How to Attack & Score On a Packed In Bunker Soccer Defense
What Barcelona and Bayern Munich could learn from France vs. Paraguay in the 1998 Soccer World Cup

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Recently (Spring 2012) Chelsea won huge victories against Barcelona and Bayern Munich by using a packed in (bunker) soccer defense. It can be surprisingly hard to beat a packed-in "bunker defense". This reminded me of the 1998 World Cup where Paraguay almost beat France using a bunker defense, which would have been a huge upset. France finally won the game 1-0 by chipping the ball softly into the middle of Paraguay's packed-in defense. Paraguay's great goalkeeper Jose Chilavert was superb in that game. France went on to win the 1998 World Cup, beating Brazil 3-0 in the final, with the great Zinedine Zidane scoring 2 goals. That France could beat Brazil 3-0 but had a very hard time scoring on Paraguay shows how tough it can be to score on a bunkered defense.

When a team uses a bunker defense, their strategy usually is:

  1. Don't give up any goals.

  2. Score on a defensive error by the opponent, a lucky break (such as a ball falling your way) or by a single act of individual brilliance. Chelsea was certainly helped by the brilliance of Didier Drogba in their victories over Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

There are more articles on this subject on SoccerHelp Premium at www.soccerhelp.com/premium/Attacking_Packed_In.shtml, http://www.soccerhelp.com/premium/newsletter_archive/Soccer_Drills_12_07_2009.shtml and 60 articles about Soccer Attacking and how to score goals at http://www.soccerhelp.com/premium/Attacking_Index.shtml

Below are 5 tips for attacking a packed-in bunker soccer defense:

  1. How France beat Paraguay in the 1998 World Cup - Use soft chips with backspin to get the ball into the Penalty Box. It will be tough to try to pass the ball in and hard airballs are easier for the defender's to clear (the pace of the ball allows the defender to clear it easier). Think about using the approach that France used in the 1998 World Cup to finally score on Paraguay. France had played the entire game the normal way, but finally toward the end of the game France simply put lots of players in front of the goal and sent the ball in using soft, high chips with lots of backspin. France beat Paraguay 1-0 in the 1998 World Cup at the very end of the game using this strategy. The advantages of this approach are that it is easier for your scorers to judge the ball and move to it and that it is harder for packed in defenders to clear the ball because it lacks pace. Tell your attackers to try to score on headers, rebounds and one-touch shots. There will be rebounds, poorly cleared balls, lucky breaks, balls that bounce off a defender, and balls that fall to the ground. Your attackers MUST be alert, aggressive and one-touch shoot. They MUST take the shot and not try to pass, there are so many defenders that they won't get a second chance. Put your most aggressive players on about the 12 yard line (where the Penalty Spot is), this is far enough out that the Goalie won't get the ball but close enough to still get a good shot. Obviously, your attackers MUST stay onside. Tell your attackers to compete for headers and to be alert for rebounds and misplayed balls, and to pressure defenders and try to block a pass or force an error.

  2. Alter your formation to best achieve your objective against the opponent. If the opponent only has 1 Target Forward, do you need to leave out 3 or 4 defenders to defend that one? Well, you certainly don't want to give up a goal on a counterattack, which is exactly what the opponent will try to do, so you must be cautious, giving up even one goal can be disastrous when the opponent is Defending Deep and Packed In. You will have to decide how many defenders it will take to safely cover the opposing Forward(s), but remember, you can't give up a goal. A safe strategy is to leave adequate Defenders and push up the Midfielders into the attack so you get more players in scoring range.

  3. Get lots of attackers into the Penalty Box. You need to try to get as many attackers as possible into the Penalty Box and then try to get the ball into the Box. It will be very tough to score if the opponent has 2 or 3 more defenders in the Penalty Box than you have attackers inside the Penalty Box. Obviously, your attackers must stay onside. The objective ISN'T to try to get as close as possible to the goal, it is to get in scoring position, it is better to stay 5-12 steps from the goal than to be so close you won't ever get a rebound, .this way you have a good view of the goal, and are in good position for crossed and chipped balls, and will have a chance to score on rebounds or goalie errors.

  4. If you get behind, pull everyone up on your attack except for 1 or 2 defenders. As an example, I watched a game where the superior team got behind 1-0. In the last 5 minutes of the game, the winning team only left 1 Forward pushed up and everyone else was packed in the Penalty Box to defend. The losing team still left 3 Defenders back and eventually lost. They could have improved their chances of scoring by just leaving the Sweeper back to mark the opposing Forward and pushing everyone else up into the attack.

  5. If you're winning, be sure you leave a Target Forward pushed up when the opponent is attacking your goal. In the same game mentioned above, the Forward started dropping back to try to help defend. This was a mistake, because it allowed the opposing Fullbacks to push up and there was no one there to win cleared balls. You MUST force at least one Forward to stay pushed up to the half line, this Forward should shift with the ball so he has the best chance to win the balls his teammates try to clear. This will usually keep 2-3 of the opposing defenders off your half of the field and the Forward has a chance to win the cleared balls.

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