and step across

When you are unable to face the player, such as when you are running shoulder to shoulder, it is important to be strong and physical (but fair) and step across to win the ball on a heavy touch. Let the attacker make the first mistake and then win the ball. Don’t let them turn or cut back by getting shoulder to shoulder and using your strength to win the ball. If they get all the way down the sideline, make sure to time the block to cut off the cross, and don’t let them cut back inside into the box. Force them away from goal with your physicality and strength.

8. have the mindset that you will win the ball

As you combine all seven of the other steps together, you should be on your way to winning just about all of your 1v1 duels (hopefully). So have the confidence in yourself and the mindset that you will win the ball every single time. If you have that mindset, you just might. And even if you don’t win the ball, but you force a mistake such as the attacker going out of bounds or making a bad pass, that still counts as your great defensive work forcing the error. Even if the player is able to make a successful pass but is forced backwards because of your defensive stance, that’s great as well. Forcing them backwards away from goal is better than the attacker being able to break free away from you unopposed. Have the mindset that you will win the ball every single time, and you just might do exactly that.

concluding thoughts

1v1 defending is something that every single player needs to do, not just defenders. With these eight tips, almost all of which are interrelated and connected to one another, you can feel confident in your ability to defend 1v1 situations.

So there it is! Eight tips for success when defending 1v1 situations. Be sure to check out more of our Player Education articles and follow on Twitter @mastermindsite. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

Coaches, you might also enjoy…
-> 1V1 Attacking & Defending – Session Plan & Key Coaching Points
-> Small Group Training Session – Spatial Awareness & Scanning

Players and coaches, you might also enjoy…
-> Player Development Card – 1v1 Skill Moves
-> Home Training Session – Skill Moves Mania


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