#FIFA U-20 World Cup

Defending cut-back crosses

FIFA, 01 Jun 2023


Defending crosses has always been one of the most challenging aspects of defending as a whole. During the group stages of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023™, the technical elements of defending the cut-back cross has been an area of interest for our Technical Study Group.

Because this cross is often made from close to the byline, it requires a collective and cohesive defensive effort from defenders and the goalkeeper to cover the spaces for the cross and the opposition players in the penalty area.

This particular aspect of defending must be worked on collectively on the training pitch to ensure everyone knows what space needs to be covered and why.

 According to Pascal Zuberbühler, it starts with the goalkeeper.

“The starting position of the goalkeeper at his front post is crucial. He should not be tight to the post and should be set on the front of his feet, not on his heels. This allows him to react quickly. His defenders need to know the space that the goalkeeper is covering and to stay out of this space. Instead they must occupy positions that can eliminate the different angles available for a cut-back cross to the penalty spot area etc… This work has to be trained together on the pitch.”

In the clips below, we see some examples where the cut-back crosses are defended successfully, but also examples of where small adjustments could improve the defensive situations. U-20 tournaments are vital in the development of players and these examples are great opportunities to identify the small details that can make a big difference in team defending.

Clip 1: Brazil goalkeeper (1) Mycael takes up a good starting position at his front post and works well with his defenders to cover space and angles for attempted cut-back crosses.
Clip 2: Korea Republic goalkeeper (1) Kim works excellently with his defenders to cover spaces and attacking players from a cut-back cross.
Clip 3: Tunisia’s defensive set-up does not succeed in covering the space for a cut-back cross so goalkeeper (16) Arfaoui has his view blocked and cannot defend the attempt at goal.
Clip 4: Japan goalkeeper (1) Kimura gets set in a very good position at his front post but his first step changes his position and with his heels planted, he is unable to react with his hands or intervene with his feet and stop the attack from the cut-back cross.

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